An event has been held to raise awareness of the potentially damaging effects of cannabis use among young people and its links to mental health problems and involvement in gangs and county lines.
A range of professionals from social care, teachers, early and targeted help workers attended, in an effort to seek solutions and make changes which help protect young people.
The event included a presentation about CIRV, the force’s gangs intervention programme, by Inspector Daryl Lyon, presentations by Ali Mills from NGAGE (The early Intervention drug and alcohol service for the county) and a performance called County Lines by the Alter Ego Theatre group.
The feedback from those present was extremely positive and the need for early intervention was discussed in detail.
Ali Mills, NGAGE Service Manager, said: “I wanted to challenge the view held by many that ‘it’s only cannabis’ and is therefore harmless. I studied local and national data which clearly evidenced the fact that cannabis in Northamptonshire is now almost all home-grown, a high-strength, herbal variety with a different chemical makeup than that smoked as recently as 10 years ago.
“It now tends to have a higher content of a compound called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which can cause anxiety, paranoia and panic.
“The impact this has on young people can be huge and the message we wanted to get across through the event is that cannabis is not a low-level, harmless drug. The fact is, it is causing mental health issues, can cause problems with memory, ability to learn and can make young people vulnerable to involvement in drugs supply, gangs and county lines.”
Inspector Lyon said: “The damage cannabis can cause is a growing concern. The drugs industry drives the exploitation of children in this county and others so if you are buying cannabis for personal use you are directly contributing to the exploitation of children who are exposed to serious violence on a daily basis.
“Before long, the young person can feel they’re in too deep to seek help, but CIRV is designed to work with these people to help them choose a better path than the one they are currently on. It’s a service which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anybody seeking help should call 07539 183975 any time, day or night. We will do anything we can to help anyone linked to gangs or exploitation.”