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Over 28,000 Hooked On Cannabis in Ireland

Dublin Evening Echo, 6th July 2006

Over 28,000 people are hooked on cannabis in Ireland, an Oireachtas report said today.

Findings by the Oireachtas Committee on Community and Rural Affairs found the drug is a serious menace to school students and chairperson Cecelia Keaveney called for a national strategy.

Ms Keaveney attacked liberal minded people who believe that cannabis is cool and harmless.

She said: “Cannabis can be and is a serious threat to your young people.

“Cannabis abuse occurs at an age when young people are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems. Cannabis alone can cause psychotic episodes which can take as long as two years to recover from.

“Unborn children of young women who believe that cannabis is shameless are also at risk. The references in our report to impairment of brain function because of cannabis abuse is frightening.

“Those who promote cannabis as being harmless and cool do all of us a disservice.”

The ’What everyone should know about Cannabis’ report quotes estimates by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NCAD) that there are 28,300 people who are cannabis dependent.

“It is these individuals who are most likely to encounter the various physical, psychological and social harms associated with the drug,” the report said.

There were over 6,000 court prosecutions for cannabis use in 2005.

A total of 5,000 16-year-olds admitted to using the drug at least three times per month.

The cannabis market is worth €375m – more than the combined share for cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and speed.

The committee noted that there has never been a sustained public health campaign on the health effects of cannabis.

The report added: “We need the Government to recognise that the drug is primarily a health issue, not a legal issue.

“Education on cannabis is required across society and should not be exclusively focused on teenagers or schools.”

The Oireachtas Committee also launched another report entitled: ’The Inclusion of Alcohol in a National Substance Misuse Strategy.’

“Our findings detail binge drinking, fights and fatalities, teenagers getting sick on our streets, fist-fights in Accident & Emergency wards and the inevitable breaking up of relationships and families,” Ms Keaveney said.

“Our committee has drawn a line in the sand. The talk has been talked. The time has now come for policy action and implementation.”

“We are talking here about a major Irish social problem which must be addressed sooner rather than later,” she said.

Ireland’s alcohol consumption per head rose by 41% in the decade up to 1999.

The committee said it will be vigorously pursuing Minister of State Noel Ahern who has responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy.

The reports were compiled with the help of half a dozen experts including Trinity College academics.

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