Pubdate: Tue, 11 Dec 2012
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Times Colonist
Author: Bill Cleverley
Page: 6


Medical marijuana may be an effective substitute for prescription 
drugs or alcohol, just as methadone is used to treat heroin addicts, 
says addiction researcher and former Victoria city councillor Philippe Lucas.

"The fastest rate of addiction right now is to pharmaceutical 
opiates, and it's also the fastest rising rate of morbidity and 
mortality. In other words, people are [overdosing] on pharmaceutical 
opiates," said Lucas, who recently published a research paper online 
in the Journal of Addiction Research and Theory.

"This is the second paper I've published this year that suggests 
cannabis can significantly potentially reduce the amount of 
pharmaceutical opiates that particularly those who suffer from 
chronic pain need."

But addictions counsellor and interventionist Sue Donaldson said 
promoting marijuana as a preferable option - especially to 
susceptible individuals - is not a good idea.

"I have just seen devastating impacts [from marijuana use], 
especially on young people and their families. It is not a harmless 
drug," said Donaldson, owner of Pegasus Recovery Solutions.

Donaldson said she treats people for marijuana addiction "all the time."

"The way it's being touted as a harmless drug is frightening," she said.

Lucas, former executive director of medical-marijuana provider the 
Vancouver Island Compassion Society, surveyed 404 medical cannabis 
patients recruited from four marijuana dispensaries in B.C.

He found that 41 per cent reported using cannabis as a substitute for 
alcohol and 67.8 per cent used cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs.

The three main reasons cited for cannabis-related substitution are 
"less withdrawal," "fewer side-effects" and "better symptom 
management," suggesting many patients may have already identified 
cannabis as an effective and potentially safer addition or 
alternative to their prescription drug regimen, Lucas says in the 
paper. "This kind of flips some of the common perception as cannabis 
on its head - the idea that this may be a gateway drug to addiction 
and rather posits cannabis as an exit drug for a lot of people from 
substances that might otherwise be far more dangerous than cannabis."

He said his findings do not mean users of pharmaceuticals, illicit 
drugs or alcohol exclusively substitute marijuana for their substance 
of choice.

"They find cannabis allows them either to not use or use less of 
those. So from a harm-reduction perspective this is a pretty 
significant finding."

Lucas said it will be interesting to test the theory of the 
substitution effect south of the border in Washington state and 
Colorado, where residents have voted to remove criminal sanctions for 
anyone over 21 possessing up to an ounce (28 grams) for personal use.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom