Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use

June 23, 2017
Evidence-based guidelines offer 10 recommendations to reduce health risks associated with cannabis use. Credit: Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM), Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks. The guidelines, based on a scientific review by an international team of experts, are published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The guidelines address the fact that, despite the risks of cannabis use, the rate of cannabis use in Canada is among the highest in the world. More than 10 per cent of adults and 25 per cent of adolescents report cannabis use over the past year. The health risks range from problems with memory and physical coordination, to motor vehicle accidents and or dependence problems.

As Canada moves towards legalization with the introduction of the federal Cannabis Act, it provides an opportunity not only to regulate the use and supply, but also to educate and inform cannabis users to prevent or reduce cannabis-related health problems.

"Factual, science-based information can provide guidance to to make choices that reduce both immediate and long-term risks to their health," says Dr. Benedikt Fischer, Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), who led the development of the guidelines. They are a project of the Ontario site of the Canadian Research Initiative on Substance Misuse (CRISM), a national initiative funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

"Cannabis use carries with it real , and mitigating those risks for Canadians - particularly young Canadians - must be the first priority," says Dr. Laurent Marcoux, President-Elect of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). "The CMA continues to recommend a broad policy approach focused on preventing problematic drug use; ensuring the availability of assessment and treatment services for those who wish to stop using; and harm reduction to increase the safety for those who are using."

While the first guideline recommendation is to abstain from cannabis use to avoid all risks, the remaining recommendations address the elevated potential of risks related to initiating use at a young age, high potency products, alternative delivery systems, heavy use and driving, as well as identifying people at higher risk of problems - with concrete recommendations for risk reduction in each case.

"These guidelines are an important tool supporting a public health approach to cannabis use," says Ian Culbert, Executive Director of the Canadian Public Health Association. "People who use cannabis and cannabis-derived products, front-line practitioners, and public health professionals can all benefit from having access to evidence-informed guidelines that can help reduce the potential associated with cannabis use. Through their widespread adoption, the guidelines will provide people who use cannabis with the information they need to manage their use and protect their health and well-being."

The other organizations endorsing the guidelines are the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, and CAMH. ?

"Given the many people, especially young people, who use and may be harmed by cannabis use, we are pleased to recommend this evidence-based harm-reduction guidance to Canadians who do choose to use cannabis," says Dr. David Allison, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Newfoundland and Labrador, speaking on behalf of the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health. "This document is a welcome addition to our tool box for protecting and promoting the health of Canadians."

Using scientific evidence as the basis for public guidelines is similar to existing public health initiatives for low-risk drinking, or safer sexual behaviours to avoid infection or unwanted pregnancy.

In addition to the scientific paper, the guidelines are available as a public brochure for users and an evidence summary for health professionals.

Explore further: Risk of psychosis from cannabis use lower than originally thought, say scientists

Related Stories

Risk of psychosis from cannabis use lower than originally thought, say scientists

April 20, 2017
The research, published in the journal, Addiction, also showed for the first time that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that for patients who already have schizophrenia, cannabis makes their symptoms worse.

New study proposes public health guidelines to reduce the harms from cannabis use

September 22, 2011
A new research study conducted by an international team of experts recommends a public health approach to cannabis - including evidence-based guidelines for lower-risk use - to reduce the health harms that result from the ...

Marijuana could help treat drug addiction, mental health

November 16, 2016
Using marijuana could help some alcoholics and people addicted to opioids kick their habits, a UBC study has found.

Do cannabis users think package warnings are needed?

December 6, 2016
Legalization of cannabis for medical or leisure use is increasing in the U.S., and many experts and cannabis users alike agree that package warnings stating the health risks are needed. The warnings suggested by cannabis ...

Questions remain about the benefits and harms of cannabis

April 3, 2017
Despite dramatic changes in the legal landscape and usage rates of cannabis, evidence is still lacking regarding its potential health and therapeutic effects. Recently, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and ...

Cannabis use may predict opioid use in women undergoing addictions treatment, study says

March 29, 2017
A new study suggests that the use of cannabis may impact treatment in women undergoing methadone treatment therapy.

Recommended for you

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

Your pets can't put your aging on 'paws'

December 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—In a finding that's sure to ruffle some fur and feathers, scientists report that having a pet doesn't fend off age-related declines in physical or mental health.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

EmceeSquared
not rated yet Jun 24, 2017
Neither of the two Canadian public health docs linked from this article, let alone the article, actually cite the frequency of health risks of cannabis use. The "evidence summary" doesn't cite any evidence, except that "About 1 in 5 people seeking substance use treatment
have cannabis-related problems." Are cannabis users far more likely to seek help than other drug users? Maybe because they were more reasonable self-medicating with a far less harmful drug? What are "cannabis-related problems" - do they include multiple drug use, where cannabis is only *related* to a problem that causes actual harm, the other drugs? No way to know, because there is no evidence in that "evidence summary".

And the other problems listed might be the top problems, but if they're problems for only say 1% of cannabis consumers, what kind of priority is that?

These brochures and this article look like just more propaganda in the long war against cannabis. Spend the time on killer alcohol instead.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.