DrugFAM supports Sarah Graham’s views on cannabis and skunk

Sarah Graham thoughts on Cannabis

DrugFAM supports Sarah Graham’s views on cannabis and skunk

Cannabis- the therapist’s opinion… DrugFAM supports Sarah Graham’s views:

Sarah Graham is a Priory trained addictions counsellor and director of Sarah Graham SolutionsShe is a leading authority on drugs use by teenagers and regularly appears in the media as an expert commentator for FrankThis is her personal and professional view of the drug and how to treat cannabis abuse and dependency:

Of all the mind-altering drugs that people use, cannabis is the one that causes the most controversy and about which there is enormous cultural denial. My appearances on TV talking about cannabis often bring me considerable hate mail from people who think that cannabis is “just a bit of spliff”.

It is believed in popular culture that you “can’t become addicted to cannabis” and is often described as a “soft drug”, because it’s use wasn’t thought to lead to physical dependency; in the way that heroin and alcohol use does.

Professionals working with young people are having to rewrite the rule book about cannabis use- as skunk takes over the lion’s share of the cannabis market here in the UK.

Those of us working with young people are seeing physical symptoms of withdrawalfrom the stronger “skunk” strains of cannabis. Along with extremely entrenched psychological dependencies that are very difficult to break.

In some cases we are seeing quite severe reactions- from both the taking the drug and when the client starts to reduce cannabis use and become abstinent. These symptoms may include hallucinations, loss of coordination, shaking, sweating, nausea, mood swings, panic attacks, memory loss, cognitive function problems, sleep disturbance, angry outbursts, uncontrollable giggling, ravings for the drug, binge-eating, or loss of appetite, diarrhoea, self-harming, reduced fertility and psychotic illnesses including schizophrenia.

You probably know this from your own experience- but it may help to have it confirmed in black-and-white by an addictions expert. People can become addicted to cannabis (F12.2 Cannabinoid Dependence Syndrome, to use the term referred to in the World Health Organisation classification volume ICD-10).

I work with people addicted to all drugs- including the “hard ones”. And the treatment process of cannabis addiction is often one of the most challenging- for the individual and the therapist. Ironically, it can take longer to successfully treat a young cannabis dependent person than a young person addicted to “harder drugs”. Why? Because of what it does to their brains and the length of time it remains in the system after totally stopping smoking and “getting abstinent” (4-6 weeks). With a heroin or alcohol addiction, once the physical dependency has been medically managed (2-4 days detox) the person stands a good chance of being relatively clearheaded and able to process information; and engage in treatment.

Counselling skunk smoking teenagers, it is often painful to witness just how difficult it is for the young person to retain information and how damaged they can be by the thing they crave. And how strenuously they will defend it against all the mounting evidence they and their loved ones are experiencing. Sadly, even if they are very motivated and really want to make changes the effects of the drug are very counter-therapeutic. Getting to an appointment on time- especially in the morning- can be very difficult. Cannabis use saps motivation and energy and the low mood, panic attacks and paranoia it can induce, makes it very difficult to get up and “do the work” necessary to get well.

In my company- Sarah Graham Solutions- we prioritise working with cannabis dependent teens because we’ve seen enough serious cases to understand just how damaging cannabis use can be; and what a time-bomb skunk use by teens may be for individuals and society. The drug has “evolved” through man-made interventions and it may be years before the medical science can “prove” what many experts like me believe to be the case.

I think that skunk use is a key factor in gangs and the upsurge in the violent crime that accompanies them. Some of the teens I have worked with have become extremely violent and behaved in ways they are very remorseful about; and can attribute this to their use of skunk cannabis- or its lack of availability; and definitely not the way they were raised. Others have turned inwards and spent months and years living in a solitary, internal head place, that feels lonely and quietly desperate.

Teenagers who smoke cannabis regularly- or who binge smoke heavily- seem particularly at risk of developing a dependency and the very latest neuroscience suggest they are seriously risking permanent brain damage; because their brains are still growing and can’t repair once the damage has been done. This addiction can be very powerful- the psychological grip it can have over an individual can seem almost impossible to break.

