June 14th, 2024

Medical officer of health warns of risks using cannabis with other substances

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on April 21, 2022.

Herald file photo by Greg Bobinec A cloud of smoke fills the air as a woman smokes a joint during a 420 event in 2018 at Galt Gardens. The South Zone Medical Officer of Health warns that mixing cannabis with other substances such as alcohol or tobacco can be harmful.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

With cannabis legal in Canada, some may have been tempted to heartily indulge on the infamous 4/20 “pot holiday.”
But mixing that substance with other substances such as alcohol or tobacco may cause harm, according to Dr. Mila Luchak, South Zone Medical Officer of Health.
The 2021 Canadian Cannabis survey showed about 25 per cent of Canadians over the age of 16 reported using cannabis for non-medical reasons in the last year. Of those, sixty-eight per cent said they’ve used cannabis and alcohol products together while 31 per cent said they used cannabis and tobacco products in combination.
In 2017, Albertans who smoked were four times more likely to report using cannabis weekly than those who didn’t smoke.
“In terms of some of the risks associated with both cannabis and smoking, vaping or use of tobacco products is that first of all there’s some short term impacts in terms of individuals may have difficulties breathing if they’re vaping and smoking in the short term. And also there’s those longer term health impacts including lung cancer associated with tobacco products that are smoked. And there’s also the issue of nicotine and cannabis, especially in our younger populations so those under the age of 25 years old. There are some risks to their learning, memory, concentration and increased risk of mental health illnesses while using those products below that age,” said Luchak.
She said there is also the risk of second-hand exposure to vulnerable populations if people are smoking, she said.
Luchak said a list of medications is publicly available online for people to review so they can look at what they’re taking and any possible interactions but she said talking to a health care provider may be the best way of ensuring personal safety.
Mixing products “does put individuals at risk especially when it comes to the combination with alcohol. There’s increased risk of injuries, falls, and of course impaired driving – there’s definitely an increased risk there – harming oneself and others,” Luchak said.
Symptoms of too much cannabis ingestion can vary but they may include an increased heart rate, anxiety or panic attacks, nausea/vomiting or confusion.
Medical attention is needed when this happens, she suggested.
Anyone concerned about whether they are using too much cannabis or are potentially addicted, there are resources available including the addictions help line, she said. That number is 1-866-332-2322.
There is also AlbertaQuits.ca online, she said. And another option is to call Alberta Health Link or 811 if a person has any concerns about using cannabis substances alone or in combination with other products, Luchak said.
If people are going to smoke cannabis, they should avoid inhaling deeply or holding their breath to prevent lung damage.
Other cannabis products, such as edibles, also pose health risks although they may seem to be less hazardous, says Luchak. And they should always be kept safely stored and out of reach of children or pets.
Cannabis users should also consider using products with lower THC levels – less than 10 mg or 10 per cent – or higher CBD content.

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