The strength of Irish cannabis has more than doubled in the last decade leading to increasing numbers of young people seeking treatment for cannabis related problems including mental health, addiction as well as drug debt intimidation.
Over the past decade cannabis herb outsold resin as the preferred form, with more potent strains including what is known as synthetic cannabinoids which mimic the effects cannabis and can cause extreme agitation and aggression. The synthetic form not only has stronger THC (active ingredient) but also contain much less CBD – a substance that mitigates the effects of THC explaining the increase in mental health problems.
Information collected from 28 EU member states based on drug seizures show the average potency of resin is now on the increase as well from 8.14 per cent THC content in 2006 to 17.22 per cent in 2016. The potency of herbal cannabis increased from 5 per cent to 10.22 per cent in the same time frame.
The potency of herbal cannabis, particularly home-grown strains, has been a matter of significant concern for health and addiction workers in recent years because of its connection with severe mental health problems, including paranoia, psychosis, sleep disturbance and aggression.
While Ireland has seen a consistent rise in cannabis users entering drug treatment since 2007, HALO the Kildare adolescent service reported that in 2017 100% of their clients reported problematic cannabis as either the primary or secondary reason for seeking help.
This rise in treatment episodes is reflected in the national picture from the Health Research board documenting that in 2007 about 1,000 people entered drug treatment because of their cannabis use. By 2015 that figure had risen to about 2,750. In 2016, 27 per cent of those in drug treatment were there because of cannabis use, second only to those seeking treatment for heroin addiction (40 per cent) leading many treatment groups to offer cannabis-specific programmes such as www.cannabisandyou.ie