UN report links increased cannabis use with mental illnesses

UN report links increased cannabis use with mental illnesses
BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

Cannabis consumption is on the rise according to the UN World Drug Report. The latest report looked into the effect of increased legalisation and the Covid-19 lockdowns on the consumption of cannabis and found that it can, in certain cases, contribute to the risk of depression and other mental illnesses.

Cannabis has long been the world's most widely-used drug. Alongside it being used more, its potency-based tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content has risen, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said in its annual World Drug Report.

Several US states have legalised it, including Washington and Colorado in 2012. Countries such as Uruguay legalised the drug in 2013, as well as Canada in 2018. In Belgium, the substance is illegal but personal possession is considered a "low priority prosecution."

"Cannabis legalisation appears to have accelerated the upwards trends in reported daily use of the drug," the Vienna-based UNODC's report said, adding that the many lockdowns in 2020 resulted in increased use.

Teenage consumption of the drug "has not changed much", although there has been "a pronounced increase in the reported frequent use of high-potency products among young adults," the report said.

Burden on healthcare

The uptake is putting pressure on health facilities, as the substance is making the number of psychological disorders rise in Western Europe, the report warned.

The UNODC said that the stronger types of hashish and marijuana on the market, together with regular consumption, have led to a rise in psychological illness in Western Europe.

Including data on the use of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamines or ecstasy in 2020, the report noted that of the 284 million people that had used this class of drug, 209 million also consumed cannabis.

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Cocaine production hit a record high in 2o2o and its trafficking by the sea is increasing. The report suggested an expansion of the two markets of North America and Europe into Africa and Asia.

Ukraine war and illegal drug trade

The war in Ukraine could provide space for illegal drug production to boom, the UNODC report said. Based on previous experience from conflicts in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the report suggested that conflict zones could enhance the production of synthetic drugs due to a lack of policing and stopping laboratories.

The report states that 17 amphetamine laboratories in Ukraine were dismantled in 2019. This rose to 79 in 2020, the highest number of seized laboratories for any country in 2o20.


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