New CAMH youth-developed guide offers science-based info on cannabis use

Canada NewsWire

TORONTO, Oct. 10, 2018 /CNW/ - What's the best way to connect with young people on the topic of cannabis use?

CAMH's Youth Engagement Team has an answer, in the form of a new pocket-sized guide called #TheBluntTruth. This youth-developed guide provides science-based facts on cannabis, using a conversational tone to explain the health and safety risks of cannabis and 10 recommendations to reduce these risks.

"There is so much value in combining scientific knowledge and the expertise of young people with lived experience," says Karleigh Darnay, Coordinator, Youth Engagement Initiative at the Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health at CAMH.  The youth-driven approach brings a level of trustworthiness that comes from peer-to-peer education, she says, while also enabling a balance of helpful information with elements of humour to create a more engaging, accessible resource.

The guide's evidence-based approach includes the scientific rationale behind each recommendation, so that young people who decide to use cannabis can make informed choices. The guide can also help in having conversations about cannabis with youth.

The 10 recommendations come from Canada'sLower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG), a research initiative led by Dr. Benedikt Fischer, Senior Scientist in CAMH's Institute for Mental Health Policy Research. The original scientific article, published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2017 systematically reviewed all the research and outlined the health risks of cannabis as well as recommendations for risk reduction.

Given the high levels of cannabis use among younger Canadians – 29 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 reported using cannabis over the past year - there was a clear need to make the guidelines accessible to a younger age group. Once cannabis use is legalized on October 17 in Canada, however, it will still be illegal to sell cannabis to those under the age of 19 or 18, depending on the province.

Promoting healthy decision-making

"Both the language, and the way messages are delivered, can have a profound impact on youth," says Gloria Chaim, Associate Director, Child, Youth and Family Services and Head, Community Engagement and Partnerships at the McCain Centre. "By providing youth with accessible, accurate information we can promote healthy decision-making that will promote safety and reduce harm."

Darnay and two CAMH youth engagement facilitators, Jackie Relihan and Jessica Rong, came up with the format and design of #TheBluntTruth. They wrote the content and led the process of getting feedback from other youth, including those with experience using cannabis. Darnay says this input was crucial to ensure that the format was engaging and the content provided the kind of information that was helpful in making good decisions.

"I hope that youth see the resource and are interested in learning more, and that people who work with youth find useful information that they can share, or use to start a conversation," she says.

The LRCUG are an initiative of the Canadian Research Initiative on Substance Misuse (CRISM), which was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please follow @CAMHnews or @CAMHResearch on Twitter 

SOURCE Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

View original content: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/October2018/10/c6095.html

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