The proportion of drug users hospitalised after taking cannabis has reached a ten-year peak, according to official figures.
NHS statistics highlighted by the Scottish Conservatives show 834 (14 per cent) of the 5,922 people admitted to hospital after drug use in 2015-16 had taken cannabis, compared with 517 people who had taken cocaine and 3,517 who had taken opioids such as heroin. The figure is considerably higher than the lowest rate of 5 per cent recorded in 2000-1, though below a high of 16 per cent in 2005-6.
There were 913 hospital admissions involving cannabinoids in 2015-16, compared to 553 cocaine-related admissions.
The Tories said the introduction of new Recorded Police Warnings last year, which are understood to be given out for cannabis possession, send out the wrong signal.
The party’s justice spokesman Douglas Ross said: “These figures show very clearly that cannabis is not the harmless substance some would have us believe.
“It’s quite alarming that quite so many people are being hospitalised through using cannabis, a drug many people feel authorities are going soft on. Not only is it dangerous in its own right, as these statistics prove, but it’s a gateway drug to even more harmful substances. We have a massive fight on our hands in Scotland both with illegal drugs and so-called legal highs. Now is not the time to give in and wave the white flag.”
He added: “We need to crack down on those circulating drugs of all kinds on our streets and reinforce the message about just how damaging taking these substances can be.”
Health secretary Shona Robison said: “Drug use among the general population continues to fall and levels among young people remain low.
“We have greatly reduced drug and alcohol waiting times with 94 per cent of people now being seen within three weeks of being referred and we have invested over £630 million to tackle problem alcohol and drug use since 2008 and over £150m over five years to improve mental health services in Scotland.”
Police Scotland’s national drug co-ordinator Detective Inspector Michael Miller said: “The police message is clear – taking any illicit drugs can put you in danger and if you are found with them you could be arrested.”