In the last three years, since the non-discrimination policy of cannabis holders began, there has been a dramatic increase of 675% in the number of patients in the country’s psychiatric wards due to dual illness (mind and body). According to another figure, in 2010 98 people were hospitalized in these wards, while in 2019 the number of hospitalized jumped to about 900. These alarming data were collected by Maariv with the help of the Retorno detox center, and are based on the report of the Movement for the Protection of the Public from the Drug Infection, which was written last November.
As part of the coalition agreements between Yesh Atid and New Hope, it was agreed, among other things, that the new government will advance the issue of legalization of the cannabis market within a year of its establishment, and will even set up a special committee in the Knesset. The Retorno Rehabilitation Center, established by Rabbi Eitan Eckstein near Beit Shemesh in 1990, is following with concern the steps taken to advance this issue.
Retorno is one of the largest centers for the treatment and prevention of addictions in Israel and around the world, which during its years of existence has managed to gain a great deal of experience in the field. This week, Eckstein warned that “if in the past it was claimed that cannabis is a ‘transition drug’ for hard drugs, then today it is a ‘target drug’. I can not live in peace with the declared government plan. “We have been exposed to the alarming data that needs to be taken into account among decision makers.”
Eckstein adds that the economic consequences of legalization and the increase in the number of patients with double morbidity “could reach costs of about one and a half billion shekels a year to the state coffers – hospitalization costs, rehabilitation of patients and rehabilitative hostels, additional psychiatric hospital beds and disability benefits.”
Studies in countries that have chosen to promote legalization such as Uruguay, Canada and the states of Colorado and Oregon in the US show that 10% of the drug users became addicted after the sale of cannabis for non-medical self-consumption was regulated by law. Eckstein emphasizes that medical cannabis has changed in recent years. When the percentage of active and addictive substance in it jumped from 5% in the past to 20% today.
It also shows that in these countries there has been an increase in suicide attempts due to increased use of the cannabis drug. “Before deciding to take a wild run towards the legalization of cannabis, I call on the Israeli government to discuss the data, and first and foremost to establish comprehensive assistance and treatment systems for addicts,” Eckstein concludes.