Article by Dr. Frank, Cannabis Culture
I was reading an article from the Calgary Herald entitled, “AHS [Alberta Health Service] doctor worries more kids will self-medicate with pot once it’s legalized”.
On first reading, I essentially thought, “There’s a lot of claims being made here – claims that are not necessarily backed by the science”. I also remembered that this is an article that quotes Dr. Wilkes, and that sometimes things can be taken out of context. I prefer to try and read things as charitably and fairly as possible, with as objective a mind as it is possible for a subjective being to take. The article seems to be a mish-mash of scaremongering and some concerns that are understandable and genuine. Also, for the sake of this article, I will make a differentiation between “recreational” and “medical” use, even if i don’t personally agree with this arbitrary line. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the major claims Dr. Chris Wilkes (as well as Dr. Eddy Lang) makes.
The article seems to touch on two main areas of concern. One is the impact of cannabis legalization on young people, particularly on their mental health and development. The other is the uptick in hospitalizations related to cannabis due to Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS – sometimes called “Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome). Related to both of these points is also the idea of “self-medicating”, and how people may turn to cannabis use in order to relieve themselves of stress and anxiety. The concern also seems to be mostly related to the “recreational” side of cannabis.
Let’s look at the first claim:
““The perception now with legalization is that marijuana is safe, and it’s less toxic than alcohol. But that is not that case at all,” said Wilkes, estimating about 37 per cent of Grade 12 students in Alberta have used marijuana, and of that 10 per cent are believed to be using daily or are dependent.”
Now, I don’t wish to completely dismiss Dr. Wilkes’ remarks out-of-hand. There is a point to be made, even if it’s not being expressed in the article. Cannabis contains a huge number of compounds. We cannot say for certain whether or not all of these compounds are “toxic”, and at what dosage and what segment/s of the population. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is complex, and what may be helpful to one person may be harmful or neutral to another.
The ECS is also a very powerful system, and modulating it can have all sorts effects, especially as it seems to be so intimately linked to homeostasis and other receptors in the body. There may also be a huge number of interactions with other drugs and medications, and even diet and levels of physical activity. The fact is, we don’t know a huge amount about the ECS, and treading carefully when we’re faced with a complex mountain that requires a surefooted approach is a wise move.