Scots hospital admissions for cannabis use hit record levels

More than one in eight drug-related hospital admissions in Scotland are now caused by cannabis, scotching theories that the substance is harmless, according to the Scottish Conservatives.

A man smokes a marijuana joint. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

New statistics revealed there were 1,689 people taken to hospital in 2017-18 after using the drug, either from overdosing or suffering psychological effects – the equivalent of 32 people a week, and a seven-fold rise since figures were first recorded in the mid-1990s.

The number of cannabis users admitted was not only at the highest ever but, at 13.5 per cent of all drug-related admissions, it was also the largest proportion ever.

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It compares to just 6.5 per cent when the records began in the mid-1990s, and is nearly the double the rate from when the SNP came to power, when the drug accounted for just 7.5 per cent of drug-related admissions.

Earlier this week, figures from NHS data service ISD Scotland showed the overall number of people rushed to hospital after using drugs was at a record high. Across the country, there were 10,509 admissions, a four-fold increase from 20 years ago.

Medical cannabis was legalised by Home Secretary Sajid Javid last year with specialist doctors able to prescribe the drug since 1 November. The new law moved cannabis from schedule 1 under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 – meaning it had no therapeutic value – to schedule 2, for drugs which are controlled but have a recognised medical use and can be prescribed in certain circumstances.

It follows a string of high-profile cases including Scottish woman Karen Gray, who fought to have the drug made available to treat her six-year-old son Murray’s epilepsy.

Scottish Tory public health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “This exposes claims that cannabis is a harmless drug as a nonsense. There is now evidence of dozens of hospital admissions every week as a direct result of people taking cannabis.

“These are individuals whose lives are being destroyed by a drug that too many people want to see normalised.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There is no single, simple solution to addressing the harm caused by drugs. We’re taking forward evidence-based actions and examining how services can evolve to ensure that support is made available to those most in need.

“This renewed focus has been backed by additional investment of £20 million in drug and alcohol treatment and support services.”