Issue 10 | 6th October 2023
Hello and welcome to your L&D Newsletter.
Happy Friday. You have made it through the week and now the weekend is yours to enjoy!! If you would like anything added to the newsletter then please do let us know.
October is Black History Month. This year the month will celebrate the achievements of black women and mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush generation. Black History Month UK explains This year’s commemoration will feature trailblazing black women who have, made incredible contributions to literature, music fashion, sport, business, politics, academia, social and health care, and more. Through the Black History Month Magazine and our online platforms, we will amplify their voices, stories, and achievements, inspiring future generations to carry on their legacy.” Go to Black History Month for more information.
In this weeks' newsletter we are going to be taking a look at the effects of cannabis on family life…
Dates for your diaries
- Complex safeguarding Day - 20th October 2023
- Motivational Interview Training - 16th October 2023
- Safer recruitment Training - 27th February 2024
- World Mental Health Day - 10th October 2023
What is cannabis?
Firstly let's take a look at what cannabis is. We have all heard of it and some may have experimented with it. But what is it?
Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK and comes from the cannabis plant.(NHS England). The main active chemical in it is tetrahydrocannabinol otherwise known as THC. Cannabis is a class B drug; it is illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell. Possession is illegal and the penalty is up to five years in prison.
Cannabis is a plant found wild in most parts of the world and is easily cultivated in temperate climates such as we have in the UK. There are two main types of cannabis smoked in the UK.
Hashish is the commonest form of cannabis used in the UK. It is made by drying and compressing the plant to form a resin. It usually comes in light brown to black blocks. Most hashish is imported from Morocco, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Lebanon. However, it is often cut or mixed with a number of substances to make up the weight. The end product has been dubbed ‘soap bar’ because of the unwanted additives such as beeswax, turpentine, milk powder, boot polish, henna, pine resin, ground coffee and others. Depending on the level of impurities, this also serves to ‘dilute’ the effect of the hash.
Herbal cannabis or marijuana is a green/brownish preparation made from drying and chopping the leafy parts of the plant. In recent years 1 stronger, new hybrid strains of herbal cannabis have been developed. These are varieties grown indoors under artificial light. Initially originating from Holland, these hybrids are becoming increasingly available here as home grown crops. Common varieties are Skunk (also used as a generic name for these hybrids), Northern Lights and Netherweed.
Cannabis is most commonly smoked by rolling it up in cigarette papers, to make a joint or spliff. Cannabis resin is usually mixed into tobacco, but herbal cannabis may be smoked on its own or with tobacco or herbs. Resin is often quite hard and needs to be softened and broken up so that it can be sprinkled into a joint or pipe. To do this, users heat an edge of the resin block, usually over a flame, and then break small bits off.
Cannabis can also be smoked in a pipe, chillum (tube-like pipe), hookah or hubble-bubble water pipe or a bong (a container half submerged in or filled with water for cooling purposes), brewed into a drink, eaten on its own or cooked in food, especially cakes or biscuits. It is also sometimes smoked between two hot knives, known as hot-kniving.
There are many street names for cannabis including blow, draw, weed, skunk, dope, puff, hash and smoke. Spliffs and joints.
The strength of cannabis is measured by the percentage of THC (tetrahydrocannabinols) it contains. THC is the main active ingredient of cannabis, the chemical that creates the high.
What are the affects/risk of cannabis?
Short-term effects: The effects generally start a few minutes after smoking and may last up to one hour with low doses and for up to two or three hours with higher doses. When eaten or drunk, cannabis takes an hour or more to have an effect, but because the whole dose is taken at once, the effects are harder to control than if the drug is smoked. The effects after swallowing can last 12 hours or longer.
Physical effects: Cannabis causes a number of noticeable but usually mild physical effects, including increased pulse rate, bloodshot eyes, dry mouth, and occasional dizziness. Cannabis use also often increases appetite. Users may feel hungry once they are stoned – the ‘munchies’ as it is often called – and may particularly crave sweet foods such as chocolate. The acute toxicity of cannabis is very low and there are no records of fatal overdose.
Psychological effects: The drug has mildly sedative and euphoric effects and users will feel more relaxed, sociable, talkative, and giggly or alternatively the drug might induce introspective reflection. There are feelings of enhanced awareness and appreciation of the feelings of other people, of music and other sensory experiences. In this state of increased attention to the immediate inner and outer environment, time often seems to stand still. The situation in which cannabis is often used – in comfortable, warm surroundings, with friends, during a period given over to leisure and relaxation – probably serves to encourage these kinds of responses.
