Saturday, September 20, 2014


 Recovering addicts and supporters rally in Vancouver for 3rd annual Recovery Day




Park board vice chair Constance Barnes reads the proclamation for Recovery Day in Vancouver on Saturday


VANCOUVER — Organizers of Recovery Day, an annual event held in 25 cities across Canada to celebrate overcoming addiction, are hoping the federal government will proclaim a Recovery Month, to further raise awareness about the disease.

As loud electronic music boomed from Queen Elizabeth Plaza in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, dozens of recovering addicts and their supporters gathered for the city’s third annual Recovery Day, before marching to the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Among them was park board vice chair Constance Barnes, whose own struggle with alcohol addiction was thrown into the spotlight five years ago when she was arrested for drinking and driving.

”So many people are still in hiding because of the stigma. It’s brutal. This is a disease just like any other,” said Barnes, adding she would like to see a centre for excellence for addiction built in Vancouver.
“Recovery can be from anything — food, bulimia, sex, porn — it’s not just alcohol and drugs.”

In 2009, Barnes was arrested outside of a home in south Vancouver after she fell asleep at the wheel and hit a residential home. She later issued a statement, apologizing for her actions, which had followed a time of “deep personal struggle.”

She has since received help and counselling that looks at the genealogy of family addiction. At the Orchard Recovery and Treatment Center on Bowen Island, Barnes said she found the therapy enlightening, and also discovered that she was predisposed to the disease.

Barnes, who is seeking the federal NDP nomination in Vancouver Centre, said by speaking out about addiction, she hopes more people will feel comfortable talking about it with friends, family and coworkers.

“We still don’t ask whether this is a disease and we need to be asking that question.”

Recovery Day spokeswoman Lorinda Strang said 25 cities across Canada are holding similar events, but at different times of the month.

“This is about hope. It’s about freedom. It’s about courage and perseverance, everything that it means to be in recovery,” she said. “We are not aligned with any one group, but we want people to know there are many ways to get into recovery. Whatever the path, the ultimate goal is freedom from addiction.”

In 2012, Mayor Gregor Robertson proclaimed Recovery Day in conjunction with Vancouver resident David Berner, executive director of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada.

The U.S. government recognizes September as Recovery Month, and Strang, who is also the executive director of Orchard Recovery and Treatment Center, said they will be asking the federal government to do something similar here in Canada.

Friday, September 19, 2014


The Edgewood 2014 Conference runs October 2nd and 3d in Nanaimo with quite an array of knowledgeable and inspirational speakers.

Please click through here to go to the Edgewood site and get all the details and registration.

We bring your attention in particular to Dr. Marc Fishman, whose presentation is entitled, "Marijuana - Whats' the Big Deal?" Dr. Fishman will point out that this is a big deal and not a good one.

Dr. Marc Fishman is an addiction psychiatrist and a member of the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He leads Maryland Treatment Centers, a regional behavioral healthcare provider, which includes several inpatient and outpatient programs for adolescents, adults and young adults. In that role he has been involved in development and implementation of innovative programming in addiction and co-occurring disorder treatment. He is a national expert on youth addiction treatment and treatment matching. His academic work has focused on models of care and treatment outcomes for addictions in youth, particular opioid dependence. He is a past President of the Maryland Society of Addiction Medicine.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Medical Matters: The health and social benefits of abstaining from cannabis

From Ireland via The Odd Squad

Medical Matters: The health and social benefits of abstaining from cannabis

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 10, 2014, 11:59 
Where possible, doctors strive to practice evidence-based medicine. But we are human, and not immune to the influence of the unusual or extreme case. What makes one patient stand out more than others may be a feature of the disease, the patient, or our own sensitivities.

As a medical student, the details of the first patient I saw with psychosis have remained with me. He was not much younger than me, and had started university some months earlier. 

He had been admitted to hospital with a florid psychosis, convinced he was Christ.

Not unlike the many adolescents starting college this month, the freedom from home and the lights of a big city meant new experiences. Among these was the easy availability of cannabis; he had smoked a number of joints in the previous weeks. 

Unfortunately, the expert opinion was that his use of cannabis precipitated the psychotic episode.
Now this was the first and only time I have seen cannabis-induced psychosis, so in the greater scheme of things it is nothing more than medical anecdote. Nonetheless, the details of the case have stayed with me to emerge from the memory banks following the publication of some related research last week.

