Some Canadians Worried About Marijuana Addiction Ahead of Legalization

Some Canadians are issuing warnings that marijuana is addictive ahead of a nationwide cannabis legalization this summer.

One of the citizens getting cold feet about marijuana legalization in Canada is a woman from eastern Newfoundland. She requested that her identity is protected and is referred to as Jane Doe.

Jane Doe told CBC in an interview published Wednesday that she suffered from marijuana addiction, blaming the currently illegal drug for almost destroying her.

The mainstream understanding of marijuana depicts the drug as non-addictive, and many users say they have no psychological addiction.

Health Canada: Marijuana is Addictive

Health Canada, which has announced last week that there is no U-turn on Canada’s weed legalization, says on its official page that “contrary to popular belief, people can become addicted to cannabis.”

It said: “Individuals who use cannabis can develop a cannabis use disorder, which at its extreme can result in addiction.”

For Doe, this rings true as she fears that the legalization will harm more people.

“This is my problem with legalizing weed — they are going to turn more people into addicts,” she said.

Doe, however, admits that not everyone can get addicted, but says she’s proof that some do.

“Anything that you need in order to function is addictive,” she said. “I needed it to survive. I didn’t care how it hurt other people. I didn’t care what it was doing to me. That’s an addict.”

Canopy has transformed Smiths Falls economy, making it the pot capital in Canada
Master Grower Ryan Douglas waters marijuana plants in a growing room at Tweed Marijuana Inc in Smith’s Falls, Ontario, Canada on February 20, 2014. (File image via Reuters)

Conflicting Claims

While she stopped using cannabis, she described the negative effects on her body included her inability to sleep and eat, making her body drop from about 300 pounds to 104 pounds. “All I did all day long was smoke weed. I’m just as bad an addict as a cocaine addict, as a heroin addict, as an alcoholic.”

But for Ross Rebagliati, the world’s first Olympic gold medalist for Men’s Snowboarding and a long-time cannabis activist, weed helped him a lot.

Rebagliati told The Puff Puff post that marijuana helped his appetite tremendously, and can help athletes with anxiety and sleep. He even said that the Olympics committee should allow athletes to use cannabis as it helps with their workout recovery.

Some Do Get Addicted

While some say it is not addictive, Jeff Bourne, the executive director of U-Turn, an addictions drop-in center in Carbonear, a town in Newfoundland, confirmed that some people “do get addicted to it.” He told CBC,

“So if some people got an addictive personality, well they’re going to get addicted”

Wayne Bishop, an addictions prevention consultant with Eastern Health, also sounded the alarm.

He said:

“Roughly 12 percent of Canadians used marijuana in the past year. Of that 12 per cent, we know that approximately nine per cent will develop some sort of substance-related disorder connected to the marijuana use.”

Among the withdrawal symptoms when people leave marijuana is that they experience symptoms such as body sweats, pain, and physical discomfort, Bishop added.

Trudeau Says ‘Marijuana is Problematic’ but Defends Ottawa’s Imminent Pot Policy
Trudeau speaks to Canadians during his town hall tour on Tuesday. He said marijuana is “problematic” to teens, who are still developing. (Image via Canadian Press)

Teens are at Risk

While teenagers won’t have access to purchase legal weed, Joe Castaldo, a journalist, wrote an article for the esteemed Macleans magazine, saying “marijuana addiction is real, and teenage users are most at risk.”

He started his story with Sean Savoie, who started becoming a marijuana addict at the age of 14.

“No matter what he was about to do, Savoie wanted to be high for it,” he wrote. “It never occurred to him that he might have a problem.

But after five years of heavy use, Savoie noticed his short-term memory was starting to fray. He avoided talking to people.”

There are more Canadians who are dependent on alcohol than marijuana. However, observers fear that marijuana dependence could increase following legalization.
There are more Canadians who are dependent on alcohol than marijuana. However, observers fear that marijuana dependence could increase following legalization. (File image via Reuters)

Memory, IQ, Concentration at Risk

Health Canada on its page does say that the long-term effects of marijuana could harm one’s memory, concentration, intelligence and ability to think and make decisions.

“Worse, festering feelings of anxiety and depression were growing. He tried to mask them with weed, deepening his dependency,” he added more on Savoie’s story.

Like Bishop, Anthony Levitt, chief of the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, also highlighted the 9 percent dependence on marijuana, which is much less than alcohol, 16 percent.

Levitt told Macleans,

“The more people who try it, the more people will become dependent”

Like doctors, who are worried about the adolescent use of marijuana, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also expressed caution on that.

“This may surprise you, but I agree,” Trudeau said on Jan. 9 during his hall tour in Nova Scotia. “I agree that marijuana is problematic for the developing brain. We need to keep it out of the hands of our young people.”

So far, there is a growing body of research that shows those who smoke marijuana on regular basis double their risk of reporting psychotic symptoms or being diagnosed with schizophrenia in adulthood. The likelihood increases when there is a personal or family history of mental illness.

At the end of the day, moderation is key. Alcohol is legal but it does not mean one should be alcoholic nor a future pothead when weed is legalized.