- Always keep the focus on the child when working with parents who use cannabis
- Try not to think that it is ‘just cannabis’. Look at the bigger picture.
Cannabis use may reduce inhibitions and increase the likelihood of sexual activity. This, combined with short-term memory loss, may lead to people becoming involved in sexual activity they later regret and being less likely to protect themselves and use contraception effectively. With higher doses, there may be perceptual distortions, forgetfulness and confusion. There may also be varying degrees of temporary psychological distress especially paranoia and anxiety particularly if the user is already anxious or depressed or using in a threatening environment. The subtlety of these effects mean that they can be interpreted by the user in a wide variety of ways depending on experience, what they expect or want to happen and on the reactions of other people around them. Novice users who do not know what to expect may find the experience of using cannabis particularly distressing, especially if strong variants are involved. On the other hand many people report that nothing much happened when they first smoked cannabis.
Physical Health: It has been shown that (as with tobacco smoke) frequent inhalation of cannabis smoke over a period of years can exacerbate bronchitis and other respiratory disorders, and can also cause cancer of the lung and parts of the upper digestive tract. Smoked cannabis contains high concentrations of potentially carcinogenic tar and toxins. Smoking cannabis and tobacco together may be more damaging than smoking either alone. It is not known whether regular cannabis smoking will turn out to cause more or less risk to health than regular tobacco smoking. It does appear that cannabis users inhale less frequently, but more deeply and for longer, therefore possibly exposing the lungs less frequently but more intensely to harmful smoke.
Mental Health: A heavy user chronically intoxicated on cannabis may appear apathetic, lack energy, suffer with memory and attention span. This state may persist for weeks after stopping use. However, This condition known as Amotivational syndrome is according to research rare and little different from what might be expected of someone chronically depressed or intoxicated on alcohol or other sedative-type drugs such as tranquillisers.
Studies undertaken in the UK and America suggest that cannabis can worsen the condition of some schizophrenic disorders. Individuals who are otherwise reasonably well controlled on anti-psychotic drugs have reported adverse reactions to regular or even sporadic use of cannabis. Some studies have linked episodes of schizophrenia following the onset of heavy 4 cannabis use. While it is not clear what role cannabis plays in such incidences and on general mental health, it is reasonable to say that those with a history of mental illness may be vulnerable to cannabis induced psychosis. Or where there is a family history of mental health problems. However, despite some research indications there is no convincing evidence of cannabis use causing psychosis ('cannabis psychosis') or schizophrenia in people who do not already have mental health problems. It is also needs to be considered that those with mental health difficulties may be more likely to use cannabis and to use it heavily, possibly in an attempt to self-medicate either against their feelings or the effects of their prescribed medication.
Tolerance will develop in regular users, though many also become sensitised to its effects. Regular users therefore may often only need a little to enjoy the drug’s effects, but will go on to smoke a lot of the drug without becoming overly stoned.
Why it matters
Cannabis, alcohol other associated depressant substances affect the brain and potentially impact on an individual’s ability to make wise decisions. Practitioners need to be mindful that although adults who use cannabis may have intrinsically good parenting skills– they may be unable to exercise them consistently.
- There is evidence linking cannabis and passive smoking to sudden infant death syndrome. All parents need to be aware of the potential consequences of not adhering to safe sleeping practice
- Research indicates that the presence of two parents who use substances is a particular risk for children.
- Studies have also found an increased likelihood and frequency of illicit drug use, inhalant use and cigarette smoking if a parent misused substance
- Parents may minimise the effects and impact on the drug on their parenting.
In most cases it is appropriate to seek consent. However, there are some cases where it is not. Consent should not be sought if doing so would:
- Place a person (the individual, family member, worker or a third party) at increased risk of significant harm (if a child) or serious harm (if an adult)
- Prejudice the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime - this is likely to cover most criminal offences relating to children
- Lead to an unjustified delay in making enquiries about allegations of significant harm (to a child) or serious harm (to an adult). At any stage of a pregnancy where pre-birth vulnerabilities or risks are identified, the Early Help Assessment should still be completed.
If a parent is concerned with funding an addiction, or is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are unlikely to be able to meet a child’s physical, emotional and developmental needs consistently. Children can also be at an increased risk of neglect, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, either by the parent or because the child becomes more vulnerable to abuse by others.
