Hospital visits could rise in B.C. after pot legalization

Hospital visits could rise in B.C. after pot legalization

Island Health expects seniors and first-time stoners will lead to increase in service after Oct. 17

When cannabis is legalized across Canada on Oct. 17, who will be lighting up?

Dr. Richard Stanwick of Island Health said they expect many first-timers to try pot, but especially senior citizens and baby boomers.

“For people who have been avoiding it — baby boomers because it was an illegal product and they may have tried it and used it in their university days in the ’70s and are remembering Woodstock — the product of today is quite different,” Stanwick said.

He said he’s seen cannabis marketed as “the cure for old age, which you can see would be quite appealing to a lot of people.” But since it’s been illegal for so long, the short-term and long-term risks and benefits of marijuana are still unknown.

While doctors are worried about young people using cannabis because their brains are still developing, there are different concerns for seniors.

“Our biggest concerns among seniors is falls,” he said, because of the potential impact on cognitive and mobility responses. “The last thing we want is more seniors with broken hips … We know our health care costs are going to go up and there’s going to be an increased demand for service because of the legalization.”

They also expect an increase in motorvehicle incidents, developing dependence and mental health effects.

So what does the doctor recommend? Start by reviewing Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines. Its first suggestion is to abstain, but if you’re going to use cannabis, start with a low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

While recreational users may be seeking out the psychoactive effects from the THC, many are advocating the potential pain-management abilities of cannabidiol (CBD). Balancing the two will take experimentation, Stanwick said.

READ MORE: Victoria cannabis dispensaries to hold massive sales before legalization

“Just think if you were trying alcohol for the first time, would you go with the heaviest drink possible or would you perhaps try a beer or glass of wine to see how this is going to affect you? They’re both psychoactive substances.”

One of the main recommendations Stanwick shared is not to inhale or smoke cannabis, but to use edibles or liquid-based products instead. The major concern with edibles is, unlike smoking or vaping cannabis, there is a delayed reaction.

“It’s really important to mix the marijuana in well. Basically, give it enough time to see if it works. We do metabolize it differently,” he said. “In a given room, one person might be feeling the effects in 20 minutes, somebody will not be feeling anything for 40 or 50 minutes or even an hour. The temptation for the second person who’s a slow absorber would be to have a second and maybe a third. All of a sudden it all kicks in.”

They’ve already seen several cases of people coming to the emergency room because of ingesting too much marijuana — or accidentally having any at all.

READ MORE: Will legalized marijuana impact the Canadian military?

Medications seniors commonly take, Stanwick said, are unlikely to be affected when taken with marijuana because the pathway where marijuana reacts in the brain is in a different part than most anti-depressants or other medications do. Stanwick said he thinks labels similar to ‘do not take with alcohol’ stickers on medicine will start appearing for marijuana as well. It’s important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist either way, and be honest about what you’re taking, Stanwick said.

“If you have a family history of psychosis, there is the possibility that the marijuana may unmask one that was previously unidentified. It’s not totally benign, so our psychiatry unit is concerned. At the end of the day, the THC is still a psychoactive substance and the rate of becoming potentially dependent or addicted to marijuana in adults is still 10 per cent.”

The upside of legalization, Stanwick said, is the opportunity for people to become more informed and make better decisions when it comes to using marijuana.

“Everyone is different, so find out how your body and you react to that substance, how long does it take and how big is the buzz.”

keili.bartlett@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

marijuana

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Members of the Nelson Nordic Ski Club show off their new snowcat. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Nordic Club celebrates new snowcat

A community fundraising effort led to the purchase

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
Kootenay-Columbia MP supports motion condemning Uighur genocide

Rob Morrison says labelling Uighur persecution as a genocide sends a message to Chinese government

The Skinny Genes Foundation is raising awareness and funds for a rare genetic disorder that claimed both his father and uncle.
NHL players, local businesses help Kootenay man raise funds and awareness for rare genetic disease

Signed NHL jerseys and local business donations up for auction in Skinny Genes Foundation fundraiser

An architectural design proposal from June, 2020, illustrates what a re-developed Hall Street Pier might look like. Illustration: City of Nelson
Nelson receives $1M grant for Hall St. Pier project

The design and extent of the project will be decided in the next few weeks

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Arrow Lakes Caribou Society said the new caribou pen near the Nakusp Hotsprings is close to completion. (Submitted)
Maternity caribou pen near Nakusp inches closer to fruition

While Nakusp recently approved the project’s lease, caribou captures are delayed due to COVID-19

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Most Read