Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Drug Prevention Network President, Chuck Doucette, spent many years with the RCMP working the DARE program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), one of Canada's best and longest running prevention programs for and with school kids.

It was in that capacity that Chuck appeared last Wednesday on CKNW Radio.

You can hear that excellent conversation with Bill Good by going to the URL below:


and selecting November 21 at 11am.

If you want to skip the short newscast, just slide the tracking bar along to 6:00 minutes and enjoy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Marijuana is harmless? Are we blinded by a smoke screen?

The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Nov. 22 2012, 4:59 PM EST 

We used to fear Mary Jane, then we laughed about her, and now many of us think she’s downright wholesome. Marijuana’s public image has undergone a stunning transformation since the scare-mongering of Reefer Madness and the dope comedies of Cheech and Chong, but many doctors believe that weed’s rehabilitation as a virtual wonder drug may be distracting us from its real health dangers.
It seems that plenty of people have bought the idea that marijuana is a harmless herb, or better. Stories proclaiming the benefits of “medical marijuana” – for ailments as varied as arthritis, MS, glaucoma and Alzheimer’s – abound in mainstream media like International Business Times, and at patient support sites such as Livestrong.org. Voters in Washington and Colorado recently approved measures to begin legalizing pot, and a reinvigorated movement in B.C. is pushing for similar changes. A poll in the summer showed that two-thirds of Canadians are okay with decriminalizing weed for personal use.

Pot supporters promote its supposed benefits at big trade shows like the Treating Yourself Expo, which celebrated its third annual edition in May in Toronto. Doctors aren’t nearly so well mobilized on the issue, but many say the health risks of smoking marijuana are more extensive and better understood than ever before.

“There’s a pretty potent lobby that makes claims about the medical benefits of cannabis, and anybody who disputes them is labelled part of the war on drugs,” says Dr. Meldon Kahan, medical director of the Substance Use Service at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “But there’s no role, or hardly any role, for smoked cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain. There are safer alternatives, such as cannabis in pill form or inhalers. There are toxins in cannabis smoke that are carcinogens, and that accelerate heart disease. Smoked cannabis is addicting, unsafe during pregnancy and especially dangerous for young people, in terms of triggering psychosis, depression and mood disorders.”

According to Health Canada, addiction is a complex phenomenon that includes psychological cravings, difficulties in controlling use, symptoms of withdrawal, and persistence in the addictive activity even when it is obviously damaging one’s health, relationships and day-to-day functioning. All can apply to heavy cannabis smokers, says Kahan.

Teens are still developing neurologically, he says, which makes them more vulnerable than adults to the adverse effects of marijuana, especially of the powerful strains for which B.C. is famous. A recent report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about a long-term study of more than 1,000 pot-using teens in New Zealand said that those who continued smoking into their 30s suffered significant cognitive deficits related to memory, reasoning and ability to process information.

According to a 2007 report by Health Canada, 8.2 per cent of young people use cannabis on a daily basis. Many teens smoke weed to cope with the anxieties of adolescence, and find it very tough to quit.
“People who take cannabis regularly get a mood-leveling effect,” Kahan says. “When they stop suddenly, there’s a tremendous rebound anxiety that can go on for days or weeks, and that makes them want to take it again.”

Many young users smoke it with tobacco, a combo that researchers are finding to be much more addicting than marijuana alone. Dr. Bernard Le Foll, a leading researcher at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says his research shows that when nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC, the element in pot that delivers the “high”) are received together, they magnify each other’s effects on brain chemistry.

A 2009 study at the University of B.C. led by Dr. Wan Tan found “a significant synergistic effect between marijuana smoking and tobacco smoking” that increases risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD (which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis) can aggravate the risk of pneumonia, heart problems, glaucoma and lung cancer.

John Westland, a social worker at the Hospital for Sick Children’s Adolescent Substance Abuse Outreach Program, says many of his teenaged patients combine weed and tobacco in the quick-hit form known as “poppers” (not to be confused with the amyl nitrites inhaled at clubs and raves). They use a modified water pipe that delivers a head rush they don’t get from smoking straight marijuana.

