Pediatricians advise health-care providers to get comfortable discussing cannabis

The Canadian Paediatric Society is recommending that health-care providers educate themselves about cannabis so they can provide guidance to their patients

A doctor talks to a young female patient

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The Canadian Paediatric Society issued a “practice point” document today, advising health-care providers to educate themselves about cannabis so they can provide guidance and accurate information to their patients.

“While cannabis use among adolescents is frequent in Canada, youth do recognize the potential harms, and increasingly expect knowledgeable health care providers to discuss substance use in everyday practice,” the paper’s abstract reads.

The paper cites a 2019 survey that showed 44 percent of Canadian adolescents between 16 and 19 years of age had used cannabis during the previous year. “Because one in six adolescents who experiments with cannabis goes on to misuse it, appraising their willingness to change risky behaviours is a key aspect of care, along with supportive goal-setting and helping families,” the CPS guidance document reads.

It includes a list of “the 8 As for addressing cannabis use with adolescents”, which are:

  1. Assure patient privacy and confidentiality
  2. Ask about cannabis use, after obtaining permission to do so
  3. Answer all patient questions, and support healthy choices
  4. Assess the impacts of cannabis use, by applying a screening tool
  5. Appraise patient willingness to change or reduce cannabis use
  6. Assist with specific goal-setting and a realistic time frame
  7. Arrange for a follow up within weeks, and regularly thereafter
  8. Acknowledge parental needs and concerns, when these arise

In a June 4 CPS press release, Dr. Christina Grant, an adolescent-medicine specialist at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, and co-chair of the CPS Cannabis Project Advisory Group, is quoted as saying “Respect for the patient is at the heart of this guidance. We want teens to see their health care provider as a trusted source of information and a partner in their decision-making.”

In addition to the guidance document, the Canadian Paediatric Society issued a visual guide to cannabis and information for parents. All the material can be accessed at the CPS website.

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