Stress Binge

Young Canadians choosing marijuana and hallucinogens over alcohol?

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A recent survey out of the U.S. indicates that young adults are binge drinking less in favour of smoking and consuming marijuana and hallucinogens.

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Dr. Darren Courtney, a youth psychiatrist from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), said while he’s not aware of Canadian research on the issue, he has seen the patterns of substance use shift amongst the younger generations.

“In my clinic, I very commonly see young people who are using cannabis and hallucinogens to relieve symptoms of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms,” added Courtney, who noted that booze shouldn’t be counted out just yet.

“Alcohol is still commonly used for this purpose as well; though, over the years, the number of young people reporting cannabis for the purpose of relieving stress has consistently outnumbered young people using alcohol for this purpose.”

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A study — recently published in Monitoring the Future, a publication issued by Michigan’s Institute for Social Research — found that among young people, alcohol use is on the decline, while smoking pot and consuming hallucinogens are on the rise.

The survey, which began collecting data in 1975, determined there was a rise in those using marijuana and hallucinogens — like LSD and magic mushrooms — in 2020, according to ABC News.

Youth are particularly vulnerable to the effects of cannabis. Research has shown the brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25, says Health Canada.

Frequent cannabis use has also been associated with an increased risk of suicide, depression and anxiety disorders, according to the government site.

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While young Canadians are using cannabis to deal with mental health issues, there is also an increased risk of developing more serious illnesses such as schizophrenia and psychosis.

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Dr. Lisa Hawke, a project scientist with CAMH, has been surveying 600 Ontarians between the ages of 14 and 27 on an ongoing basis throughout the pandemic.

“Some youth tell us that they’ve been using cannabis more and alcohol less during the pandemic,” says Hawke, who admitted that lockdowns are likely the reason.

“This might be because they’re spending more time at home alone or with family or roommates, and less time out partying with friends.”

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