A new education campaign has been launched in Lancashire to highlight the catastrophic impact cannabis use can have on family life.
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The Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board is providing 18 briefing sessions across the county for social, health and education workers.
The aim is to put the professionals on alert to spot where a parent’s cannabis habit is preventing effective parenting.
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It follows three serious case reviews in the past five years where a parent’s cannabis use has been highlighted as a significant factor in a child’s death.
Charity Young Addaction Lancashire and the county council’s public health service are taking key roles in the programme, which will be followed by e-learning and the creation of a special resource pack.
The ‘bitesize briefings’ cover legal issues, what is cannabis and the issues and risks involved in taking it, mythbusting and how to make effective assessments about and challenge cannabis use.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire’s Director of Public Health, said:“Cannabis has been identified as something that can affect parenting capacity and so the welfare of the children. It’s a Class B drug and can be very addictive.”
He said the “level of understanding in the community” also needed to change, especially as recent developments meant very strong cannabinoids, synthetic cannabis and derivatives, are now being used. Statistics showed one in ten of county residents who use cannabis can become dependant on it.
He said: “We want people to be more aware of the risks of cannabis and staff to be more aware to deal with them. Cannabis is not OK and cannabis is illegal. Basically it’s a neurostimulant. It can significantly affect parenting capacity if combined with other vulnerabilities and we can do something about it by raising awareness.”
He said one of the major problems is the dependency created which impacts on a person’s cognition, emotions, and parenting. “It affects how you manage money, being able to be in meaningful employment and how you generally support the family,” he explains.
He stressed help is available for cannabis users and those affected by such use.
Dr Sakthi acknowledges that some people regard cannabis as medicinal but said there are only a very limited number of conditions where the drug is prescribed, and then only under strong supervision: “It’s not OK to think that it’s something that is good for your health.”
Jane Booth, chair of the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board, said she thought people had almost lost sight of the damage cannabis can do. A survey had also shown frontline staff wanted more up to date information about the drug’s impact. She said: “ We know that there are families where people have may be recreational use of the drug that might not be impacting on their family life. But we also know we have had three cases in the last five years that have led to tragedies. We think not just professionals but also parents might not realise this (drug) can impact on their parenting.”
County Coun Philippa Williamson, the council’s lead member for young people welcomed the campaign and said: “The situation with cannabis and cannabis synthetics, primarily cannabinoids is constantly changing and we should recognise professionals need to be given increased information about that to do their job to the best of their abilities.”
What is cannabis?
• Also known as weed, skunk, puff, draw, resin, pot, marijuana, hash, hashish, grass, herb, ganja, dope and bud.
• It comes from the plant Cannabis sativa.
• It comes in three forms - herbal, resin and oil.
• It can be smoked in a “joint” with or without tobacco, inhaled or eaten e.g. baked into cakes or added to tea.
• It can have sedative, hallucinogenic and stimulant properties.
• Concerns have been raised about its possible effects on mental health.
• It may cause feelings of anxiety and paranoia, make people talkative or lethargic, relaxed or giggly.
• The maximum sentence for possession is five years imprisonment and possibly a fine. For possession with intent to supply and production the maximum sentence is 14 years.
• In 2015 Home office statistics showed cannabis was the most commonly used illegal drug in the UK.