The Canadian Psychiatric Association is expressing concern about the effects of cannabis for youth and young adults under the age of 25.

President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association Dr. Wei-Yi Song says cannabis usage while the brain is still in development may increase the risks of several mental problems.

"The brain undergoes development until around the age of 25. So, psychiatrists are actually quite concerned that regular use of cannabis prior to that age may negatively affect the brains health maturation process. There's strong evidence showing that the younger the youth exposed to cannabis, especially high potency THC content, can result in poorer mental health outcomes."

Song says it can be difficult to pinpoint the specific areas of the brain affected, as many cognitive processes may be altered by cannabis usage.

"Early and regular cannabis usage can affect cognition, such as memory, attention, intelligence and the ability to process thoughts and experiences."

Song notes that those who are vulnerable, or have preexisting primary psychotic disorders may experience onset or worsening of those symptoms with use.

"It can also increase the risk of developing a primary psychotic disorder as well as other mental health issues such as depression in those who are already vulnerable to these disorders."

With these latent risks looming under the cultural hype associated with cannabis usage among young people, Song says traditional drug awareness campaigns may not be effective and urges a more personal approach.

"It's important to engage with the public, parents and the school boards and youth through different channels. With public awareness we know that Nancy Reagan's slogan 'say no to drugs' hasn't worked. The youth, being youth are curious and they will want to experiment and try it. We have to really have a candid conversation with our youth. I think it's very important for parents to engage in an open dialogue with their children."

As post legalization research of cannabis usage continues, Song says they are ready to work with the government to protect and educate the public.

"The CPA is willing and prepared to work with the government on critical components of the legislation related to research, public education and harm reduction."


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