Mental illness soars in UK’s skunk hotspots

The devastating effects of skunk cannabis on the nation’s mental health are revealed here for the first time, showing where the drug has hit hardest around the country.

Some areas have suffered a tenfold increase in people mentally ill from using the drug.

Nationally, skunk smokers are ending up ill in hospital in record numbers, with admissions soaring 73 per cent. The number of adults recorded as suffering mental illness as a result of cannabis use has risen sharply from 430 in 1996 to 743 in 2006.

The government data shows how the damaging effects of the drug have swept across England. Hospital hotspots for cannabis abuse include Manchester, London, Cheshire and Merseyside.

And, as the debate over the drug’s dangers continues, figures released by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse (NTA) show that more than 24,500 people are in drug treatment programmes for cannabis – the highest ever.

It is the most commonly misused drug by children, accounting for 75 per cent of those requiring treatment. That’s 11,582 under-18s – more than double those in treatment for cannabis abuse in 2005.

And more adults (13,087) are in drug treatment programmes for cannabis abuse than for crack or cocaine.

This news comes as pressure grows on the Government to reclassify cannabis to its former class B status, with the fears of police now being echoed by the Forensic Science Service, which says skunk cannabis – a highly potent form of the drug – accounts for 75 per cent of all seizures.

Cannabis remains Britain’s most commonly used illegal drug, with more than 4,000 kilos confiscated by police and customs officers in the first six months of this year.