Canadian physicians split on recreational pot, reveals poll

by Leo Almazora22 Aug 2018

A recent poll has found that Canadian physicians are divided on the issue of legalizing recreational pot, with slightly more respondents in opposition to the measure.

The poll of 235 general practitioners conducted by MD Analytics in June found that 47% disapprove of the measure that will come in force on Oct 17, according to a report by the Winnipeg Sun. Thirty-two per cent of the respondents, meanwhile, embrace the move.

“For those in opposition, 87% say they expect to see more patients showing psychotic symptoms, and 88% believe they’ll be treating more people for substance abuse,” the Sun said.

Those for the measure, meanwhile, foresee a decline in prescriptions or patient visits to treat some of the same mental symptoms, along with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and insomnia.

Weighing in on the polarized results, Dr. Lydia Hatcher at McMaster University Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario said that there should be more education and research into the effects and medical benefits of marijuana.

“Physicians have had so little education on cannabis so it doesn’t surprise me in the least,” said Hatcher, a chronic pain and psychotherapy specialist who has prescribed cannabis oils with non-psychoactive CBD since 2015.

Among her patients who’ve used cannabis for medical purposes, she said two thirds have experienced some improvement or dramatic benefits, many over long periods that tend to rule out a placebo effect. And while fears of increased dependence or abuse may have some merit, she said its centuries-long history and widespread use shows that “it’s a relatively safe drug.”

The MD Analytics poll also found that Canadian doctors believe legalization “may lead to some patient populations substituting their prescribed medications with recreational cannabis.” That hews close to the Canadian Medical Association’s position that the regulatory framework for medical use is no longer necessary as people will no longer require prescriptions to gain access to the substance.

But the growing tolerance toward cannabis is a cause for concern among some medical professionals. “We’re already seeing an increase in emergency room [visits] for that reason,” said Dr. Chris Wilkes, a Calgary-based psychiatrist working with children and adolescents.

Wilkes acknowledged the substance’s role in treating nausea among cancer patients and symptoms of MS and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as an alternative for alcoholics with liver damage. But he sided with the doctors who fear an uptick in people suffering from mental-health side effects.

“Legalization is not being driven by doctors; it’s being driven by big business,” he said. He argued that the medical regime shouldn’t be supplanted by general use and that there should be tight regulation and strict advertising bans on the recreational side.


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