Drug statistics

The large meta-analysis – a study of combined previous research – showed that people who are daily users of cannabis before the age of 17 are more than 60 per cent less likely to complete secondary school or to complete a degree compared with those who have never used the drug.
Published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, the authors also found that daily users of cannabis during adolescence are seven times more likely to attempt suicide and are eight times as likely to use other illicit drugs in later life.

In this study, a team of Australian and New Zealand researchers combined data on some 3,765 participants who used cannabis from three large, long-running longitudinal studies to find out more about the link between the frequency of cannabis use before the age of 17 and seven developmental outcomes up to the age of 30. 

The outcomes measured were: completing high school; obtaining a university degree; cannabis dependence; use of other illicit drugs; suicide attempt; depression; and welfare dependence. However, they did not include psychosis or a diagnosis of schizophrenia in their outcomes.

But in a linked editorial Merete Nordentoft, professor of psychiatry at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, notes: “Cannabis use in adolescence has also been associated with increased risk of psychosis in adulthood.

“Cannabis use is associated with earlier onset of psychosis, and in patients with cannabis use and psychosis, risk of continuous psychotic symptoms is higher in those who continue to use cannabis than in those who stop.” 

And a 2007 comprehensive analysis of the relationship between cannabis use and the development of psychosis in later life concluded that the risk of psychosis increased by some 40 per cent in people who have used cannabis, with the risk rising the more the drug is used.

The authors from Cardiff University and the University of Bristol estimated that some 14 per cent of cases of schizophrenia in young adults could be prevented if cannabis was not available.
There is evidence to show that brain development during adolescence can be harmed by frequent cannabis use and that cognitive functions can be reduced permanently. This impairment and the low energy and reduced initiative associated with persistent cannabis use are the likely reasons for the poor educational outcomes shown in the recent research.

With global moves to decriminalise and legalise cannabis gaining momentum, it is important to protect adolescents from gaining easier access to the drug. 

Otherwise we will simply increase the numbers of young people having difficulty completing school and college, and add to those facing problems achieving social and personal maturation.

This latest research provides strong evidence that the delay or prevention of cannabis use is likely to have broad health and social benefits.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Giving Back

On Monday afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting one of three houses run by the Giving Back Recovery Society.

RayJay Wainman, the Executive Director, is like like the bosses at several other local successful recovery centres, a guy who has been "there and back. " His lessons were learned the inevitable hard way and they appear to stuck and stayed. I met RayJay on Saturday on the Queen Elizabeth Plaza at Recovery Day 2014.

The society, which currently houses over 32 adult men, is largely focused on relapse prevention and the program includes daily groups, 12 step meetings both on site and at local meeting places and lots of community volunteer work.

This is an old-fashioned clean and sober program and I liked what I saw.

Check out their website and please consider welcoming them into the recovery community and extending a hand in any way you can.

You can also find their website link in the right hand column of this page.

Monday, September 15, 2014


D.C. voters should reject the rush to legalize marijuana

September 14 at 6:57 PM
THE DISTRICT’S law decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana went into effect only in July, but already voters are being asked to take the even more far-reaching step of legalizing the drug. We supported the elimination of harsh criminal penalties; jailing people who smoked pot and saddling them with criminal records made no sense and resulted in the unfair targeting of young black men. 

But the rush to legalize marijuana gives us — and we hope voters — serious pause. Marijuana, as proponents of legalization argue, may or may not be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, both legal, but it is not harmless. Questions exist, so it would be prudent for the District not to make a change that could well prove to be misguided until more is known. Foremost here are the experiences and lessons learned by states that have opted for legalization.

Initiative No. 71, the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014, will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot and, if approved, would make it lawful for a person 21 years or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use, grow up to six plants at home and transfer without payment up to one ounce of marijuana to another person 21 years or older. Because of the District’s restrictions on what is subject to ballot approval, the initiative would not allow for the sale of marijuana, but initiative backers say they would expect the D.C. Council to address this and other issues with legislation.

It’s instructive that the council, in assessing the city’s approach to marijuana enforcement, chose the more cautious path of decriminalization rather than outright legalization. Voters would do well to consider the reasons for that caution.

The American Medical Association has come out against legalization, arguing that “cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern.” The active ingredient in marijuana has been linked to memory problems, impaired thinking and weakened immune systems, not to mention it acts as a gateway to more dangerous drugs. Dangers are more pronounced for young people. A study just published in the Lancet Psychiatry reported that teenagers who smoke marijuana daily are 60 percent less likely to complete high school. Advocates of legalization say it would not apply to young people but with legalization inevitably comes a message of approval.

