Dangers of Cannabis.

Last Saturday Home Secretary Sajid Javid granted a special licence for the use of cannabis oil to help control the severe epilepsy of Billy Caldwell aged 12.

This has led to considerable debate on the benefits or otherwise of cannabis based treatments for certain medical conditions.   A cannabis based product, Sativex, has been licenced as a possible treatment for spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis and Nabilone, a cannabis related product, is available for the treatment of nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy.

However, there is a difference between giving these products in defined situations and extending the use to epilepsy where treatment may be for many years in quite young individuals. It is wise  to reflect on the dangers of cannabis and below I give a short extract from my book, Mindful of the Light-practical help and spiritual hope for mental health. In the book I look more widely at the problem of addiction and talk about the help that is available through mental health channels as well as considering some excellent Christian initiatives in this area.


‘Cannabis is available as dried vegetation called grass or marijuana, or as a resin. The effects of it are that the person will often feel happy and sleepy. There is often a sense of distortion of space and time. There may be red eyes and increased appetite. The individual may, however, become anxious and agitated or show disturbed behaviour. They may have hallucinations and become paranoid (an extreme or irrational fear or distrust of others).

When I first went into psychiatry, one of my initial experiences was working as a doctor in the East End of London. Here on an average weekend I would admit several people to hospital, usually young males, who had severe cannabis intoxication and were very paranoid. I would find that on future admissions some of these people, who had initially presented with a paranoid state and marked intoxication as a result of cannabis, would have an illness that was indistinguishable from schizophrenia. There have now been several studies which show that cannabis (particularly skunk – a strong-smelling and more potent form) is a risk factor for the development of schizophrenia. It can also result in somebody becoming very apathetic and unmotivated. We refer to this as an ‘amotivational’ state. Cannabis can cause dependence in some people. Others may become depressed. There can be a withdrawal state with anxiety, sweating and muscle aches.’

The Royal College of Psychiatrists have an excellent booklet available on Cannabis and mental health

It is important to consider the dangers of Cannabis.


Depression and exercise -what is the connection? Depression is a very common problem and around one in four women and one in ten men will require treatment for it at some stage in their lives.

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed and there is very good evidence for their benefit. Cognitive behaviour therapy is also very valuable and there are other treatments available and the treatment decision is usually made by the family doctor in the first instance.

Exercise however is extremely valuable and is not always considered. I must confess a love for  walking in wild and way out places and last week was next to Loch Callater in the Cairngorms in glorious sunshine. Scotland is at its best when the snow has melted and before the midges come out in their millions. I walked up just a couple of Munros and stayed in a mountain hut with water from a local stream, surrounded by thousands of red grouse, lots of mountain hares with an occasional view of a herd of red deer. In this beautiful environment my spirits which had been a little low at first through              


feeling slightly lonely soared in this environment. Here are two pictures of my mountain hut and also of beautiful Loch Callater.


Exercise causes the release of endorphins and enkephalins in the brain which probably help us to feel better. It can help to distract us from our problems. Having exercise goals can give a sense of achievement and when done in groups the social aspect can be therapeutic. The article Up and Running by the Mental Health Foundation looks more fully at its benefits and also suggests that doctors should prescribe supervised exercise for some patients.

In my book, Mindful of the Light-practical help and spiritual hope for mental health I look more fully at depression  and also discuss depression and exercise.