As Canada approaches its first month of marijuana being legalized, a former pot user is asking Canadians to err on the side of caution before sparking up.
“It has a great kickstart, it commences at a beautiful level, but it becomes highly addictive,” says 42-year-old Raza Butt. The man originally from Toronto, checked himself into the Thousand Islands Wellness and Treatment Centre near Gananoque, Ont., before legalization day.
He began smoking marijuana in his late 30s when illegal pot dispensaries began popping up all over Toronto.
“My consumption rate for cannabis was approximately an ounce over just two weeks,” says Butt.
The former pot smoker says initially, it was a good feeling, but claims as he continued smoking different strains, he became more dependent on the drug.
“I realized that I had a real genuine dependency for it, and it put me in a state of mind that was different than what I was initially.”
Owner of the 1000 Islands Wellness Centre, Chris Fagan says even before the legalization date was upon us, he noticed an uptick in his clients checking in.
“I used to see two per cent, now I’m seeing over the last year, around 8-10 per cent of my business,” says Fagan.
Fagan started the rehabilitation centre more than four years ago, after overcoming his own addiction problems following a serious car accident.
He says after treating a number of patients seeking help for pot addiction, he noticed a trend with the symptoms.
“They can’t function without it, they can’t go to work, they can’t go to the grocery store. They have to smoke to be able to function,” says Fagan.
While there are arguments from both sides — one claiming pot isn’t addictive — others saying it is, Kimberly Mask, an addictions counselor at the centre, says the feelings their patients have are common with people who feel they need pot.
“They feel like that’s their normal state of functioning, so their brain chemistry is actually changed and that has become their normal,” says Mask.
The use of cannabis has been shown to provide therapeutic effects to help treat chronic pain, nausea and anxiety.
Studies have also shown that the dependence for marijuana is lower than alcohol, cocaine and opiates.
Mask says their concern is that people should educate themselves of the potential risks with the use of marijuana.
“I really hope that people are informed of what this substance can do to their bodies and how it can become an addiction as well.”
Experts hope now that the drug is a government-regulated product, more studies can be done on the effects of marijuana.