HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Schizophrenia Society of Sask. Warns Doctors of
Pubdate: Sat, 22 May 2004
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2004 The StarPhoenix
Author: Lana Haight, The StarPhoenix
Cited: Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan
Cited: College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan


Doctors should be wary when asked to prescribe medical marijuana, says
the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan.

"Marijuana is detrimental to someone who has schizophrenia. It's a bad
mix," said Kathleen Thompson, executive director of the Schizophrenia
Society of Saskatchewan.

The society has written the College of Physicians and Surgeons of
Saskatchewan urging doctors to be sure their patients do not have a
history of schizophrenia prior to prescribing medical marijuana.

"Members of our society reported that their ill relatives have been
hinting at their interest to seek out medical specialists in an effort
to have marijuana prescribed for their chronic pain," wrote Grant
Rathwell, then-president of the society.

"Since many of these consumers can be very persuasive and
manipulative, we felt that we should make you and your members aware
in the event that some of these persons whose medical history is
unknown to your members come shopping around for such

Thompson says many people with schizophrenia are addicted to drugs or
alcohol as a way to cope with their illness.

Finding a doctor to prescribe marijuana would justify their smoking it
and they would have one less thing to worry about because they
couldn't be charged with possessing the drug.

But their addictions come with a price, Thompson says.

"If they smoke marijuana regularly, chronically, it's much more
challenging for them to manage the illness."

As well, the illness can be triggered if someone who is unaware they
have a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia smokes marijuana, she

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan included an
excerpt from the society's letter in one of its newsletters sent to
doctors throughout the province.

Dr. Karen Shaw, deputy registrar of the college, calls the issue of
medical marijuana "a hot potato." She says people with schizophrenia
aren't the only ones who may be looking for a prescription for marijuana.

"There is a population out there that is going to find something to
try and get access to medical marijuana which will decrease the
problem they have accessing it and the risk of a criminal record," she

Shaw says the federal government guidelines for prescribing medical
marijuana include palliative care patients expected to die within 12
months, people with illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, those who
suffer from seizures and people who experience chronic pain.

"Sometimes it's not easy to diagnose chronic pain conditions," she

The college expects doctors to use medical marijuana as a last resort
after all other options have been tried and found to be ineffective.

Shaw says the lack of research and medical trials of medical marijuana
is troubling, and doctors don't fully understand what the long-term
implications are of taking medical marijuana. 
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