Hospital visits could rise in B.C. after pot legalization

Island Health expects seniors and first-time stoners will lead to increase in service after Oct. 17

When cannabis is legalized across Canada on Oct. 17, who will be lighting up?

Dr. Richard Stanwick of Island Health said they expect many first-timers to try pot, but especially senior citizens and baby boomers.

“For people who have been avoiding it — baby boomers because it was an illegal product and they may have tried it and used it in their university days in the ’70s and are remembering Woodstock — the product of today is quite different,” Stanwick said.

He said he’s seen cannabis marketed as “the cure for old age, which you can see would be quite appealing to a lot of people.” But since it’s been illegal for so long, the short-term and long-term risks and benefits of marijuana are still unknown.

While doctors are worried about young people using cannabis because their brains are still developing, there are different concerns for seniors.

“Our biggest concerns among seniors is falls,” he said, because of the potential impact on cognitive and mobility responses. “The last thing we want is more seniors with broken hips … We know our health care costs are going to go up and there’s going to be an increased demand for service because of the legalization.”

They also expect an increase in motorvehicle incidents, developing dependence and mental health effects.

So what does the doctor recommend? Start by reviewing Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines. Its first suggestion is to abstain, but if you’re going to use cannabis, start with a low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

While recreational users may be seeking out the psychoactive effects from the THC, many are advocating the potential pain-management abilities of cannabidiol (CBD). Balancing the two will take experimentation, Stanwick said.

READ MORE: Victoria cannabis dispensaries to hold massive sales before legalization

“Just think if you were trying alcohol for the first time, would you go with the heaviest drink possible or would you perhaps try a beer or glass of wine to see how this is going to affect you? They’re both psychoactive substances.”

One of the main recommendations Stanwick shared is not to inhale or smoke cannabis, but to use edibles or liquid-based products instead. The major concern with edibles is, unlike smoking or vaping cannabis, there is a delayed reaction.

“It’s really important to mix the marijuana in well. Basically, give it enough time to see if it works. We do metabolize it differently,” he said. “In a given room, one person might be feeling the effects in 20 minutes, somebody will not be feeling anything for 40 or 50 minutes or even an hour. The temptation for the second person who’s a slow absorber would be to have a second and maybe a third. All of a sudden it all kicks in.”

They’ve already seen several cases of people coming to the emergency room because of ingesting too much marijuana — or accidentally having any at all.

READ MORE: Will legalized marijuana impact the Canadian military?

Medications seniors commonly take, Stanwick said, are unlikely to be affected when taken with marijuana because the pathway where marijuana reacts in the brain is in a different part than most anti-depressants or other medications do. Stanwick said he thinks labels similar to ‘do not take with alcohol’ stickers on medicine will start appearing for marijuana as well. It’s important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist either way, and be honest about what you’re taking, Stanwick said.

“If you have a family history of psychosis, there is the possibility that the marijuana may unmask one that was previously unidentified. It’s not totally benign, so our psychiatry unit is concerned. At the end of the day, the THC is still a psychoactive substance and the rate of becoming potentially dependent or addicted to marijuana in adults is still 10 per cent.”

The upside of legalization, Stanwick said, is the opportunity for people to become more informed and make better decisions when it comes to using marijuana.

“Everyone is different, so find out how your body and you react to that substance, how long does it take and how big is the buzz.”

keili.bartlett@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

marijuana

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Coast Mountain College sets up student emergency fund

It’ll provide grocery store gift cards for students affected by COVID-19 crisis

Northern Health moves reefer unit to Mills Memorial

The move is not related to COVID-19

RDKS developing strategy to bring higher internet speeds to remote areas

Results of public survey will help ISPs build business case for funding

UPDATE: Man drowns crossing Skeena River

59-year old Prince Rupert victim pronounced dead at Mills Memorial

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

COVID-19 has been impacting Canadian economy since January

But full effects of pandemic won’t be known for months

Doctors trained abroad want to join front lines of COVID-19 fight in Canada

B.C. is looking to allow internationally trained doctors to work under the supervision of attending physicians

Fake test kits and other COVID online scams play on public anxiety: fraud centre

Vancouver has seen a spike in commercial property crimes, with offices and stores empty because of COVID-19

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Feds amplify stay-home message as cost of financial aid to Canadians mounts

Liberals have unveiled around $200B in direct financial aid and tax deferrals

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Most Read