Pubdate: Wed, 05 Apr 2017
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Pamela Fayerman
Page: 3


RISKS: Expert urges boost to funding for raising awareness of
'potential harms'

A major B.C. study has found that a high proportion of young adults
who consume marijuana admit they either drive while stoned or get into
vehicles with drivers who've used marijuana.

Canadian studies have shown increased crash risks when drivers consume
pot, and the high frequency of risky behaviour in the current study
demonstrates a failure of approaches and the need for urgent action on
the prevention and public-awareness front, the study says. This is
especially relevant because of Canada's plan to legalize recreational
marijuana, according to lead author Bonnie Leadbeater, a University of
Victoria psychology professor whose study is published in the journal
Paediatrics and Child Health.

Vancouver General Hospital's Jeff Brubacher, an emergency-room doctor
and co-author of the current study, told Postmedia News recently that
when marijuana is legalized, "there will be an increase in crashes,
injuries and fatalities."

Among frequent users of marijuana (more than once a week) in the
study, 80 per cent of males and 75 per cent of females acknowledged
they had, in the past month, been in a car driven by someone
(including themselves) who had used marijuana or other drugs.
Sixty-four per cent of frequent-using males and 33 per cent of females
reported they were "intoxicated" with marijuana while driving, riding
a motorcycle, boating or using machinery.

And half of the pot frequent-user males (42 per cent of females) said
they'd been in a car with a driver who had used alcohol. Of occasional
users (once a week at most), 28 per cent said they'd been in a car, in
the past month, with a driver (including themselves) who had used alcohol.

"Epidemiological studies suggest that acute marijuana use
approximately doubles the rate of crashing," the study says, while
allowing that the finding hasn't been shown in all studies.

As Canada moves toward decriminalization, Leadbeater said governments
must direct funding to education "that presents an accurate picture of
potential harms."

Research on marijuana and driving risks is critically important
because youth are already vulnerable to not only being in crashes more
than experienced drivers, but also more likely to be involved in fatal
crashes as passengers. Consumption of marijuana exacerbates the risk
for young drivers and their passengers, with or without concurrent use
of alcohol, she said.

B.C. has the highest rate of marijuana use in Canada (13.8 per cent),
according to Health Canada. In 2015, a study led by Brubacher found
that just over seven per cent of injured drivers had consumed
marijuana in the hours before the crash. The study of 1,100 drivers
found that a greater proportion - 17.8 per cent of injured drivers -
had consumed alcohol and of those, 15.8 per cent had illegal (over
0.08) blood-concentration levels.

A 2012 Canadian study showed that marijuana use peaks between ages 15
and 24, but Leadbeater said the risks of driving after consuming
marijuana and other drugs never cease. In studies, pot use has been
shown to slow reaction time, cause lane-weaving, distracted driving
and affect the ability of drivers to maintain constant driving speed.

Leadbeater and her co-authors state that the fact that marijuana has
become so ubiquitous leads to the ill-informed perspective that
marijuana is innocuous.

"Today's young drivers have witnessed legalization of medical
marijuana, observed the proliferation of dispensaries or retail stores
of marijuana products ... and experienced the movement toward
decriminalization. All of these social changes contribute to a view
that marijuana use has few risks," the study says.

It concludes: "The high frequency of driving-risk behaviours,
particularly for frequent users, suggest that plans for legalization
of recreational use should anticipate the costs of preventive
education efforts that present an accurate picture of potential risks
for driving."
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