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Nova Scotia Health Authority’s research team studying the effect of cannabis on teens

Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Mental Health Department’s research team is conducting a study which delves into the impacts of cannabis use on youth between the ages of 15 and 16-years old.

“The only way we could find out if we need harm reduction strategies is to actually go and meet with young people, do measurements of their cannabis use and measurements of their cognitive function,” said Candace Crocker, research scientist and one of the site leads.

The study stretches across different provinces including Ontario and Quebec. In Toronto, the study is being conducted on mice, and in Quebec, the other group is doing the study on 18-year-olds.

The research team in Nova Scotia is using MRI scans to determine potential psychotic-like experiences – something that Crocker said is common among teens but with the use of cannabis, can become worse in the future.

“The studies trying to figure out what we should do, are these associated, and if they are should we intervene,” said Crocker.

Psychotic-like experiences, Crocker said, are a normal part of development which eventually youth stop having as they grow into adults, however, a direct connection in the study might also be made for people who have a “bad trip” in response to using cannabis.

According to Crocker, Nova Scotia has the highest use of cannabis across Canada, with a significant number of studies showing that people are using or trying cannabis by the age of 15. So far a number of young people have volunteered to take part in the study.

“Every week we have young people reach out to participate in the study. As of now we are about half-way near our goal of the number of people we need for this,” explained Crocker.

One of the posters in Halifax, advertising for teens aged 15-16 for a study. (CTV/Hafsa Arif)She said while there already are studies showing that cannabis use can be a risk factor for development of psychosis, there is not enough data on prevention if people are to use the drug earlier in life.

“We’re working back into people who don’t have clinical contact yet and see if we can identify anyone that early and change someone’s trajectory,” added Crocker.

While the legal use of marijuana is 19 and over, the research ethics board approved this study, as long as it remains confidential.

“Everything that is said is completely confidential and once it’s done, the interviews, the names, and all the contact information are stripped off of everything,” explained Crocker.

The study is ongoing and has 48 volunteers already, the team is going to continue looking for volunteers to participate in this study for the next year.

The research is expected to conclude in a few years.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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