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– VICTORIA

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AOD STATS
Interactive
Data Site

Introduction: Welcome to AODstats, the Victorian alcohol and drug interactive statistics and mapping webpage.
AODstats provides information on the harms related to alcohol, illicit and pharmaceutical drug use in Victoria.

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 Camilla Turner, education editor  15 JUNE 2018 

 

There has been a 114 per cent rise in those aged over 40 seeking help from drug clinics, citing cannabis as their primary health concern

It used to be thought of as the drug of choice among the younger generations. But now researchers have found a huge increase in cannabis use among those aged over 40 who have become addicted to super-strength skunk.

Using data from Public Health England, researchers from York University examined trends in the characteristics of people seeking help from specialist drug treatment services over the past decade.

They found that there has been a 114 per cent rise in those aged over 40 seeking help from drug clinics, citing cannabis as their primary health concern.

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All Young Cannabis Users Face Psychosis Risk  (Medscape and JAMA Psychiatry)  June 15, 2018

Cannabis use directly increases the risk for psychosis in teens, new research shows. A large prospective study of teens shows that "in adolescents, cannabis use is harmful" with respect to psychosis risk, study author Patricia J. Conrod, PhD, professor of psychiatry, University of Montreal, Canada, told Medscape Medical News.

The study included 3720 adolescents from the Co-Venture cohort, which represents 76% of all grade 7 students attending 31 secondary schools in the greater Montreal area.

Cannabis use, in any given year, predicted an increase in psychosis symptoms a year later, said Conrod. This type of analysis is more reliable than biological measures, such as blood tests, said Conrod. "Biological measures aren't sensitive enough to the infrequent and low level of use that we tend to see in young adolescents," she said.

The effect was observed for the entire cohort. This finding, said Conrod, means that all young cannabis users face psychosis risk, not just those with a family history of schizophrenia or a biological factor that increases their susceptibility to the effects of cannabis.

"The whole population is prone to have this risk," she said.

In light of these results, Conrod called for increased access by high school students to evidence-based cannabis prevention programs.

The study was published online June 6 in JAMA Psychiatry.

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RATES OF CHILDHOOD EXPOSURES ARE ON THE RISE

In our latest report, Childhood Poisoning: Safeguarding Young Children from Addictive Substances, we evaluated data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), among other sources, and found the number of babies and preschoolers exposed to marijuana is on the rise. In fact, between 2006 and 2013, the rate of marijuana exposures among children aged five and younger increased by 148 percent. Moreover, the number of young children accidentally exposed to marijuana increased every year from 2013 through 2016.

In Colorado alone, rates of marijuana exposure in young children increased 150 percent from 2014 to 2016, when the study was published. Half of these exposures involved legal, recreational marijuana.

THE DANGERS OF MARIJUANA FOR SMALL CHILDREN

Edibles, the most likely culprit of marijuana exposures among young children, often contain more THC (the psychoactive part of marijuana) than marijuana in other forms. Furthermore, when compared to adults, children tend to experience more severe clinical effects from marijuana exposure. Effects can range from lethargy, difficulty concentrating and slurred speech to respiratory depression and even seizures.

Through our research, we have found an increase in serious medical outcomes among young children exposed to marijuana.

KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE

As additional states consider legalizing marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes, safeguarding children from accidentally ingesting edibles and other marijuana products must be a priority. Parents, physicians, and policymakers all have a role to play in keeping children safe.

For parents: if you own marijuana products or other potentially harmful addictive substances, take steps to ensure your kids are unable to access them. Keep products in child-resistant and opaque packaging (if available), and ensure all addictive substances are kept out of sight and out of reach.

For physicians: stay informed about the symptoms of marijuana exposure and take time to educate parents about what to look for if they suspect their child has accidentally consumed a product that contains marijuana.

For policymakers: if your state has legalized marijuana for any purpose, or is considering legalizing marijuana, advocate for clear on-package labeling indicating the product contains marijuana. Mandate it be sold in child-resistant, opaque and re-sealable packaging. Additionally, regulate the appearance of marijuana edibles to ensure they do not resemble candy or other sweets. Propose laws or ordinances limiting the amount of THC allowed in marijuana edibles.

With a multifaceted, comprehensive approach, we know we can limit childhood exposures to marijuana, even as it is becoming more accessible in the United States.

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BY THE PARTNERSHIP

First things first — how is marijuana vaped?

Vaping refers to the inhalation of an aerosol produced by heating a liquid/oil or substance in a compact electronic portable vaporizer. While many young “vapers” say they inhale flavored liquids like Gummy Bear, German Chocolate Cake and Cotton Candy, youth can vaporize marijuana – either the ground plant itself, waxes often referred to as dabs, or THC and CBD oils.

Selling equipment to vape marijuana in its leaf, dab or oil form is a booming business with many new entrants. Pax Labs, formerly Ploom, was founded over a decade ago and is a relatively well-known brand for vaping dry leaf marijuana. The company has introduced the Pax 3, which they describe as the “Apple I-Phone” of vaporizers as it allows you to vape both dry leaf and wax concentrates. It includes a free Android or iOS app to control temperature, play, free games, manage firmware and lock the device.

In California, a company called EAZE sells disposable all-in-one marijuana vape pens and cartridges. Flavors include Blueberry Kush, Lemon OG and Mango Passion Fruit. They market these as wellness products with advertising that reads, “Hello Marijuana, Goodbye Insomnia” or “Hello Marijuana, Goodbye Hangover.”

