Cannabis users 'have more knowledge' of drug than experts

Cannabis users seeking treatment often have an expertise about the drug which is leaving those trying to help them lagging behind, a conference has been told.

A group of national experts was told about the "inverted expertise" seen in users at a meeting at the University of York to exchange ideas on effective treatment.

The conference was told that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking treatment, with research showing there has been a 64% rise between 2005 and 2015 in England.

Cannabis plants
(John Carl D'Annibale/AP)

Researchers at the University of York and the University of Leeds are investigating how services are responding to the increase in cannabis users seeking treatment.

The conference was told that initial findings suggest individuals seek help with problems which are not usually associated with cannabis, such as irritability and poor impulse control.

They were also told that treatment services are not sufficiently prepared to offer effective interventions, as cannabis is still seen as a benign drug.

Cannabis is packaged and ready for sale
(Timothy J Gonzalez/AP)

Dr Mark Monaghan, a lecturer in criminology and social policy at Loughborough University, told the delegates: "There is this 'inverted expertise' around cannabis in which the users have all the up-to-date knowledge of the local markets and the service providers are lagging behind.

"This can have a significant knock-on effect for the kind of services they are providing. Cannabis users are quite knowledgeable in what is going on in terms of the market.

"The providers are slightly lagging behind in terms of their knowledge base. Because they are lagging behind they don't have intelligence on what the consumers are using; it creates this situation where they don't really know what to do."

He added: "We need to know what people are using and we need to offer them evidence-based treatments.

"Treatment across the sector is really variable. We do need more research on the changing nature of the cannabis market. We need to explore the reason why more people are presenting to treatment centres."

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