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Cannabis compared to ‘heroin and crack cocaine’ by addiction specialist



Campaigners in Ireland have raised concerns after cannabis was compared to heroin and crack cocaine by a leading addiction specialist.

Education around cannabis is ‘sorely lacking’ in Ireland according to campaigners, who spoke out after it was compared to drugs such as heroin, benzodiazepines and crack cocaine.

A story in the Irish Examiner, highlighting how large quantities of cannabis had been seized by police, carried quotes from a leading addiction specialist at Cuan Mhuire – Ireland’s largest voluntary provider of addiction treatment services.

Michael Guerin is quoted as saying those who attended treatment centres for cannabis abuse were  “in as bad a shape coming into treatment as anyone using anything else — cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines, crack cocaine — all of it.”

He went on to say that the psychological ‘devastation’ associated with long-term use would ‘rival any other substance’, although he admitted that those affected were in the ‘minority’.

Mr Guerin told the Examiner: “There is a psychological implosion that happens in somebody who is addicted to cannabis. It brings them to their knees. People are hospitalised from it and need in-patient psychiatric services for psychiatric-induced psychosis. These people are in the minority but they’re there.”

Campaigners were quick to raise concerns about the comments, saying they only serve to further stigmatise medical cannabis patients in the country.

Nicole of the Cork Cannabis Activist Network – who asked us not to use her surname to protect her identity – said: “For an apparent addiction specialist to confidently compare a non-toxic and inherently medicinal plant to the likes of heroin, benzodiazepines and crack cocaine proves that education is sorely lacking in Ireland surrounding cannabis.”

She added: “As long as comments like these are published in the media and backed up by An Garda Síochána, cannabis consumers and patients will continue to be targeted, stigmatised, criminalised and marginalised. We cannot allow this to continue.”

A 2010 study led by Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London on behalf of Drug Science, the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs in the UK, measured the harms of the misuse of illicit drugs.

Heroin, crack cocaine, and metamfetamine were found to be the most harmful to individuals, with cannabis scoring significantly lower.

Prof Nutt also highlighted an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) report on the physical and mental health risks associated with cannabis, following the rescheduling of cannabis as a Class B drug in 2009.

The report concluded that although cannabis can be harmful, particularly to ‘vulnerable individuals’, it is less harmful than other Class B drugs and evidence supporting a link between cannabis use and psychosis ‘should be regarded with caution’.

Prof Nutt, who is chair of Drug Science commented: “All the evidence shows that cannabis – even when it leads to dependence – is less harmful than other drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. It is also clearly less harmful than alcohol.”

When approached by Cannabis Health, Michael Geurin said the views expressed in the article were his own and not an organisational position of Cuan Mhuire.

“The comments in the Examiner refer to cannabis dependent individuals and the undesirable effects that they can suffer as a consequence,” he stated.

“Neither the article or I have expressed a view as to the efficacy or otherwise of cannabis for medicinal purposes.”


Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

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