Guidelines suggested for marijuana use

Sept. 24, 2011 at 12:41 AM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- An international team of experts recommends guidelines be developed for lower-risk use of marijuana to reduce its health harms, a Canadian researcher says.

Dr. Benedikt Fischer of the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and a scientist at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health said more than one in 10 Canadian adults -- and about one in three young people ages 16-25, report using marijuana during the past year.

Despite the prevalence and health risks associated with marijuana use, Fischer pointed out Canada has not taken a public health approach to address its ill effects, as it has done with alcohol, tobacco and injection drug use.

"Misinformation about cannabis can be dangerous," Fischer said in a statement.

For example, surveys indicate many young marijuana users say it is safe to drive after using marijuana, but Canadian research shows a significant number of traffic fatalities in young adults are attributable to marijuana use.

"A broad-based public health approach to cannabis use would include a prevention strategy for young people, risk reduction strategies for at-risk users and better access to treatment for problem users," Fischer said.

Among the guidelines suggested are:

-- Avoid pot-smoking by the young, which is associated with a number of problems, including mental illness and dependence and a greater likelihood of advancing to other illegal drugs.

-- Avoid frequent use of marijuana, usually defined as daily or near-daily use, which has been linked to such health problems as lower cognitive and memory performance, and risk of dependence.

-- Avoid driving for 3-4 hours after using marijuana.

-- Pregnant women should abstain from marijuana use.

The findings were published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

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