Doctors warn legal pot will cost health system
The era of legal weed will require broad investments in public health, according to the Saskatchewan Medical Association.
Legislation alone is inadequate, president Dr. Intheran Pillay said.
“I think expanding the access to support services such as mental health and substance use services would be important. I think it would be important to expand access to training programs in addiction medicine and I think it’s important to make extensive educational resources on the risks of harm to youth and others available, as well.”
The SMA also endorses its parent organization’s 22 recommendations to government to help protect individual and public health.
The Canadian Medical Association report says a public health approach would focus on preventing drug abuse and dependence, availability of assessment, harm reduction for users, and counselling and treatment services for those who wish to stop using.
The lifetime risk of marijuana dependence is estimated at about nine per cent, increasing to almost 17 per cent in people who start using it in adolescence, according to research cited in the report. By comparison, the risk is 15 per cent for alcohol, 23 per cent for heroin and 32 per cent for nicotine.
There’s strong evidence that heavy use of cannabis can lead to psychosis, and teens who smoke pot frequently suffer from long lasting brain damage, including memory, attention and executive function, Pillay said.
A small New Zealand study found smoking three joints a day is the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. The study also found the incidence of lung cancer is seven times higher than with regular cigarettes, Pillay said.
Other studies have looked at how to make pot safer by regulating its THC content and increasing the tax on higher percentages, he said.