Despite its benefits, experts say cannabis can pose a number of health risks that many Ontarians are unaware of.
A survey done for the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) by the research organization Nanos revealed that Ontarians are concerned about recreational cannabis use and are uninformed about the potential health risks.
Considering that the substance is now legal and that a 2013 UNICEF report found Canadian youth have the highest rate of cannabis use compared to those in 28 other countries, it’s time Ontarians brush up on their knowledge of the potential health risks.
Of the 500 people in Ontario polled for the OMA survey, nearly three out of four said they worry about respiratory consequences, and more than seven out of 10 about the effects on mental health.
A report from McMaster University’s medical school says cannabis contains the same toxins as those found in tobacco. As a result, both acute and chronic cannabis smoking can lead to increased coughing/wheezing, bronchitis, progressive lung disease, and lung cancer.
Beyond the physical effects, cannabis can also impact people’s mental state.
A recent editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) says that there are many known and unknown health risks of cannabis. The editorial quotes from a Canadian government site which states that cannabis affects mental functioning, specifically attention, memory and learning.
While research has shown that these effects exist, there there isn’t clear evidence as to how long they can last. In one study, three days of abstinence diminished the effects of cannabis and restored mental functioning. Yet, another study published earlier this month, found that cannabis use in adolescents can have long-lasting effects on short-term memory and reasoning, and lead to delayed memory recall.
“Reading through the website [OMA poll results] shocked me because I have never thought to look at the health risks of cannabis, thinking it wasn’t harmful in the long run but it is,” said Shanoya Brown, a business management student at Ryerson.
In another document released by the OMA, they state that “Recreational cannabis can be addictive, about one in 11 users will become addicted and the risk rises to one in six for individuals who start using as a teen.” The Canadian government site similarly warns against using cannabis, “if you have a predisposition to a mental health or family history of psychosis or problematic substance use.”
After learning about these statistics and facts, Ryerson psychology student Tatyana Kumarasamy, agrees that students need to be more educated on cannabis.
“Cannabis is becoming legal and these health risks are serious for anyone.
Especially teenagers and young adults since it can harm us the most,” said Ryerson psychology student Tatyana Kumarasamy.
The OMA is urging those who purchase cannabis regularly to speak to a doctor in order to be more educated on the matter.
Ryerson Health and Wellness is one on-campus resource where students can receive support and access cannabis information.
“Cannabis use like any other product, alcohol or tobacco, carries risk and it’s important that students are aware of them,” said Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi.
Ryerson is implementing a “if you choose to use” campaign which informs students about harm reduction strategies used by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The strategies look to inform students about minimizing the health risks while using cannabis.