I hear often that an individual has tried to stop many times and “failed” this has led to ever-decreasing self-worth. Loss of educational aspirations and a sense that life is going nowhere. The good news is- it is possible to stop smoking and for a person to turn things around.

We’ve worked with many people who have managed to stop smoking and gone on to have healthy, happy, successful lives. Even the best addictions counsellors are not miracle workers though and anyone who offers a quick-fix should be avoided.

Cannabis treatment that gets the best results often needs to be long-term and using an holistic model (it can take 3 months to a year of regular support for a young person to feel secure in their recovery). Teens are often part of a cannabis using peer-group and the pressure to conform can be tough to resist. The USA has many residential rehabs for teens and sadly we don’t (although I’m trying to find funding to set one up).

As a trained counsellor and auricular acupuncturist and person in recovery, I know what works; and what doesn’t. I have fostered close ties with Talking About Cannabis because I understand how vital good family support is- to achieve successful results (and preserve everyone’s sanity).

There are some other very good projects available to do this therapeutic work (contact Frank to ask what’s in your area) but don’t be put off if your Dr or local service doesn’t know much about cannabis or minimizes the seriousness of its use).

We have a long way to go to bring all professionals up-to-speed and when we start to see the scale of the problem (and the potential cost of treatment) you can understand why this subject is such a political hot potato. It’s sad but true that a lot of the treatment agenda is driven by crime stats. Heroin and crack addicts can create one-person crime waves- so getting them into treatment is a political priority.

Cannabis and its impact on mental health may cost society a great deal too- but up until recently it hasn’t been something that could harness voters. This may change as more is discovered about the links between skunk and violence especially knife crime.

Cannabis’ place in society has long been contentious. It’s been a symbol of counter-cultural rebellion and many politicians formed their opinions at college and haven’t reassessed the facts. Cannabis has even been seen by some parents as a safer alternative to alcohol. I smoked cannabis for many years- from 14 until I came “into recovery” 7 years ago; and at one time wanted a cannabis leaf tattooed on my wrist (thankfully I was too young). Having smoked traditional cannabis- grass and hash- and skunk in Amsterdam and Mexico, I can tell you first-hand, that cannabis has changed.

The THC/CBD ratio change in skunk has fundamentally altered the way the drug feels and its impact on the brain. We need to bring everyone up to speed. And quickly!

I would say, in summary- that skunk is a very powerful, neuro-toxic substance- that should be respected by all people and is best avoided completely by teenagers. Until we know more about the long-term effects I would definitely say “Err on the side of caution”.

If you or your family member is using it and you are worried ask for help now. Don’t leave it until a serious, potentially irreversible, mental illness has taken hold.


Sarah Graham Solutions has clinics in Surrey and on Harley Street.

She will try and answer all questions sent to her via her website: sarahgrahamsolutions.com

Thanks to The Hale Clinic 

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32 Comments on "DrugFAM supports Sarah Graham’s views on cannabis and skunk"

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Peter Reynolds
This is dangerous and irresponsible misinformation. The one thing that young people know is that they are never told the truth about drugs and this is yet another example of using scare tactics which will actually rebound and have the opposite effect to that intended. Cannabis is the least toxic psychoactive and therapeutic substance known to science. As Professor Les Iversen, chair, Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, say: “Cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long-term without serious side effects. It is never possible for a scientist to say that anything is totally safe.… Read more »
Ridiculous. The ONLY way one can become physically dependant on cannabis is if they start using it before the age of 16 and it becomes part of their biology in terms of needing it to function. IT IS part of our biology in general! Endo-cannabinoid systems have been with all creatures since very early life. THERE ARE CANNABINOIDS IN BREAST MILK! And cannabis is the only grown form of natural cannabinoids that can be found. Hence why it is and has been considered a medicine for MANY different ailments for many thousands of years, some very serious ones. AND VITAL… Read more »
Steven Tawse
It is little wonder the author receives hate mail when she uses public forums such as these to spread blatant lies and propaganda. First of all, you go on about “skunk”, you do know don’t you that skunk is a single strain, albeit on that has been crossed with others to make new hybrids, but still only a single strain, and that it is not, by a long chalk, the most readily available strain in Britain? Next you claim that cannabis’ place in society has “long been contentious”, it was the sudden prohibition of cannabis that made it contentious, if… Read more »
Willy McColl
Your comments about cannabis are just ridiculous, I’ve smoked weed for 20 years and I never become addicted to it. You get your information in books or papers written by people who do not want to see this natural herb legalised. There has been scientific studies done on this plant recently that show the benefits of this plant. People like you would rather folk with MS or Cerabal Paulsey to take tablets for thier illness which harm internal organs. They are also addictive. There are thousands more people addicted to big pharma’s pills than addicted to cannabis. Also why didn’t… Read more »

