Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Huw Lewis Column

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Huw Lewis Column

Article excerpt

Byline: By Huw Lewis

I always declined ( without saying why ( the "joints" I was offered at student parties. This may have made me look square and uncool.

But then explaining: "My brother's life has been destroyed by schizophrenia because of the dope he smoked as a teenager," does tend to dampen the mood.

Research linking cannabis to mental illness ( particularly in the young, whose brains are still developing ( has been available for years.

My family read plenty about the link as we struggled to understand what reduced an intelligent, athletic young man to a crippled, haunted shell, bloated by the prescription pills he must take to suppress his moods ( pills which also suppress any creativity and drive he might still have ( dependent on alcohol and constant deafening music to drown out the demons in his head.

You imagine such wiped-out wraiths to be paying the price for decades of abuse. But the time my brother took drugs is measured in months, not years.

The transformation took 18 months, and I suspect the damage was done far quicker.

He got decent GCSEs, he will never sit A-levels.

My mother and father saw the hopes they held for him turn to dust. You can never cure schizophrenia, the best you can do is hope to cope.

The "Legalise Cannabis" lobby peddle a myth the drug is pretty-much harmless, certainly less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

This is insidious because it ignores clinical evidence, but it has been accepted nonetheless ( by senior police officers, by self-appointed social commentators like Sir Paul McCartney and by ministers who allowed the reclassification of cannabis last year, and in doing so implied they believe it to be largely benign. The myth is based on hazy happy memories of the Sixties. But cannabis now is simply a different drug to that our politicians remember from student days.

Heroin and cocaine are made to specific scientific formulas. That means you know what you are getting. Because cannabis is a plant it can be cultivated in different forms. In the sixties most cannabis came from north Africa and was mild by today's standards. …

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