According to a new Statistics Canada report, weed consumption has more than doubled over the last 30 years. As Canada’s government moves ahead with its plans to legalize marijuana this summer, will these numbers increase even more? Here’s a quick look on how legalizing weed can affect the Canadian population.
Weed Can Help Mitigate Withdrawal Symptoms
Terry Lake, former British Columbia health minister, believes that further research should be done on the effects of marijuana on opioid addictions. He states there is preliminary evidence that marijuana can help people addicted to hard drugs like opioids and cocaine. Cannabis consumption can help ease withdrawal symptoms like chronic pain, sleeping difficulties and trauma. A Canadian paper published by the International Journal of Drug Policy found that among 271 medical cannabis patients, 30% used the drug as a substitute for opiates. 63% used weed as a substitute for prescription drugs.
Other studies also suggest that weed might help lower the risk of overdose deaths. A 2014 study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine found the following results: states that legalized cannabis had an opioid death rate about 25% lower than states where marijuana was illegal.
Although marijuana is not “the answer to the opioid crisis”, Lake believes that it is nonetheless “one of the options” that Canada should explore.
Legalizing Marijuana Might Cause More Harm Than Good
Some believe that weed legalization may actually have a negative impact. An eastern Newfoundland woman, who was once addicted to cannabis, fears that legalization will harm more people. Although she no longer uses marijuana, she once consumed it so heavily that she stopped sleeping and eating. She also went from 300 pounds to 104 pounds. “I’ve got an addictive personality. So to me a drug is a drug, no matter if it is alcohol, marijuana or cocaine”, she says. “It is all addictive. So if some people got an addictive personality, well they’re going to get addicted.”
Wayne Bishop, an addictions prevention consultant at Eastern Health, confirms that weed is indeed an addictive substance. Bishop states that among the 12% of Canadians that used weed in the past year, about 9% will develop a form of substance-related disorder linked to marijuana consumption. Even marijuana addicts can experience withdrawal symptoms similar to hard drug addicts, like body sweats, anxiety and chronic pain.
Legalizing Weed May Put Canadians’ Mental Health At Risk
Another concern among experts is the impact of marijuana on mental health, especially on developing brains. Dr. Jürgen Rehm, director of the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), states that the humain brain is still in the development phase into the 20s. Young adults and teenagers’ brains are therefore vulnerable to cannabis, especially those with pre-existing psychiatric disorders.
An increasing number of studies show that individuals with a history of psychosis who use marijuana are more than twice as likely to develop mental illnesses like schizophrenia. One 10-year follow up study found that compared to non-smoking teens, those who used weed were twice more likely to develop psychosis.
What Can Be Done About Weed Legalization?
With all these consequences to keep in mind, it is therefore crucial for the Canadian government to strictly regulate and restrict access to marijuana. About 100,000 Canadians are currently dealing with weed dependency, and legalizing the drug may drive these numbers even more.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) urges to expand substance abuse and mental health services. The CMA believes that introducing “a plan to expand training programs in addiction medicine and access to treatment” should be done before even the legalization of marijuana. Implementing such actions would help mitigate the consequences of weed legalization.
If you are struggling with marijuana addiction, or know someone who does, contact us today at toll-free 1-800-832-1249. You can also fill out the form on our main page. We’re here to help you.