Aaaaaaaargh hahaha hahaha hahaha hahahahhHahHHHhHaaaaaa, oh I’m sorry, is this not a joke? Nice clear references so we can make our own mind up on this “evidence” why do all these people care so much now, they didn’t when grit weed was giving all the smokers silicosis. But noooow we must stop the stones! !! Yeah right…

Peter Reynolds
What the real experts say: “Cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long-term without serious side effects. It is never possible for a scientist to say that anything is totally safe. But, at the end of the day, scaremongering does science – and the public – a great disservice. Cannabis is simply not as dangerous as it is being made out to be.” – Professor Les Iversen, chair, Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, May 2003 “Cannabis has been used safely for many thousands of years…there have been concerted efforts to demonise the drug’s use.”… Read more »
common sense
I noticed you keep referring to yourself as a professional, but I know that a professional person does not fabricate absolute nonsense to further their agenda. You are a liar, embellishing the truth to suit your dated views and enforce your authority, you are the embodiment of all I believe to be wrong with our world. Reform is happening, everywhere. Just look to America, Uruguay, spain and other countries where the change has already happened and the number of people with psychosis has not increased a bit, not even by a full 1%. I sincerely hope you contract a painful,… Read more »
Helen Parlow
I find myself very conflicted upon reading tour article. While there are some portions I can slightly (and in difference of opinions) agree with. I see how cannibis can become addictive if not properly administered. Smoking cannibus is not how it should be consumed, it wasn’t meant for that purpose. We as human beings have altered its manner of consumption over millions of years. While I can understand and respect modern science and your research thus far, I have to tell you that your research is flawed. First, your test was in juveniles. Not just any juveniles, but those whom… Read more »
Ive smoked skunk since I was 13 years old, I am now a regular smoker and smoke several times daily. The most harmful thing in my joints is the cigarette used to help it burn. Cannabis has helped me control my ADHD, My mum was told I needed ritalin but saw the state it left my cousins mind in and refused. I work a very manual job and smoke the entire day throughout. Rise above the ignorance and focus solely on drugs that ruin peoples lives. Personally cannabis does not register as a drug to me but nore as a… Read more »
Hey Sarah, whilst i’m in agreement that teenagers should not consume cannabis just like they shouldn’t consume alcohol, and i agree that findings have shown that 9% of cannabis smokers become addicted, that is still comparable to 15% of alcohol consumers and 32% of tobacco smokers becoming addicted to those substances, both of which are worse for the body. I would also like to point out that the side-effects/ withdrawal symptoms you have listed, whilst a majority of them i could believe are potential side effects as i may have experienced a couple of them before myself, they are still… Read more »
As for your comments on violence, i have never once in my experience found someone to be violent or angry whilst smoking cannabis, and as a general observation i have found that even when no cannabis has been consumed, cannabis smokers are a lot more relaxed and docile compared to alcohol consumers. I’m not debating that there is drug violence out there, however my argument is that cannabis violence is purely a product of prohibition. Cannabis is an illegal substance however very popular, so the market is pushed underground to be controlled by the gangs. The gangs will not be… Read more »

