Former Nottingham drug addict warns of cannabis dangers
A former Nottingham drug addict, turned counsellor, has warned of the health and psychological effects he suffered as a result of taking cannabis.
Chris Simonite, now 39, started using cannabis as a teenager after a friend introduced him to the drug.
He now works as a counsellor for Trust the Process, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation service.
Mr Simonite said using cannabis led to psychosis, paranoia and the breakdown of a relationship.
He said he began taking cannabis at the age of 14 and became a regular user a couple of years later.
'Stoned for years'
"After 16 I started to become more regularly exposed to the drug, doing it recreationally with friends and the effects of it were taking hold of me," he said.
"More drugs were introduced... somebody would say: 'I've got cocaine, I've got ecstasy, I've got acid' and so then you start to try additional drugs.
"I was constantly stoned for a number of years - in the end I would be smoking about an ounce of cannabis per week."
"In the beginning, the cannabis helped mask a lot of other emotional issues - one of the underlying issues was social anxiety and I found that when I smoked cannabis I became part of the group.
"What happened as time progressed is that those issues became bigger because they were unresolved and the cannabis addiction became bigger as well."
Mr Simonite said smoking the drug caused him to have psychological problems which included hearing voices and having hallucinations.
He said on one occasion when he was walking through Nottingham he fled in to a phone box because he believed someone was trying to shoot him.
Mr Simonite has also had to have 75% of his right lung removed after developing bullous disease through smoking cannabis.
He said: "I thought that cannabis was harmless, same as everybody else did.
"It was only years after that I realised it had a major impact."