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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1230 ..

MR CORNWELL: Minister, in the absence of any response from the department on the panel, does the government have a view on the link between schizophrenia and marijuana smoking, a matter that was raised repeatedly at the meeting, and are studies being conducted by the department on a possible link?

MR STANHOPE: It is an interesting issue that you raise, Mr Cornwell. In relation to all of those people in the community with a dual diagnosis-that is, a diagnosed mental illness and problematic drug or substance abuse or use-there are some estimates that 80 per cent of people with a mental illness have an assumed dual diagnosis of problematic substance abuse. That is a staggering figure in itself. Of course, it is a figure that does surprise me to the extent that, on an accepted definition of mental illness, 21 per cent of the people of the ACT have a mental illness of some sort. Twenty-one per cent of the people of the ACT acknowledge a clinically accepted mental illness. That is one in five people.

If one then extrapolates from the assumption that 80 per cent of people who have a diagnosed or clinical mental illness have problematic substance abuse, then we are talking about an awful lot of people. We are talking there about a problematic use of an illicit substance or of alcohol. It is a major issue. There is debate within the community, in relation to all who fit within that dual diagnosis category, about what comes first. There is a body of opinion that holds that the substance abuse-and I take the point you make about marijuana-induces psychosis or mental illness. There is a stronger body of opinion that holds that the mental illness leads to the substance abuse.

There are a group of people for whom relief is not easily found, but they do find some relief through alcohol and other drug use, which sometimes, and often tragically, leads to abuse.

Mr Cornwell: So you are conducting studies? Are you sufficiently concerned?

MR STANHOPE: I do not know whether the ACT itself has launched research into this issue and the matter of which factor comes first. It is a well-known and researched subject, Mr Cornwell, and a significant and serious subject: what comes first and what are the linkages between mental illness and substance abuse. In order to find appropriate responses to both a range of mental illnesses and substance abuse-and I applaud your interest in this subject-it is very important that we do understand the linkages. But I do not believe as some do, Mr Cornwell-and heaven forbid that they include you-the redneck view that the use of, say, marijuana leads inexorably to mental illness.

Mr Cornwell: What an extraordinary claim to make. I take no such view. I just wanted to know if you are conducting studies.

MR STANHOPE: Mr Cornwell, I have sat in this place and listened to your views on the evil of marijuana use, the evil of cannabis smoking and the extent to which the use, not necessarily the abuse, of cannabis leads absolutely inexorably to mental illness. It was a favourite theme of one of our lately departed friends from the crossbench, which I have no doubt you, and even Mr Stefaniak, gave great credence to.

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