Scandalous, irrational scare mongering from someone with a vested interest in spreading this sort of misinformed nonsense which flies in the face of vast swathes of international empirical evidence to the contrary. I’m surprised no other comments have appeared from the millions of knowledgeable cannabis users or even the ones who claim that “cannabis is just a bit of spliff” which doesn’t even make sense. Or have they been removed in favour of those showing support for this ill informed diatribe — oh but there don’t seem to be any of those either :^)

Ronald Fucking Greeff
Ronald Fucking Greeff
Lol because “holistic medicine” is grounded in science. “Cannabis’ place in society has long been contentious. It’s been a symbol of counter-cultural rebellion and many politicians formed their opinions at college and haven’t reassessed the facts.” – Cannabis has had a non-contentious place in society ever since traders moved along the silk road (it grows wild in Kazakhstan). This was before politicians looking to play the race card in the US warned citizens about the danger of marijuana that latinos entering the country were smoking and pushing onto children (same story with LSD) because they didn’t want them there. “Cannabis… Read more »
So 10% of users ruin it for the rest of us? So go ban alcohol. There are many health benifits to cannibis if used correctly(not smoked) isn’t it time we stopped trying to control people & educate them instead. I find the crime comment very disturbing because it should be obvious to someone who has a education like yours that the crime around cannibis is there almost entirely only because it’s illegal. You must see that? It’s blindingly obvious so many problems would be rectified in a taxed & regulated environment. Take the control away from the gangs you speak… Read more »
Some of the points made in this article are wholly misleading and un-representative of the truth. For example; a recent study by Harvard University found that there is no causal link between Cannabis use and Schizophrenia (http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/10/harvard-marijuana-doesnt-cause-schizophrenia/63148.html) I have used Cannabis both medicinally and recreationally for nearly twenty years, as have many of my peers. Lack of motivation is not inherent to Cannabis use in my opinion. Quite the opposite in fact. I’ve used Cannabis to control my lack of attention, help with depression and ease the symptoms of chronic back pain and Asthma. As a therapeutic tool I feel… Read more »
Roger Carter
I’ve used cannabis on and off for 45 years and never experiences any withdrawal symptoms other than initial sleep difficulty. Strong powerful cannabis has always been around such as strong graded hashish(hashish is graded 00 the strongest to 0,1,2,3 being the weakest in producer countries) The so called skunk strain were bred from these strong strains of hashish, therefore strong strains of cannabis are not a new phenomenon and have always been around being used by famous people like Paul McCartney without any obvious problems. I would like to know what % of cannabis users in this country from the… Read more »
paul lewington
What complete tosh i have been a medicinal cannabis use for over 10 years and no alot of people who use this medicine its far less addictive than most substances be it legal illegal or over the counter drugs i am in a wheelchair with spina bifida i developex scholiosis when i was young and as a domino affect i soon started developing pressure ulcers of which an infection had gotten into my bone and destroyed my pelvis when i tried painkillers from the gp and pain specialists i was ether still house bound with pain or in hospital with… Read more »

Care to cite any sources of scientific evidence to support any of your claims? Or are we to just take your word for it?


Could you please provide evidence of physical dependency as this is an important medical breakthrough as cannabis is known, beyond doubt, that there is no physical dependency.

Alan Hobday
I was struck with a feeling of Deja Vu when reading this article. This echoes so closely to the situation that arose in the time of Alcohol Prohibition. During this time the gangster suppliers had stopped selling the traditional forms of alcohol, like beer and wine, and were pushing “Moonshine”: a dangerous, often toxic, form of alcohol. Due to this people were saying “We can’t legalise alcohol because it has now morphed into this really nasty stuff”. Eventually, when alcohol was legalised, people were once again able to purchase beer and wine and they turned their backs on the Moonshine.… Read more »
Cannabis doesn’t change, it’s called cross pollination. Different strains are being cultivated with other strains. They all differ on CBD and THC levels. It all depends on the ailment it is healing or relieving. It is the most medicinal plant in the world. And perhaps some of those children who have those withdraw symptoms merely have them because the cannabis medication was aiding them while they smoked it. It was actually curing them. I never had one withdraw from marijuana and I hadn’t used it for 25 years until I had no other cure for my migraines. It’s bad enough… Read more »
Michael O'Hanlon
I just don’t even know what too say… Where did you get you’re degree? You listed off everything any teenager does as a possible list of side effects due to heavy use? Any chimp would be able to tell that you can’t even do you’re job properly… Maybe you should try actually helping people instead of spreading lies about cannabis as the longer people like you go on like this, the longer people with cancer who could be treated using cannabis may die. I hope you think about all the lives you could be potentially ending! P.S. I don’t even… Read more »
Hello, Your point where you say “I would say, in summary- that skunk is a very powerful, neuro-toxic substance- that should be respected by all people and is best avoided completely by teenagers. Until we know more about the long-term effects I would definitely say “Err on the side of caution” ….. Cannabis has been around for 1000’s of years, we know what the long term effects are.. Being criminalised for choices we take towards our own bodies. This is he biggest harm.. not mental health issues. People who consume cannabis ( not just smoking ) and have mental health… Read more »

