Pubdate: Thu, 29 May 2014
Source: Markham Economist & Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Metroland Printing
Author: Amanda Persico


At age 15, Christian Carrington tried marijuana thinking it would 
help with his social anxiety.

"Something inside me said I was less than," he said during a 
presentation hosted by Markham Stouffville Hospital.

"I liked it. I felt relaxed. Pretty soon, that's all I was chasing."

Later, while trying to maintain a normal life with a job and 
marriage, he became a chronic marijuana user and soon an addict.

He began associating with potheads and dealers. Marijuana use led to 
using cocaine in his 30s.

"The marijuana wasn't working. My anxiety didn't go away," Carrington 
said. "I kept lying to myself."

Carrington was hospitalized for psychosis.

"I went through months of hell," he said about his withdrawal and 
recovery phase. "But day by day, I got stronger. I can tell you, 
having to grow up at 40 is a bitch."

Carrington provided a glimpse of what it means to be an addict and to 
have a mental disorder.

He was speaking earlier this week as Markham Stouffville Hospital 
hosted an information session for parents and youth about marijuana 
and its affects on the developing brain.

Marijuana by any other name - dope, pot, weed - affects youth, since 
brain development continues well into your early 20s, said Dr. David 
Ng, a pediatric psychiatrist at Markham Stouffville.

While alcohol kills brain cells, marijuana can change the structure 
of the brain and alter the way information is processed.

Chronic marijuana use can affect motivation and working memory, Ng said.

The earlier the use, the more potential damage to the brain.

"Think of your development as building a house," he said. "Rain won't 
affect the completed structure. But it will have an affect if you are 
still building the roof."

The dialogue soon turned to the impacts of legalizing pot.

With an ongoing debate about legalization, questions remain about the 
harmful affects of pot on youth.

One youth at the presentation asked, since alcohol is legal, why 
wouldn't it be OK to legalize marjiuana.

The answer in part is that there are more than 400 chemical 
ingredients in marijuana, compared to one chemical compound found in alcohol.

"With alcohol, you are told on the bottle how much alcohol is in it, 
4 per cent, 10 per cent. You are also told where it came from," said 
medical director with Addiction Services of York Region, Dr. Ivan Perusco.

"Because it is legalized, there is an assumption of control. My 
concern is that because it is legal, it will be OK. By making it 
legal, you invite people to try it."

The long-term affects of alcohol and cigarettes are known by the 
medical world, he added.

While pot use today is not as widespread as it was in the 1960s or 
'70s - the so-called hippie generation - and it is on a decline, 
fewer and fewer teenagers believe smoking marijuana poses health risks.

Although pot numbers are on the decline, the drug's potency is on the 
rise and chemical compound is changing.

And that poses the most risk to youth.

Today's pot has higher levels of THC - the 'high' factor in the drug 
- - which can be associated with several mental health problems, such 
as anxiety disorder, addiction and psychosis.

And that's what makes it difficult to measure, regulate or standardize.

"My hope is to turn my mess into a message," Carrington said.

"And to those who never tried it, you're not missing much. You have 
free choice. But you are never free from consequences. No one is."

By the numbers:

* 23% - of students between grades 7 and 12 reported using pot in 
2013: 3% in Grade 7, 7% in Grade 8, 15% in Grade 9, 25% in Grade 10, 
34% in Grade 11 and 39 % in Grade 12.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom