Claims cannabis use is a threat to young people’s mental health are ‘sensationalist’, addiction expert says

A LEADING addiction specialist has described as “sensationalist” a claim that cannabis use is the gravest threat to young people’s mental health.

he College of Psychiatrists of Ireland warned that cannabis use among adolescents has tripled in the past decade and warned of wide-ranging mental health issues associated with its use.

The group has launched a new awareness campaign called ‘Cannabis and your Mental Health’, looking at its use in Ireland, the risks, and its effects on mental health.

It also warned that the drug is the gravest use to young people’s mental health in Ireland due to its wide use and the spike in potency levels.

However, addiction specialist Dr Garrett McGovern disagreed with this assertion and believes Covid-19 is the biggest threat to the mental well-being of all people today.

“I’m not seeing what they’re saying I have to say. I don’t work with adolescents, I work with over 18s,” Dr McGovern said.

“But I do treat a bit of cannabis addiction, a reasonable amount, but it’s not up there with alcohol, heroin or cocaine.

“My initial response when I read it was that it is somewhat sensationalist, in the sense it is claimed it is the gravest threat to young people’s mental health.”

“I would argue that Covid-19 is the biggest threat to everyone at the moment, that is my own belief,” added Dr McGovern, who works in a private practice and with the HSE’s addiction services teams.

“It also says it’s more serious than alcohol, that just isn’t true.

“The evidence is that there are still far too many young people suffering harms from alcohol, there’s still far too many people in general.

“I also don’t think we can talk about legislation without talking about regulation behind cannabis.

“If THC (the main psychoactive component in cannabis) is on the rise I would argue strongly to change the current paradigm and maybe regulating this.”


Dr McGovern said he was “astounded” by claims that children as young as eight were smoking cannabis and it was not something he had come across in working with families in disadvantaged areas.

He also said that blanket prohibition isn’t working.

“I’m not suggesting for one second we should open the flood gates, we need regulation, but I feel this has been left out of the debate today in articles and on radio” he said.

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