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Legalize Drugs Says UVIC Researcher

By Hempology | March 29, 2007

Regulation Of Marijuana, Ecstasy Would Reduce Youth Death Toll, He Says

Marijuana and ecstasy pose a serious health threat to youth, but by making these drugs legal we’d be better able to regulate and control their use, a UVic researcher said yesterday.

“We’re doing a much better job of regulating tobacco than we are the illegal drugs,” Dr. Tim Stockwell, a UVic psychology professor and director with the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., said in an interview.

“The bad news is this is a terrible problem, but the good news is we do at least know something now about what can be done to help.”

Stockwell is one of the authors of an article published yesterday in the prestigious U.K. medical journal, The Lancet, which says a third of young people’s deaths worldwide stem from the use of alcohol and illicit drugs.

An estimated 330,000 deaths among young people can be attributable to substance abuse, Stockwell said. Two-thirds to three-quarters of those who die are males.

Stockwell said more education needs to be aimed at youth on how to use drugs safely, “and that often means not using them.”

Substance abuse will continue despite the health warnings, he said. “We also need to regulate the availability and price of legal drugs.

“We may need to think about making some borderline illegal drugs, like cannabis and ecstasy, legal so they can be better regulated and controlled.”

Substance abuse among youths can lead to an increased risk of disease or death later, the researchers found.

“Women are more likely to suffer liver damage,” Stockwell said.

“Acute pancreatitis can be brought on by a really heavy drinking session. There’s alcoholic overdose and poisoning that can be fatal. GHB can be fatal on its own, as most people know, but alcohol is always there as a background drug most people use.”

The good news is harm-reduction programs are proving effective in stopping youth from abusing drugs and alcohol.

The researchers found that:

- – In many countries, overdoses of alcohol and other drugs compete with road crashes as leading causes of death in young people

- – Alcohol causes 31.5 per cent of all deaths in those between ages 15 and 29

- – Binge drinking or drug use is especially common among young people

- – In 2000, substance abuse led to 9.8 per cent of disease among those ages 15 to 29

- – Substance abuse among children and adolescents can impede healthy development of the body, brain and behavior.

Strategies that include random breath testing and graduated driver licensing can reduce vehicle accidents, the researchers found. “Improved enforcement of drinking-driving laws has been linked to reductions in youth suicide and risky sexual behavior,” the article says.

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