Impending cannabis legalization in Canada: position of the Quebec association for first psychotic episode programs - AQPPEP

Poster A89, Monday, October 8, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm, Essex Ballroom

Sophie L'Heureux1, Clarélaine Ouellet-Plamondon2, Aldanie Rho3, Amal Abdel-Baki2; 1Université Laval, 2Université de Montréal, 3McGill University

The Canadian government plans to legalize cannabis in 2018 and sets the legal age at 18 to get and use cannabis. With an annual prevalence among the 15-64 years old of 10,7% in North America and 15,2% in the province of Quebec, cannabis is widely used, and its use had increased in Quebec by 3% from 2008 to 2014. Therefore, this decision raises several interrogations among psychiatrists in Quebec, since substantial evidence suggests that early onset of cannabis exposure could increase risk of psychosis with associated cognitive deficits and poor social outcomes. The government’s rationale is to ensure production of better-controlled substances and to limit organized crime; however, legalization can open the door to trivialization of consumption of cannabis and possibly move the debate away from the real issues related to cannabis in vulnerable groups mainly among youth at a crucial period of their development. The impact of cannabis legalization remains controversial, as increased availability might lead to increased use with subsequent negative health-related problems but may also foster safer use. This sociopolitical context can provide opportunities for widespread psychoeducation on first-episode psychosis (FEP) and the impact of cannabis. Beyond psychoeducational activities and reduced-risk approach, AQPPEP suggests the implementation of programs targeting youth at risk for psychosis by the health authorities. Further research is warranted to document the impact of such a change on FEP prevalence and outcomes in the actual legal context.

Topic Area: First Episode Psychosis

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