Pubdate: Sun, 03 Dec 2017
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Catherine Griwkowsky
Page: 4


A group of Alberta's future doctors are calling on the provincial
government to use cannabis tax revenue to fund mental health
initiatives for youth.

At least, that will be the pitch when 40 medical students from the
University of Alberta and University of Calgary get together Monday
with MLAs from various parties.

The Alberta Medical Students' Association has previously used its
annual meeting at the legislature to push for investments in mental
health, but this time the group wants funding for young adults and
children at risk of adverse childhood experience. They are also
calling for the formation of a cannabis and youth advisory board to
work on future prevention, education and intervention efforts.

Howie Wu, speaking on behalf of the University of Alberta Medical
Students' Association, said those who are dealing with concurrent
mental illness have a higher likelihood of falling into cannabis
dependency, or may self-medicate with cannabis without knowing all the

Wu said the chronic use of cannabis over time can lead to adverse
mental health outcomes.

"We think it's important to go out there and spread the message to
young people, we can't leave them in the dark," Wu said.

In Alberta, the Empower Program was funded until 2015, which was shown
to reduce suicides and prevalence of depression through mental health
services in junior high and high schools, he said.

He now wants to see similar, proven programs funded.

What doesn't work, Wu said, is saying, "cannabis is bad."

"Those messages don't make a difference for a lot of young people," he
said. "What does make a difference is addressing things like parenting
at home, the relationship that children have with parents."

Wu said there is still insufficient evidence about the effects of
cannabis, in part because the drug has been a controlled substance.
Most of the research done in Canada has been based on existing medical
marijuana users, or illicit users through "cohort studies" or
retrospective studies. These are not randomized, controlled studies,
which have the highest quality data, he said.

Generating better evidence is hampered by the fact that it often take
decades to have any drug go through clinical trials and be approved.

When cannabis becomes legal in July 2018, it will become important to
note its use on the medical history of patients, in the same way
tobacco and alcohol use is, he said.
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