Ottawa funds research to study link between pot, mental illness

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GETTING high on pot can be a real bummer for your mental health, the Harper government warned on Tuesday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/08/2009 (4787 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

GETTING high on pot can be a real bummer for your mental health, the Harper government warned on Tuesday.

While the public regards marijuana as a “soft” drug, there may be “very serious consequences” for young pot smokers who have a predisposition to mental illness, Winnipeg Conservative MP Joy Smith said Tuesday.

“Science has shown that cannabis may actually trigger the onset of psychosis and may also intensify the symptoms for those who already have a psychotic illness,” Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul) said in announcing a grant of more than $550,000 to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.

“It has been suggested that up to 80 per cent of youth who have had a psychotic episode were using cannabis. And that’s pretty shocking,” Smith, pinch-hitting for Health Minister Lenona Aglukkaq, told a Winnipeg press conference.

The schizophrenia society will use the money to further research the links between cannabis and “early psychosis” as well as develop materials warning youth about the dangers of smoking pot.

The money is part of Ottawa’s $30-million national anti-drug strategy, announced in 2007.

Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, said the public doesn’t realize cannabis users have a sevenfold increase in risk of developing schizophrenia. He pointed to recent research out of Victoria, B.C., linking pot smoking and mental illness.

The grant of $559,370 is the largest Health Canada has ever provided to the society, he said.

As part of the society’s research, some 30 youths who have experienced psychosis will be trained to gather information about the reasons their peers use cannabis. The results will be used to develop educational materials aimed at decreasing the use of illicit drugs among young people.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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