It’s not been a year since Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana use and, as the Smart Approaches to Marijuana has catalogued, there have been negative consequences, including increased instances of impaired driving and increased use by youth. With marijuana already decriminalized, there’s no reason for the District to rush the next step; why not at least give Colorado a bit more time to provide lessons?

D.C. voters should vote no on Initiative No. 71 on Nov. 4.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


One of the principals of recovery work has always been "You've got to give it away to keep it."

Here is it at play, live and in your community.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Study: Teens who smoke weed daily are 60% less likely to complete high school than those who never use


September 9
Teenagers who smoke marijuana daily are over 60 percent less likely to complete high school than those who never use. They're also 60 percent less likely to graduate college and seven times more likely to attempt suicide. Those are the startling conclusions of a new study of adolescent cannabis use out today in The Lancet Psychiatry, a British journal of health research.

Researchers gathered data on the frequency of cannabis use among 3,725 students from Australia and New Zealand, and then looked at the students' developmental outcomes up to the age of 30. They found "clear and consistent associations between frequency of cannabis use during adolescence and most young adult outcomes investigated, even after controlling for 53 potential confounding factors including age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, use of other drugs, and mental illness."

Significantly, they found that the risks for negative outcomes increased with the frequency of cannabis use. In a conference call, study co-author Edmund Sillins said that the relationship between cannabis use and negative outcomes is significant even at low levels of use (e.g., less than monthly), and that "the results suggest that there may not be a threshold where use can be deemed safe" for teens.

 According to the study, there are significant relationships between cannabis use and high school graduation, college graduation, suicide attempts, cannabis dependency (not wholly surprising), and other illicit drug use.

The chart plots the odds ratios of the frequency of cannabis use on various outcomes, compared to not using cannabis at all. A value of 1 would indicate equal odds of a given outcome, 2 would indicate an outcome twice as likely as you'd get from not using cannabis at all, and a value less than 1 would indicate decreased odds of a given outcome.

So for instance, a person who uses cannabis less than monthly would have slightly lower odds of graduating high school or getting a college degree, compared to a person who doesn't use at all. Increased use further decreases this likelihood. On the other hand, a person who uses cannabis monthly would have roughly 4 times the likelihood of becoming dependent on cannabis as a person who doesn't use at all.

It's worth noting that for many of these indicators, the confidence intervals (error bars on the chart) are fairly broad, meaning that there's some degree of imprecision in these numbers.
You can expect these findings to be highly cited by opponents of liberalized marijuana laws, like the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Smart Approaches to Marijuana project. But it's important to put them in proper context.

First, the causality isn't 100 percent clear. The researchers did a fantastic job of trying to account for a number of confounding factors. But particularly when it comes to the educational outcomes, there are a lot of factors at play. For instance, if a teacher knows or even suspects that a certain kid is using drugs, that may predispose the teacher against that student. "Teachers are very likely to stigmatize drug users," says Joseph Palamar, co-author of another recent study comparing teen marijuana and alcohol use. "That stereotype gives kids problems, and that kid's not gonna want to go to class."

Palamar also says that because marijuana "is an illegal drug, you have to buy it in an illegal manner, and then you’re exposed to the black market. Marijuana use is affiliating you with other kids, some of whom might be problematic – people more likely to question authority. You become affiliated with things that might have a negative impact on your education."

Moreover, Palamar's research shows that because of marijuana's legal status, teen cannabis users are much more likely to get into trouble with the police than teen alcohol users. And in many cases, if you have a drug conviction on your record, you become ineligible for college aid. "If you get caught with drugs, you're not able to go to college," he told me.
In other words, many of the problems associated with teen cannabis use are likely a function of the drug's illegal status.

That said, it's completely reasonable to accept that heavy use of any drug as a teenager - be it weed, alcohol, or tobacco - is going to lead to negative consequences down the line. This in itself isn't an argument for prohibition of cannabis. For that, you'd need to demonstrate a link between relaxed cannabis laws and increased teen drug use, with the negative social consequences that go along with it. But multiple studies have shown a flat or even negative relationship between medical marijuana laws and teen cannabis use, for instance. And very early data out of Colorado shows a slight dip in teen use since the state passed a legalization measure in 2012.

But the study does lend strong support to the case for efforts to keep the drug out of the hands of teens, and it does make a case for closely monitoring adolescent marijuana use in states that do legalize it.
Thinking more broadly about the effects of drug prohibition, you have to weigh the consequences of teen drug use against the societal consequences of failed drug war policies - skyrocketing incarceration rates and countless families and communities decimated by the illegal drug trade and its overzealous opponents.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


Why are these two honorable men allowed to continue in office?

