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

Volunteers plant trees earlier this month as part of a City of Nanaimo initiative. (City of Nanaimo photo)
City holds ‘relay’ to plant 600 trees and shrubs in Nanaimo

Trees were planted along Chase River and at Third Street Park

Vancouver Island University organizations are raising awareness about gender-based violence during 16 Days of Activism, which includes the Red Dress Project hosted by VIUSU that aims to honour the memory of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. (Vancouver Island University photo)
City proclamation calls on Nanaimo to unite to end violence against women

16 Days of Activism campaign started Nov. 25, continues to Dec. 10

The Nanaimo Rona location. (News Bulletin photo)
Rona home improvement store in Nanaimo advises customers that worker has COVID-19

Store re-opened Sunday after being closed for cleaning Saturday

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

Const. Joshua Waltman brings knowledge gained from working with people experiencing homelessness in Surrey to his new role as the RCMP’s mental health liaison officer in Nanaimo where he will work with people from across society who find themselves struggling with mental health crisis. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo RCMP’s mental health liaison says his role will take persistence and resilience

Const. Joshua Waltman talks about limiting anxiety and gaining trust of people in mental crises

Local poet and VIU professor Sonnet L’Abbé wrote and performed a song as part of the city’s Reimagine Nanaimo campaign. (Photo courtesy City of Nanaimo/Port Theatre)
Poet pens song as part of city’s Reimagine Nanaimo campaign

Sonnet L’Abbé encourages a friend to move to the city in ‘Nazaneen: A Song for Nanaimo’

Janice Perrino, Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation CEO, holds information brochures for the Light the Trees campaign, part of an effort to raise $5 million for the new intensive care unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Million-dollar donation has Light the Trees campaign off to a bright start in Nanaimo

Windsor Plywood Foundation supports Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A rendering of a restaurant building making up part of a development permit application for 113 and 161 Island Highway in Parksville. (IAG Developments image)
Development application delayed for high-profile Parksville property

Council refers restaurant/RV campground application to staff for further improvements

Most Read