Although not a vape per se, another company, Aeroinhaler, has developed a product that looks exactly like an inhaler one would use to treat asthma. It’s marketed as a healthy alternative to vaping or smoking combustible marijuana, delivering a metered dose with each puff. The company says that their product uses concentrates of 80 percent THC potency.

Juul can also be used to vape marijuana; however, it should be noted that as of now, Juul does not offer marijuana products. The device has to be hacked in order to use it with THC oils and, as with most things, there are YouTube videos demonstrating how. There are also companies making pods that fit a Juul, so a THC oil pod may be in the future.

Marijuana is used recreationally and medicinally, so what’s the big deal for adolescents and young adults?

It turns out that the brain of an adolescent or young adult is still growing, and therefore on a mission to increase efficiency and to develop critical skills related to problem-solving, impulse control, anticipating consequences and more. Marijuana can get in the way of this development, causing brain circuits to wire in a less optimal way.

One way to think about this is comparing the developing brain and its neural connections to your home electrical wiring grid. You want the best possible wiring for your house, so that when you need to use your appliances, everything works as it should with no shorts or blown fuses. The house can still function if everything isn’t up to code, but it won’t be ideal. Marijuana use can impact the wiring of the brain in a similar way, with the impact being subtle in some cases and more severe in others.

According to the CDC, marijuana use may have long-lasting or permanent effects on the developing adolescent brain. Negative effects include:

  • Difficulty with critical thinking skills like attention, problem solving and memory
  • Impaired reaction time and coordination, especially as it relates to driving
  • Decline in school performance
  • Increased risk of mental health issues including depression or anxiety and in some cases, psychosis where there is a family history of it
  • Research also shows that about one in six teens who repeatedly use marijuana can become addicted, as compared to one in nine adults

It’s really important for parents and caregivers to note that these impacts of marijuana differ from the impacts on a fully mature adult brain. Delaying substance use of any kind, including marijuana, gives your child the best opportunity to have optimal brain functioning.

How can I recognize use, especially if there is no smoke and telltale smell?

Vaping can be difficult to detect as there is no smoke, minimal odor (although you may catch a whiff) and the vapor produced dissipates rapidly. However, just like smoking, vaping marijuana can result in bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and thirst, increased appetite and shifts in behavior and mood. Sometimes, there is a noticeable change in friends and a decrease in activities that were once enjoyed.

You may also find vaping paraphernalia such as devices that look like flash drives, gel jars that contain dabs, and pods or cartridges that contain THC oil. There’s a lot of high-tech-looking equipment that can accompany vaping, so if you’re not sure, it might be time to talk to your child about what you found.

What can I do if I suspect my child is at risk for vaping or is already vaping marijuana?

Given the growth of marijuana use and vaping among American youth, it’s a good idea to explore your son’s or daughter’s views on vaping and perceptions of the risks.

1. Have conversations often. Before any talk, it helps to be able to share
facts, but don’t assume that an information download to your child will translate into healthy behaviors.

2. Look for good opportunities to have a discussion. You can do this when passing a vape shop, smelling marijuana on the street, seeing someone vaping on TV or in person or seeing one of the ads for vapes.

3. Try to listen, rather than give a lecture. Open-ended questions can be a great way to get your child’s perspective, i.e. “I understand that some kids are vaping marijuana. What are your thoughts about it?” If you know they are already vaping marijuana, you might ask “What does vaping marijuana or THC oil do for you?” Perhaps it’s a way to fit in, handle social anxiety or address boredom. Get to the root of “why.”

4. Set clear expectations. Express your understanding of the risks, but also why a person may want to vape. Share why you don’t want him/her vaping, and remember, it’s important to avoid scare tactics. Be honest.

5. Teach refusal skills. It’s likely that your teen or young adult will be introduced to vaping marijuana by a friend or older sibling. It helps to rehearse what he/she will say if that happens.

6. Have your loved one talk to other trusted adults who can reinforce your message. Sometimes, messages coming from your pediatrician, school counselor, favorite aunt or uncle, etc. can be more impactful.

7. Model healthy behaviours. If you come home from work and discuss what a tough day it’s been while popping open a beer, pouring a glass of wine or smoking a joint, you are conveying this is how you handle stress. It’s healthier for your child — and you — if you take a walk with the dog or a bath or go for a run rather than turn to substances as stress busters.

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Kathy Donaghy  June 10 2018 

Any debate around the legalisation of cannabis must take into account the harm it causes, one of the country's leading psychiatrists has warned.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Matthew Sadlier is calling for a public health campaign to educate people about the dangers of cannabis use.

As attitudes to cannabis use become more relaxed and tolerance increases in society in general, Dr Sadlier says many young people's lives are being wrecked by habitual use of the drug - and that this side of the story is not being heard.

In his work as a general adult psychiatrist in north Dublin over the last five years, he says he could comfortably say that a third of all his patients had been referred because of cannabis.

"There are people out there who have developed long-term psychotic illnesses from smoking cannabis. If they'd never smoked it, they would never have developed it. We know that acute usage causes neurological conditions. The question is does it have a long-term effect?

"We know that the younger you start smoking it, the more likely it is to have a lasting, damaging effect. What gets my blood boiling is that it's also carcinogenic. We have spent 40 years getting cigarette smoking down, but smoking cannabis has the same negative effects as cigarette smoking," says Dr Sadlier.

"I think there has to be a public health campaign because the information out there for young people is very confused. We have people speaking up for the medicinal effects. Street cannabis is a very different thing and it's very dangerous," he says.

"I have seen families ripped apart by cannabis use. I've seen people with good futures ahead of them fall into apathy due to chronic cannabis use. People need to be educated about this. In my opinion, it's much more dangerous than alcohol," says Dr Sadlier.

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