Cannabis is a destructive, nasty, evil drug, psychiatrist tells conference

Dr Matthew Sadlier, Consultant Psychiatrist at the opening of the IMO AGM. Pic: Shane O'Neill, SON Photographic

A psychiatrist has described cannabis as a “destructive, nasty, evil drug” and that a lot of people are trying to say it does not have negative consequences.

The comments were made by Matthew Sadlier when he urged the Irish Medical Organisation (MO) to call on the Minister for Health, Simon Harris to ensure that the use of medicinal cannabis is evidence-based.

Dr Sadlier said medicinal cannabis products must be subject to the same rigorous efficacy and safety tests as other authorised medicines.

There were very useful compounds in the cannabis plant that could be used for the treatment of different conditions.

However, they must be subject to the same regulatory procedures as every other medication that is licensed today.

“There should not be any short-cut legislation specifically on medical cannabis that is not evidence-based,” he said at the IMO’s conference in Killarney, Co Kerry.

Dr Sadlier said his reading of cannabis had always been that it had never been shown to be an effective medicinal product and has never been able to get past regulatory authorities.

“It is a compound that I would love to be banished from the planet. It does more damage to humans than any drug that is out there,” he said.

He said that, in his work as a general adult psychiatrist in north Dublin over the last five years, he could comfortably say that a third of all his patients had been referred because of cannabis.

It is a destructive, nasty, evil drug and a lot of people are trying to pretend that it does not have side-effects and that it doe not have negative consequences. It tears apart families; it tears apart lives and it tears apart our country.

The IMO also supported screening for alcohol in pregnancy to prevent Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and foetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Specialist in public health medicine at the HSE, Mary T O’Mahony, who proposed the motion, said its goal was to ensure every pregnant woman was helped to be alcohol-free.

Dr O’Mahoney said there was a large element of professional and public denial that pre-natal exposure to alcohol was causing serious brain damage.

“International studies confirm that a country’s prevalence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders is related to population alcohol consumption and Ireland is estimated to have the third highest rate,” she said.

It is estimated that 600 babies are born with foetal alcohol spectrum in Ireland each year with an estimated 40,000 people living with the condition. About 80% of Irish women pregnant for the first time reported consuming alcohol while pregnant.

Waterford GP Niall McNamara said that he had some concerns about screening for alcohol in pregnancy, particularly the issue of consent

Dr O’Mahony said that providing a sample of urine for analysis was a standard antenatal routine and it could be tested for alcohol. The test would show if a woman was drinking regularly during her pregnancy and would be intended as a health-promotion intervention.

“Pre-natal alcohol exposure is the only known cause of foetal alcohol syndrome,” she said and screening for alcohol in adults was a proven effective intervention.

The IMO also called on the Government and the European Commission to introduce a social media regulatory agency that will only license companies that can ensure the security of children when issuing social media accounts.

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