For Immediate Release – Halifax: Health experts at the IWK Health Centre are concerned with a number of unfounded assertions made by former Olympian Ross Rebagliati regarding the consumption of cannabis during an interview with CTV Atlantic on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. Among some of his claims, Rebagliati encouraged daily cannabis consumption, and suggested that it is family-friendly and allows parents to 'better relate' to their children.
Rebagliati, who was in Nova Scotia promoting his personal cannabis business and its products, shared biased representations of potential health benefits from cannabis use and made no reference to well-documented harms than can arise from consuming cannabis, says the Chief of Pediatrics at the IWK Health Centre, Dr. Andrew Lynk.
“THC cannabis use has been medically proven to be harmful on numerous fronts, especially with regards to driving, learning, and impairing the healthy brain development for adolescents and adults under 25. Consuming cannabis while pregnant may significantly impact the health of an unborn baby,” said Dr. Lynk. "Our position is supported by evidence-based, peer-reviewed research into the health impacts of THC cannabis”, adds Dr. Lynk, citing a recent position statement from the Canadian Paediatric Society.
Throughout his interview, Rebagliati made a variety of statements that lacked supporting evidence. Eyebrow-raising claims such as “everyone has a medical need for cannabis,” “it’s part of a healthy lifestyle,” and “part of mental wellness” are all false and biased representations of evidence.
This kind of misleading information can have a profound impact on the health of parents, youth, and children, and in some cases the damage it can do may be irreparable, says Chief of Psychiatry at the IWK, Dr. Alexa Bagnell.
“Cannabis may be a ‘natural,’ plant-based substance, but that does not mean it is safe, particularly for youth,” said Dr. Bagnell. “Regular and heavier use by adolescents actually increases the risk of onset of serious mental illness such as psychosis and other mental health disorders including anxiety and depression in young people.”
With legalization set for October, it is important that the public is accurately informed about the risks of cannabis use and its negative impact on normal brain development, says IWK Health Promotion Specialist Kate Johnson.
“While there may be some health benefits in very specific cases, these findings cannot, and should not, be applied to the general population,” said Johnson. “Compared to other substances, there is still a great deal that we don’t know about cannabis use and the long-term impacts. What we do know suggests that we should proceed with caution.”
Johnson points to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s ‘Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG)’ as a valuable resource for individuals wanting to learn more about reducing health risks related to cannabis use.”
With regards to Rebagliati’s assertion that cannabis use actually improves one’s parenting abilities, Dr. Lynk’s message is simple. “Effective, engaged and safe parenting is challenging enough without the added burden of being stoned.”
About the IWK Health Centre
The IWK Health Centre is the Maritime region's leading health care and research centre dedicated to the well-being of women, children, youth and families. In addition to providing highly specialized and complex care, the IWK provides certain primary care services and is a strong advocate for the health of families. The IWK is a global leader in research and knowledge sharing, and a partner in educating the next generation of health professionals. Visit www.iwk.nshealth.ca for more information.
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