The Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) has published a policy cautioning policy-makers and the public of the serious public health concern of cannabis.

The policy highlights evidence of substantial health harms related to cannabis use across Europe. Adopting the core principle of medicine, of ‘first do no harm’, European doctors oppose further legalisation of cannabis and urge policy-makers to make efforts to reduce cannabis use by citizens.

CPME Vice-President Prof. Dr Ray Walley said “Evidence shows that cannabis is an addictive drug with many hazards. These risks are heightened for adolescents in particular. The weight of current evidence indicates that legalisation adds to health harms across the population.

“European doctors encourage local, national, and European public health agencies to improve surveillance efforts to ensure data is available on the short- and long-term health effects of cannabis.”

Cannabis is the most consumed illicit drug in Europe. Latest estimates from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) indicate that about 23 million adults used cannabis in 2022, and 1.7 million people have a cannabis use disorder.

Cannabis use has acute health risks, and it tops the list of drug-related attendances at hospital emergency departments in Europe. In addition, regular use is associated with a range of chronic harms, many of which relate to mental health, such as psychosis, mania, depression and anxiety disorders.

CPME President Dr Christiaan Keijzer said “We need stronger public health messaging to ensure that the people in Europe, especially youth, are fully aware of the many risks associated with cannabis use.

“There is a need to develop comprehensive addiction treatment response for the many Europeans who currently have a cannabis use disorder, including accessible, comprehensive and evidence based treatment.”

The policy does not focus on cannabis-based products in specific medical conditions.