 Daphne Bramham: Conflicts of interest going to pot


Provincial law is toothless when it comes to regulating wild west of medical marijuana


Sechelt may be paving the way for large-scale marijuana grow operations.

It is rare a municipal councillor issues a war call over a development permit.

But that’s exactly what Sechelt’s Chris Moore did in late July during a debate over a permit for Medma Cannabis Pharms Inc., one of three medical marijuana companies looking to set up in Sechelt.

As council discussed a variance to allow the two-storey, 433-square-metre production facility, Moore stated: “Frankly, I’ll be extremely disappointed if this is not granted. It will be a war call for me.”
In an interview this week, Moore insisted what had stirred his passion was the process of trying to stop a medical marijuana company using a development permit.

Had the company planned to grow tomatoes, he said he would be just as upset.

“I’ve been an advocate for legalization (of marijuana) for some time. But, when it comes to voting (on Medma), it’s not my land and I don’t have any pecuniary interests,” Moore said in an interview this week.
But the councillor is more than just an advocate and proponent of the small, coastal community becoming a hub for legal pot production.

Moore is a director of Cannabis Ventures Inc., a California-based, penny-stock company. It is one of more than 1,000 that has applied to Health Canada for a licence to build a large-scale grow-op.

He is also the sole director of Bounty Development Corp., which owns the Sechelt property where CVI plans to build.

Moore has never publicly disclosed his corporate interests, although he says he has told others on council.

His business interests were made public by a couple of citizens who found the corporate documents on the Internet.

B.C.’s Financial Disclosures Act requires municipal politicians to file an annual statement in the first two weeks of the year detailing what they own and earn.

And since Cannabis Ventures Inc. wasn’t incorporated until April 2014, Moore couldn’t have disclosed it then.

“I don’t know if I have to update (the annual filing),” he said. “I’m not aware of any instruction like that. ... I don’t recall any need to do that.

“Most people in small communities know what’s going on, so it’s self-policing. They probably know better ... what’s going on than in big cities where people can hide out.”

But the Community Charter says that even if councillors and mayors have not declared a direct or indirect pecuniary interest, they are forbidden from attending meetings or even parts of meetings where the matter is discussed and from participating in any discussions or votes and attempting to influence the voting on the issue.

The penalty “may be” disqualification from office “unless the contravention was done inadvertently or because of an error in judgment made in good faith.”

That disqualification is only until the next election, which in this case is November. And Moore is adamant that he is not running again.

The Charter also says a council member “could” be required to give up any realized financial gain. But that would only happen if 10 electors or two-thirds of council take it to the B.C. Supreme Court for a ruling.

Since his corporate interests have become public, Moore has vowed not to vote later this fall on a new zoning bylaw, which would permit commercial grow-ops in all industrial zones as well as resource and agricultural zones, and would make Sechelt one of the first B.C. municipalities to fully embrace medical marijuana production.
Moore won’t participate in the public hearings that he has been a proponent for, even though he said he has recommended to staff some people who he thinks should be invited to explain the Health Canada licensing process as well as the benefits of medical marijuana production to individuals as well as the community.

“Frankly, if this municipality doesn’t want medical marijuana, I don’t give a s--t,” said Moore. “Although I think it would be unfortunate.”

Moore is not the only one on Sechelt’s seven-member council with ties to a medical marijuana company.
Councillor Tom Lamb owns a building currently rented by a company that operated under the old pot-growing laws that is attempting certification under the new rules. Lamb declined to name the company.

In an interview on Friday, Lamb said he will be asking for the district solicitor’s opinion on whether he is in a conflict of interest before he votes on any matters related to marijuana, including the zoning bylaw.
But Lamb says he has participated in some earlier council discussions, including a presentation by a representative from a medical marijuana company — not the one he rents to or Medma — that wants to set up on Sechelt.

It has all been in an effort to educate himself, he said.

“The federal government has done a very, very poor job of bringing this medical marijuana thing to where it is today,” Lamb said. “The new regulations have brought some chaos and I don’t understand all of what’s happening, which is why I want to get educated.”

The genesis of all of this is Canada’s new medical-marijuana regulations that shut down close to 30,000 small growers and is replacing them with a few, large grow-ops.

