Vaccarino Lent Expertise to National Report on Adolescent Marijuana Use


University of Guelph president Franco Vaccarino is one of two principal editors of a new national report on the effects of early and frequent marijuana use during adolescence.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) released the report today during a news conference in Toronto.

Vaccarino, a professor in U of G’s Department of Psychology and an internationally recognized expert on addiction, co-chairs CCSA’s scientific advisory council.

“As the science continues to evolve in this area, it is important to be proactive and use the latest evidence to guide and inform our policies and practices,” Vaccarino said.

The Effects of Cannabis Use During Adolescence is aimed at increasing understanding and creating more effective drug use prevention, intervention and treatment programs for youth.

This is the sixth instalment of CCSA’s Substance Abuse in Canada research series, which was initiated in 2005.

“This report is important because our young people consume more marijuana than in any other developed country in the world,” said Rita Notarandrea, CCSA’s interim CEO.

She said earlier CCSA research found misconceptions among Canadian youth about marijuana use, including beliefs that it’s harmless or improves focus at school.

“The evidence reviewed in this report clearly outlines that these perceptions are, without a doubt, false,” Notarandrea said.

Among the key findings:

  • Marijuana remains the most commonly used illegal drug among Canadian youth between ages 15 and 24;
  • Early and frequent marijuana use can interfere with developmental changes in the brain, including some long-lasting effects;
  • Marijuana use impairs cognitive and motor functions; and
  • Marijuana can be addictive, especially when use begins in adolescence.

“Fortunately, the report also presents promising information about how we can better detect problematic use, and employ effective prevention and treatment options,” Vaccarino said.

The report says that enhanced research is needed on the scope of the problem, the motivations of young users, and potential medications for treating problematic marijuana use.

It calls for immediate action in areas like marijuana-impaired driving, deemed to be a serious public safety concern.

It also recommends enhanced tools for health-care professionals so they are better equipped to detect problematic use and intervene quickly.

A full copy of the report is available online.

Previously, Vaccarino contributed to the development of the World Health Organization’s first-ever authoritative report on the biological basis of addiction,“Neuroscience of Psychoactive Substance Use and Dependence.”

In 2014, he was named a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, considered among the highest honours for health sciences researchers.