Unlike in many American states, marijuana remains illegal in the United Kingdom and yet British teens are using it now more than ever, records show.
According to statistics compiled by Public Health England, a record number of children are being treated for marijuana addiction. Last year, a total of 13,581 Brits under the age of 18 received medical treatment for drug addiction, specifically citing marijuana as their main drug of choice. This number demarcates a 50% increase over the last seven years with 200 of those who received treatment being children aged 12 or younger.
Meanwhile, the number of youth being treated for alcoholism fell by 29% in one year.
Representatives with Public Health England told The Sun that “stronger cannabis strains may be causing more problems.”
There are some who see marijuana’s illegal status as a contributor to this alarming trend of drug addiction among increasingly younger users.
“It’s important to note that, if problematic cannabis use amongst young people is increasing, it is happening under prohibition,” says Steve Rolles, a senior policy analyst with Transform, an organization which campaigns for the legal, regulated sale of cannabis with strict regulation in order to prevent children from accessing it. He also noted that the average age of first use has shrinking over the past decade.
“That’s a concern because the earlier you start using, the greater the risk,” he said. “If you are 12, 13 or 14, the risks are much greater than if you start when you’re, say, over 20.”
Organizations like Transform argue for a highly-regulated market, rather than a system of prohibition, similar to that of America’s failed so-called ‘war on drugs,’ would be more effective in keeping marijuana out of the hands of children. “There’s a strong argument that a strictly regulated market, where we can control age access and potency, would be more effective at protecting young people than under the unregulated criminal trade we have now,” Rolles said.
Yet others blame the record high of young cannabis users on the popularity of “skunk,” a high-potency strain of weed that’s easily accessible.
A spokesman for the Cannabis Skunk Sense charity told The Sun, “It’s a scandal that the public isn’t being told the truth about the strength of ‘skunk,’ which has an alarming 80% of the market. One in six teens who try cannabis become addicted and skunk users are seven times more likely to suffer a psychotic episode.”
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