It set off a corporate frenzy, with legitimate companies (as well as many penny-stock companies making extravagant claims) attempting to cash in on what are touted to be heady, windfall returns.

Getting a licence requires companies to prove that they have properly zoned property somewhere, which is how reefer madness arrived in town halls across the country and ended up in the laps of people like Moore and Lamb.

But what’s troubling to residents in Sechelt and elsewhere is the double secrecy surrounding medical marijuana.

First, the federal government refuses to disclose all of the names of companies that have received medical marijuana licences and refuses to release the names of those that are seeking approval, citing privacy legislation.

Secondly, provincial law doesn’t require transparency when it comes to corporate disclosures. Instead of depending on self-disclosure at meetings, it ought to require municipal officials and employees to not only make annual declarations of assets, interests and income, but do so whenever there is a change.

What’s ironic is that because governments make it so difficult to figure out who is doing what where and, possibly, for whom, citizens’ best source of information is the same stock touts. And they are the only people that the government has seen fit to warn citizens about.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Reefer Madness

            What’s Reefer Madness? New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd came to Colorado to write about marijuana. Dowd was in a Denver hotel room when she tried a “caramel-chocolate flavored candy bar” that she bought at a local marijuana dispensary. …….After an hour, Dowd felt nothing. Then the marijuana kicked in as Dowd “felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. ……..I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested…..” “…... As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.”
            ABC 7 News reported that Kristine Kirk called 911, stating that her husband, Richard, ate marijuana muffins and that he was hallucinating and scaring their three children. She stated that Richard said the world was coming to an end and asked her to shoot him. ……..The call ended with Kristine’s scream and a gunshot. Kristine was dead. ….When Richard was taken into custody, he admitted to killing his wife.
            Can we Canadians learn from Colorado? Colorado in 2000 allowed a medical patient to possess 2 ounces of marijuana. In 2012, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.
            Here are some Colorado numbers, thanks to the Rocky Mountain Drug Trafficking reports:
            In 2012, about one-third of the high school students were under the influence during school hours. Related to this is the fact that if an individual is a regular user of two to three years of marijuana, they lose an average of 6 to 8 points in their IQ says Dr. M.H. Meier of NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), reducing his/her ability “to get an education or find or hold a good job”.
            In 2012, about 27% of students aged 18 to 25 were regular marijuana users, compared to 19% for the national average.
            There was a 57% increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits from 2011 to 2013 (about 13,000 visits). Marijuana-related hospitalizations almost doubled from 2008 to 2013.        
            Traffic fatalities increased 100% from 2007 to 2012 involving people testing positive for marijuana. (Overall traffic fatalities decreased by 15%).
            About 9% of users became truly addicted, with withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop. From personal experience, Lady Gaga says “You can get addicted to pot”.
            The delusions and paranoia of Ms. Dowd and Mr. Kirk were acute reactions to marijuana. However, a major life-long effect of marijuana is psychosis or schizophrenia. T.H. Moore concludes that there is “sufficient evidence to warn young people that using cannabis could increase their risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life.” For example, cannabis use in the UK increased four-fold between 1970 and 2002. As feared, it was later found that new cases of schizophrenia increased by 58% over three years.
            In Zurich, Switzerland, when cannabis use in 15-16-year old boys went up three-fold between 1990 and 2002, it was followed by a doubling of first hospital admissions for psychosis in those aged 15 to 24.
            Future increases in cannabis-related cases of schizophrenia would add to the already high psychosis rate in Canada. M.-J. Dealberto at Queen’s University in Ontario found that the rate of new cases of schizophrenia in Canada is about 26 per 100,000 per year, which is twice that in other countries.
            While marijuana legalization would provide tax money to Canadian governments, it would not make up for the high personal, medical, and life-long costs to Canadians.

Philip Seeman, O.C., M.D., Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and discovered the human brain’s dopamine receptor for psychosis.
260 Heath Street West, unit 605, Toronto, Canada M5P 3L6
Tel.: 416-486-3456

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


You haven't heard from us for a while and here's the reason.

Almost all the media coverage on drugs and addictions has been a concerted effort to normalize the use of marijuana. We could have posted several items a day, but to what purpose? We would only be re-enforcing and supporting the Drugs are OK agenda.

Today, Sun columnist and editor, Daphne Bramham had a slightly different take on matters and I thought this might be worth your attention.

The original print version came with photos of the four politicians who are featured in the story - Mike Harcourt, Kash Heed, Larry Campbell and John Reynolds. They are each and every one, as Marc Antony put it, "honorable men."