It is important not to generalise or make assumptions. Parents who misuse substances can be good parents who do not abuse or neglect their children. Professionals should be aware that there are factors that reduce the risk of harm to a child*. However, focus on the child’s welfare should be a priority for professionals and the impact of the parental substance misuse on the child should be assessed without delay.
Parents who misuse substances may also be experiencing other issues such as mental health problems and domestic abuse. The ‘multiplicative’ impact of combinations of factors have been found to increase the risk of harm to children. Professionals need to be mindful of how these issues interlink and assess the impact of issues both together and separately to ensure the interventions put in place are as effective as possible in promoting the safety and wellbeing of all members of a household.
Successful interventions will be ones that are holistic in approach…
The child’s needs should always be prioritised.
The BSP is looking into a recent increase in the incidence of abusive head trauma in infants. All child facing services must complete this ICON training. You can find a short (30 minutes) online training at: ICON Scope, use username ICON and Password ICONPORTAL20 to access. Anyone undertaking the training is asked to notify the BSP by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note we have had to close applications to the complex safeguarding event due to high interest.
Safer recruitment training: 27th February 2024 - Safer Recruitment Training - Booking form.
Motivational Interview training: Motivational Interview Training - Booking form.
Mental Capacity Act awareness: Free training from SCIE - SCIE - Mental Capacity Act (MCA) e-Learning course.
The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA Centre) has developed a comprehensive guide addressing sibling sexual behaviour.
This resource is designed to assist professionals in effectively responding to inappropriate, problematic, and abusive behaviours among siblings.
The guide covers key areas such as identification, comprehension, and response strategies, including adopting a holistic family approach, offering support to parents, and conducting additional assessments and interventions.
Manchester complex safeguarding hub have some excellent events planned including responding to young adults involved in cuckooing, catch 22 county lines support and rescue service, stressed out brain training for professionals, Safeguarding pupils with SEN, NW ROCU county lines awareness and others… See: here E-learning (Children and young people) (PDF document at the top) for details and to book on to any. Also on the page are links to other E- learning courses that may be of interest to you.
Complex safeguarding event: This takes place on 20th October at the New Kershaw Centre. Book for Complex Safeguarding event.
Level 2 counselling skills: Reed - Free online Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Skills Course.
Understanding Autism: Reed - Free online CACHE Level 2 Understanding Autism Course.
Poverty is the biggest driver of ill health and early death in Greater Manchester, NHS Greater Manchester is committed to tackling this and is working with Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA), and offering free training to staff aimed at exploring the relationship between poverty and health and the steps we can all take to make a difference. Places still available on:
- Friday 13 October
- Friday 10 November
Register today via: Eventbrite - NHS GM Poverty Awareness Training.
In the news...
A quick round up of some safeguarding related stories that may interest you and help inform your practice. If you have any suggestions for articles to be published in this newsletter then email email@example.com.
- Gov.uk - UK and US pledge to combat AI-generated images of child abuse
- Gazette live - Teenager caught with CSAM hidden in fake calculator app
- TES - National homework task to be set for World Mental Health Day
- SBNI - Growing up online: children's online activities harm and safety in Northern Ireland - an evidence report
- IWF - Hotline reports ‘shocking’ rise in the sextortion of boys
- Barnados - Double discrimination: Barnardo’s calls for change as report highlights young Black people who have been in care experience racism, exclusion and isolation
- The Guardian - Pornography driving UK teens towards child abuse material, say experts
- NSPCC - Why language matters: using ‘non-accidental head injury’ and not ‘shaken baby syndrome’
Northamptonshire Police have produced a video aimed at informing parents about child exploitation: YouTube - I'm Being Exploited - Full video.
Take a break…
- The Bury Children’s Partnership weekly e-mail provides local, regional and national updates, resources and free training opportunities to help you support children, young people and families who you work with. You can find the latest edition here: Bury Council - Children's Partnership weekly information
- Oldham council have produced this teaching resource on healthy relationships Oldham SCB - Happy and Safe Relationships Primary School Resource (PDF)
- The Guardian - Happiness of girls and young women at lowest level since 2009, shows UK poll
- Rochdale have produced this seven minute briefing on ACES: Rochdale Safeguarding - Adverse childhood experiences (PDF)
- World mental health day is 10th October 2023. This years theme is Mental Health is a universal right. See: Mental Health UK - World Mental Health Day 2023 for more information
If you are struggling with your mental health please do speak to someone help and advice is out there: Text 85258 for free, confidential, anonymous text support service.