Very sad misinformation. The demonization of the worlds most beneficial plant is not in the worlds best interest. It is quite damaging, your “work” is of great remorse to planet earth. For human kind to grow we must make use of cannabis in all it’s possibilities. I hope you can see that one day.


[…] week Sarah published an extraordinary article in Holistic Therapist Magazine. It’s reprise of some of the most extreme ‘reefer madness‘ which started back in […]


Everybody’s comments are respected by HTM, as are the opinions of the readers of this article, as is the opinion of Sarah Graham – (author of this article). HTM have forwarded these comments to Sarah Graham, so that she can have the option to respond. Thank you.


Ridiculous article in my opinion. You are purposefully misleading the public & only cause further harm to others especially those like myself who are dependent on cannabis to live any sort of quality of life. You should be more responsible rather than trying to create more hysteria over something that is quite frankly not an issue unless your income comes from treating those with supposed “addictions”.

Woefully unabashed unscientific scaremongering (please quantify “skunk”. I small vicious animal that releases a pungent smell as an act of defence? A strain of cannabis that has been around for several decades and is by no means the strongest/highest THC variety available? Or a derogatory term used for its obvious negative connotations by sensationalist loving media and scaremongers?) that should solely belong in rags such as The Daily Mail and The Sunday Sport. If Sarah Graham is a professional it is a professional of spreading misinformation and propaganda. No wonder her talents are called upon by the likes of Frank… Read more »
i feel you i have used cannabis since i was 16 because ritalin made me violent its the best meds i ever stumbled across i might of just been trying to get high like the rest at first but once i did it i realized it worked real good for my adhd an it helped me get out of special ed an then out of remedial classes an i am not addicted i have been off it for two months so far for po because i got caught with a j by a cop wooooo an not trying to turn… Read more »
Keith Neilson

Of course she’s going to say Cannabis is bad for you, dangerous, addictive and all the rest. If only to drive business towards her ‘counselling service’. I’m willing to bet that her income rests on gullible middle class parents sending their little angels to her because they found the end of a joint in their schoolbag.

I don’t believe that her opinion is genuinely held (I know, I’m too nice and give people too much credit) and is merely a marketing ploy (but not that nice).

Penny Macleod
I am sad to see how many comments here are ignorant of the real harm that is done to young people’s brains (which are not yet fully developed) by skunk. The ignorance displayed in those comments is due to not understanding the difference between cannabis and skunk. Do your research – look into the chemical differences between the two substances. I have first-hand experience of seeing my bright and personable son descend into mental illness due to use of skunk. I know other families whose sons have become withdrawn and depressed due to using skunk. Some are suicidal. Sarah is… Read more »
David Petch
I love reading these comments because once upon a time I would of agreed with the vast majority of them, and literally every single comment has some stereotypical pro cannabis bull crap in it, even professor David Nutt has been quoted! where would a pro cannabis argument be without one of those hahaha. I think the vast majority of people who are commenting do not have the slightest understanding of how addiction works, because for some people smoking cannabis is not a problem at all, for somebody like myself, it is and it was. I started smoking cannabis at a… Read more »