Stoned Nation?

A Toronto psychologist who treats depression, anxiety and addiction says he doesn’t expect the general population to take up marijuana with great enthusiasm once legalized.

Even as police in Toronto swooped down on marijuana dispensaries this week, the countdown clock is ticking towards next year when it is expected the drug will no longer be considered an illegal substance.

Dr. Richard Amaral said he expects some interest will be fired up in the early days after legalization.

“Whenever a new product, or a new beverage perhaps, might get released, there’s curiosity, people try it … but it quickly goes back down after several months,” Amaral said. “And I think that will be the case here with marijuana.”

A Forum Poll released in late in 2015 found that one-fifth of adult Canadians have used pot in the past year, and that almost one-quarter say they will try it once it becomes legal.

The most likely to give pot a go are men, the young, those who didn’t finish college and New Democrat supporters, according to Forum’s poll.

A National Survey on Drug Use and Health in the United States found an uptake in users after Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012, although it’s not known if that trend has proved long-term.

Regular, long-term users of drugs often have underlying psychological or mental health issues, Amaral said.

“Maybe they use it to medicate themselves from anxiety or perhaps depression,” he said. “But in the absence of that, they won’t be using the drug.

“The ironic thing is that marijuana use can also trigger anxiety,” he said.

According to a Stats Canada survey (2007-11), anti-depressants are among the top five prescriptions for adults across the country..

Amaral doesn’t anticipate people switching out anti-depressants for marijuana in significant numbers because it doesn’t provide consistent relief.

“With marijuana, though, the effect will wear off a few hours later so they’ve got to take it again,” he said. “And then they develop a tolerance which would be another concern because they’re going to need more of the drug.”

Some patients with long-term pain on an opioid will take marijuana to stimulate their appetites or “take their minds off of the pain,” he said.

While he believes that most adult Canadians will handle the transition to legalized pot without heading off the deep end, he does wonder about the impact on young people.

“My initial concern is that I think legalizing it makes it more accessible, even though it’s going to be controlled and regulated,” he said. “I think making it legalized will increase the accessibility and the availability and therefore the potential for abuse by young people.”

However, if Canada were to invest some of the proceeds from the sale of marijuana into drug and rehabilitation treatment, it could actually help to improve the overall mental health of young people as it has in other countries that have gone down this road, Amaral said.

 

Source – http://www.torontosun.com/2016/05/28/if-marijuana-is-legal-in-canada-will-everybody-just-get-stoned