The New Workplace Threat: Stronger Cannabis

Cannabis in the UK has changed dramatically. It is much stronger than it used to be, with increasing evidence of its harmful mental health effects. Up to 40 years ago, most cannabis came from overseas. However, in the 1990s, advances in technology enabled the rapid growth of UK cannabis “farms”, mostly in people’s homes.

The old-fashioned “weed”, containing roughly equal amounts of THC (the psychoactive compound) and CBD (which moderates THC’s psychotic effects), is being replaced by a more potent version with almost 3 times more THC than CBD. Statistics back this up. In 2005, over 50% of seized cannabis was high-potency. By 2015, that figure had sharply risen to 94%. Hospitalisations for cannabis psychosis also increased 57% between 2013-2018.

Worryingly, studies show regular high-potency “skunk” users are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with psychosis than non-users. A psychotic episode means losing touch with reality through hallucinations or delusions, often triggering paranoia or suicidal thoughts. The person then likely turns to skunk again for relief, perpetuating the cycle.

For example, one case reported a man recorded on mobile phone brutally attacking and killing his girlfriend during a psychotic episode after eating a cannabis brownie. This horrific incident highlights skunk’s potential to trigger violence.

Implications for Employers

With cannabis being the UK’s most used illegal drug and 74% of substance users having full-time jobs, the workplace implications are serious. Although no employer believes their employee has a drug problem, last year 1 in 8 under 35s used cannabis and 1 in 14 employees overall did.

As employers or managers, you have legal, ethical and social duties to ensure impaired employees don’t endanger themselves or others at work. But do you know which employees use drugs? More importantly, if uncertain, are you doing enough to educate all employees about substance abuse risks?

What Employers Can Do

Implementing tailored drug screening programmes is key to protection. Specialist providers like Zoom Testing can assist in seamlessly rolling out testing across diverse workforces, keeping businesses compliant and workers safe. With substance abuse awareness training also available, employers have both proactive and reactive options.

In summary, high-potency cannabis poses an increasing threat, including psychosis risks. However, smart employers can mitigate risks through appropriate policies, testing programmes and education. Recognising this modern crisis, taking positive action and working with experts lays strong foundations for healthy workforces.

Photo: “Cannabis Leaf” by Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Testing

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

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