Last weekend Dr. Nadia Alam, OMA president, was admonished on social media for suggesting that smoking a joint could be a “gateway to harder drugs” and voicing her uncertainty around its safety in an interview to CBC Radio. Activists decried the misinformation and fear mongering from a “doctor” which they allege arises out of the stigmatization of marijuana.
News reports soon surfaced citing Alam’s misspoken words and other medical professionals who said her information was outdated.
Of course, Dr. Alam quickly apologized and thanked her colleagues for “gently” correcting her while attempting to clarify her stance. However, she reiterated that both the medical community and patients must pay heed to the risks surrounding recreational marijuana.
Like her, many parents have grave concerns about what they consider to be a free-for-all approach by the federal government simply to garner votes.
Over the past week much of the conversation at the office, with neighbours and at social gatherings has revolved around the legalization of weed on October 17. Those I spoke with are mostly parents and grandparents of teenagers who are very worried about its impact on our youth. The majority believe that allowing easy access (currently online) to recreational cannabis encourages usage. They do not want their kids to think that it is okay to smoke weed either for recreational purposes or as an antidote to their problems.
After all, there are more positive and less addictive ways to relieve stress and anxiety or boost mood. Inability to concentrate, poor memory and difficulty processing information are just a few consequences of smoking weed. Withdrawal side effects include irritability, anger, depression and restlessness. For those who are using it to elevate mood or find calm, this could lead to increased consumption and consequently a higher risk of addiction. Smoking weed can also cause coughing, wheezing, sore throat and tightness in the chest as well as aggravate asthma. Additionally, marijuana smoke like cigarette smoke, also contains carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).
Studies showing that 1 in 7 teenagers who use it are likely to develop a Cannabis disorder, corroborate parent’s concerns. Research also suggests that there is an elevated risk of mental disorders and psychosis among young, more frequent users.
While there are no guidelines to say how much is safe or unsafe, researchers are clear that frequent usage can cause long-lasting damage to young brains. That is why doctors and organizations representing healthcare professionals (like the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Paediatric Society and Canadian Psychiatric Association) have been keen to educate the public about its harmful effects, especially for chronic smokers under the age of 25.
Medical professionals want Canadians to understand that legalizing a substance does not necessarily mean that it is safe. This applies to alcohol and tobacco as well as weed. As for whether cannabis is less harmful than drinking or smoking, there simply isn’t enough research to come to that conclusion. Only time will tell.
The introduction of cannabis infused edibles and drinks aimed at older, more risk-averse users, makes parents like me even more fearful as youth might be more inclined to try the “less potent” versions. Like most other parents, I don’t get why we are presenting them with these options???
Of added concern is the rising number of road accidents and fatalities caused by individuals who consumed weed. Most people I spoke with agree that we currently lack resources to prevent misuse and its dire consequences.
Reports also suggest that the bid to end the black market might be a long process as there simply will not be enough legal supply to satisfy the demand in the first few years. This is likely to keep illegal dealers in business. Teething troubles with the framing, enforcing and monitoring of related legislation are also likely to add to the problems.
Public information campaigns are urging Canadians to talk to their doctors about recreational marijuana. Hoping perhaps to dispel common misgivings surrounding the drug. Out of concern for their patients, many doctors have quietly voiced their reservations rather than tout its harmlessness as the government and marijuana activists might want them to do.
The bottom line is that several healthcare professionals are still unsure about the benefits, if any, of medical marijuana. Therefore, the legalization of recreational pot brings a slew of fresh problems for them, us and the health care system. -CINEWS