New Brunswick

Drug rehab centre prepares for legalization of cannabis

Cannabis is more likely to be used as a gateway to other drugs once it becomes legal next Wednesday, a youth addictions counsellor from Portage Atlantic predicts.

More youth are being treated for psychosis caused by cannabis, says Portage Atlantic addictions counsellor

Marijuana will be legal across Canada next Wednesday. (CBC)

Cannabis is more likely to be used as a gateway to other drugs once it becomes legal next Wednesday, a youth addictions counsellor from Portage Atlantic predicts. 

Luc Desjardins, the program director at the residential addiction rehabilitation centre, said legalization of cannabis could affect people who don't know they have an addictive personality and could become addicted to marijuana or other drugs.

"A lot of the youth do tell us [that] before going to school they need to smoke a joint," he said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton. "To be capable to sleep at night, they need to smoke a joint … we're talking about an addiction. There's no doubt about that."

At any given time, he said, between 40 and 45 young people are at the Portage Atlantic rehab centre south of Sussex, and all of them have used cannabis. This use led some of them to move on to harder drugs such as crystal meth, Desjardins said. 

Everyday, he sees devastating consequences of cannabis abuse, he said. 

Desjardins said cannabis is being used by youth 10 or 12 years old and can lead to a slip in grades in school, the sale of personal belongings for drug money, theft from parents, and crime.

Cannabis is drug of choice

"We know the damage it can cause to a family," he said.

He said youth's drug of choice is cannabis because it's easier to obtain than alcohol, and Desjardins doesn't expect drug dealers to stop selling the drug once it becomes legal.

Over the past seven years, he said, some young people at the centre have needed treatment for psychosis caused by the use of cannabis.

"It's not really the part that it's going to become legal that worries me," he said. "It's the damage it's already doing with youth."   

Luc Desjardins is the program manager at Portage Atlantic, a non-profit organization that operates a residential drug addiction rehabilitation centre for New Brunswick youth between the ages of 14 and 21. (CBC)

More needs to be done

The legal age to consume cannabis will be 19 in New Brunswick.

Portage Atlantic is ready for when pot becomes legal, Desjardins said, but he expects an increase in people using the drug, and more needs to be done to help organizations deal with the fallout.

"We do need more funding to be capable to give a better service to the people that will ask for long-term treatment," he said. 

With files from Information Morning Fredericton