Young people in Northern Ireland have tried cannabis more than any other illegal substance, and to highlight the real effects of the drug the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland (HPA) has launched new web based information and a competition aimed at teenagers.
The latest information on up-2-you.net is particularly aimed at pupils in school years 8, 9 and 10 as research shows that more than one in four (27%) pupils aged 11 to 16 years have been offered cannabis and 18% have used cannabis.
Victoria Creasy, Senior Manager for Public Health at the HPA, said: â€œThere is a general belief that cannabis is less harmful than other drugs but in fact heavy use of cannabis can cause severe lung damage, lung cancer, heart problems, worsen asthma and weaken the immune system. We also know that smoking cannabis can be particularly dangerous for those with pre-existing heart problems and may lead to panic attacks and paranoia.
â€œThe use of cannabis may also worsen mental health problems in individuals who have existing, or are vulnerable to, mental health problems. As well as health implications, cannabis can cause relationship and money problems and can lead to accidents and trouble with the law.â€
A new section on cannabis has been added to the HPA website for young people up-2-you.net now includes information on what cannabis is and how it is used, why young people use it, the health effects and other consequences as well as the legal implications and practical advice on what to do in an emergency.
Young people entering the competition can win:
a Nintendo Wii console
a Nintendo DS handheld plus game
an iPod nano
a camera mobile phone vouchers for a leading sports or clothes shop