“From my experience with my patients, I would say the addiction potential is higher for sure,” Westland says. The relative cheapness of poppers is also a draw, as is the societal notion that pot is pretty much okay, and that a few cigarettes won’t hurt you. “As their perception of risk goes down, use goes up,” Westland says. Withdrawal is an ugly process that deprives jittery patients of sleep and appetite, he says, and can drag on through cycles of relapse and repeated efforts.

So why is weed regarded as relatively benign? How can any kind of smoking seem okay in 2012?

Pot’s current reputation has certainly benefited from growing skepticism about established medicine. Marijuana is seen as whole and natural, not a refined pharmaceutical produced by a big corporation. Weed as a painkiller or treatment for nausea may appeal to the same people who seek out herbal equivalents of pharmaceuticals such as Valium, whose effects can be mimicked by valerian root.

Pot also benefits from current demographics. In contrast to seniors of, say 20 years ago, aging boomers today have fond memories of sharing a joint in their college dorm, and may not be aware that today’s marijuana is probably much more potent than what they smoked in ’68.

The widespread feeling that prohibition has failed both users and society as a whole has also helped. Surely a little pot smoking can’t be more harmful, say weed activists, than a harsh legal regime that has cost us so much in money and damaged lives.

“Whatever people think the harms of cannabis are, those are best reduced by a legally regulated system,” says Dana Larsen, leader of a Sensible B.C. initiative to decriminalize weed in B.C. In any case, he says, “The use of cannabis since the 1960s has pretty much steadily risen in Canada, as has the severity of the laws, so the idea that prohibition is doing anything to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth is totally wrong.”

No doubt. What does work is information. A 2011 survey report from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse found that while cannabis use is increasing among American high school students, tobacco smoking has dropped by half since 1997. In those 15 years, tremendous societal scorn has come down on smoking, the ill effects of which are pictured on every cigarette pack. Marijuana, meanwhile, has acquired a public image almost as benign as wheatgrass. Perhaps our long-running relationship with Mary Jane is due for another change.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Young Adults & 12 Steps?

The article and the accompanying note were contributed by DPNC President Chuck Doucette:

This study might be "no brainer" for some but others seem to need convincing that the 12 Step programs work. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Following is a brief summary of some of the results of American voters' choices last night on pot initiatives:

2012 State Ballot Initiatives
Updated: November 7, 2012

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Questionsought to legalize marijuana under the guise of medicine and allow for the establishment of marijuana dispensaries licensed by the state. The question was sponsored by Arkansans for Compassionate Care. Defeated - 52% opposed 48% supported.
Measure 80, Int. 9 Oregon Cannabis Tax Act Initiative - sought to legalize and regulate the cultivation, possession and sale of unlimited amounts of marijuana. The measure would also prohibit regulation and fess to grow hemp.  Defeated56% opposed 44% supported.
Initiative Referendum 124 - sought to reaffirm legislation passed in 2011 that replaced the state’s current “medical” marijuana law and replaced it with a more restrictive program.
Passed – 66% voted to keep legislative changes to the “medical” marijuana program.
Initiative 64 The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcoholinitiative allows those 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate six marijuana plants. The initiative also allows for over-the-counter sale of marijuana, reduces penalties for larger possession charges and legalizes hemp farming. Passed- 55% supported 45% opposed.
Question Threelegalizes marijuana under the guise of medicine and allows for the establishment of marijuana dispensaries. Passed – 63% supported 37% opposed.
Initiative 502 – allows adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana from state-licensed and state-regulated businesses. Creates a regulatory system, much like the liquor control system, in which a board oversees licensing of marijuana producers, processors and retailers, and imposes an excise tax of 25% at each step.  Passed – 56% supported 44% opposed.


In local addictions mythology, The Four Pillars is considered the Holy Grail: Harm Reduction, Enforcement, Prevention and Treatment.

Most citizens have long acknowledged that, from the beginning and in reality, there has only been one pillar - Harm Reduction - and three matchsticks, which are either underfunded or outright maligned.

Many continue to believe that Enforcement and Treatment are natural enemies.

They are not.

Please read this recent study from Scotland which casts a much healthier and optimistic light on the subject.