Doc­tors warn le­gal pot will cost health sys­tem

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - JONATHAN CHARL­TON jcharl­ton@postmedia.com Twit­ter.com/J_Charl­ton

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.

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