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'Skunk' health warning for cannabis users; stronger varieties of drug are increasing risks.

Byline: TOM BELGER ECHO reporter @tom_belger

CANNABIS grown in Liverpool has become much stronger over the past decade, according to experts.

A study looked at almost 1,000 recent samples seized by police in several areas including Merseyside.

They found 94% of the cannabis was skunk, a super-strong strain, which had only made up around half of the samples a decade earlier.

The King's College London researchers said the Government must educate people more about the different strains and risks of cannabis.

The researchers say skunk carries a greater risk of causing psychotic disorders.

They also said that skunk's rise may have left many smokers unable to find weaker forms of the drug.

The study in the journal Drug Testing And Analysis found that skunk's rise was mainly due to the falling availability of weaker cannabis resin, or hash.

Hash had made up 43% of the cannabis seized in 2005, but fell to just 6% in 2016.

Dr Marta Di Forti, a scientist and the study's senior author, said: "The increase of high-potency cannabis on the streets poses a significant hazard to users' mental health, and reduces their ability to choose more benign types.

"In previous research we have shown that regular users of highpotency cannabis carry the highest risk for psychotic disorders, compared to those who have never used cannabis."

She added: "More attention, effort and funding should be given to public education on the different types of street cannabis and their potential hazards.

"Public education is the most powerful tool to succeed in primary prevention, as the work done on tobacco use has proven."

Official survey findings for England and Wales show that cannabis is the most commonly used recreational drug, with 6.6% of adults aged 16 to 59, or about 2.2 million people, having used it during the past year in 2016/17.

Merseyside police seized more than 20,000 plants from cannabis farms in the region in 2017.

Sgt Gary Sorrell, who runs the force's cannabis dismantling team, has previously told the ECHO that cannabis was "far from harmless". He said: "It is hugely profitable to grow and sell it and we know that organised crime groups set up and control these factories, often in the very heart of local communities."


One of the King's College researchers holding a sample of skunk cannabis

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 3, 2018
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