Project leader Stanley Zammit, a clinical lecturer in
psychological medicine at the University, said the
findings could be "hugely important" for public health.
He said: "If cannabis does indeed increase the risk of
developing schizophrenia, then you could potentially
prevent hundreds of people getting the mental illness if
cannabis was not available in the population."
Dr Zammit and his team won the Bupa Foundation
Epidemiology Award and have presented with a cheque for
£10,000 at a ceremony at Lincoln's Inn in London.
The vice-chairman of the foundation, which funds medical
research, Andrew Vallance-Owen, said: "This is a key piece
of research that sheds light on cannabis and a mental
illness that blights the lives of one in one hundred of
"The findings are thought provoking not only for those
people who suffer from schizophrenia, but for everyone,
and will spark widespread debate."
The UK government downgraded cannabis from a Class B to a
Class C drug in January 2004 after advice from the
Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
But ministers said earlier this year the decision may be
reviewed after studies linked the drug to mental illness.
In March 2005 researchers in New Zealand released the
results of a study which claimed smoking cannabis
virtually doubled the risk of developing mental illnesses
such as schizophrenia.