Scots hospital admissions for cannabis use hit record levels

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

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.

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.”