More cannabis users seeking help

THE number of people seeking help for cannabis use in Colchester has risen by 40% during the last year, the EADT can reveal.

THE number of people seeking help for cannabis use in Colchester has risen by 40% during the last year, the EADT can reveal.

The alarming statistic was made public on the same day that figures released by Essex Police showed an increase in the number of people in the county cautioned for possessing the drug - from 443 in 2005/06 to 498 in 2006/07.

Yesterday Steve Wood, manager of Open Road, a treatment centre for drug and alcohol abuse, said there had been a massive rise in people seeking help in 2008.

“In 2008 we have seen a huge influx - 40% more people are needing help for cannabis use,” said Mr Wood.

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“One of the first reasons is the availability, it is incredibly cheap (compared) to what it used to be.

“For example, a quarter of cannabis resin 20 years ago was about £40 but nowadays a quarter of cannabis resin costs about £10 - the price has come down a huge amount.”

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He said the reasons for using the drug were wide ranging, but people in their thirties often cited boredom as a factor.

Mr Wood said: “People can say they are using it to relax but if you use it for relaxation in the short term then you begin to realise it is not relaxing and you feel worse then when you started.

“Ask any smoker and they will probably say they smoke to relax but ask if they are relaxed and they will say no because they need a cigarette.

“It is a short-term release.”

Mr Wood said cannabis use could lead to health problems including anxiety, depression and sleep problems.

“People are beginning to realise the consequences - cannabis is one of the worst drugs out on the streets for mental health issues.

“Sleepless nights, panic attacks, anxiety, depression are all there and paranoia is absolutely rife if you smoke it long-term and even if you smoke it on a regular basis it will cause short-term memory loss,” he said.

“Regular smoking could mean two or three joints a day and I don't know the figures but two or three joints a day would mean you stand a very high percentage of getting psychosis later in life.”

Open Road offers a number of treatments including counselling, acupuncture and Chinese herbs, and helps clients to sort out other issues such as finances and finding work.

Mr Wood said the 27 staff at the Queens Street charity saw people ranging in age from 18-60-years-old “from cannabis users who have had enough and want to stop, right up to people with really good jobs who are using cocaine and are fed up with spending £500 per week on it.”

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