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A teen holds rolling papers with cannabis in them and on the table
June 4, 2020

Get comfortable talking about cannabis, pediatricians advise

Parents and adolescents are concerned about the effects and potential harms of cannabis, and health care providers are increasingly expected to provide guidance and information about substance use with their young patients. New guidance from the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) gives them the tools to do so.

Timely, compassionate care

“Respect for the patient is at the heart of this guidance,” said Dr. Christina Grant, an adolescent medicine specialist at McMaster Children’s Hospital. “We want teens to see their health care provider as a trusted source of information and a partner in their decision-making.”

A 2019 survey showed that nearly half of Canadian adolescents between 16 and 19 years of age had used cannabis during the previous year. Since one in six youths who use cannabis will go on to misuse it, making timely, compassionate guidance a regular part of adolescent medicine is an important public health initiative.

“Cannabis is the most common substance for youth to seek substance abuse treatment for,” said Dr. Grant, co-Chair of the CPS Cannabis Project Advisory Group. “By normalizing a conversation between adolescents and their health care providers, we hope to reduce the number of cases requiring that level of care.”

Ask permission to discuss cannabis use

Recommendations for clinicians include:

  • Assure patient of confidentiality and ask permission to discuss cannabis use
  • Answer all patient questions honestly, to the best of your abilities
  • Assess possible impacts of cannabis use on family life, school, work and personal relationships
  • Collaborate with the patient to set specific and realistic goals
  • Arrange regular follow-up with patients using cannabis
  • Acknowledge parental needs and concerns about cannabis when they arise

Cannabis information for doctors and parents

Two clinical tools, including a visual guide to cannabis, and information for parents accompany the guidance document. All material can be accessed at www.cps.ca/en/cannabis.

This guidance is being published in a special issue of the journal Paediatrics & Child Health, which will also include articles for primary care providers on cannabis and breastfeeding, edibles, and cannabis vaping. Funding for this project was provided by Health Canada.

Related information – 2018 video with Dr. Grant: