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Health

Vets lobby to expand medical cannabis laws to include dogs, cats

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OTTAWA — Parliament Hill is going to the dogs today as veterinarians lobby MPs to authorize the use of medical cannabis for critters.

The vets are bringing five dogs to the Hill to draw attention to what they see as glaring omissions in the legalized regimes for medical and recreational marijuana.

The law does not allow veterinarians to prescribe pot for pets, even though preliminary research suggests it could be beneficial in treating pain, seizures, anxiety and other disorders — much as it is for humans.

Moreover, the law requires labels on cannabis products warning they be kept out of reach of children, but there’s no similar warning that they could be harmful to animals.

Dr. Sarah Silcox, president of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine, says her group has been told the omissions were likely “an oversight” that can be considered when the legalized cannabis regime is reviewed in three years.

But she wants more urgent action.

“For our patients, they age much faster than we do and this really isn’t an issue that can wait for a three-year review,” Silcox said in an interview.

Because vets can’t legally prescribe cannabinoids for animals, or even offer advice to pet owners on the most suitable products or dosages, Silcox said some people are taking it upon themselves to administer cannabis to their pets. They’re using products sold for human consumption or unregulated “black market” products marketed for animal use, but about which veterinarians have concerns about “safety and purity.”

“Veterinarians are able to prescribe almost any other drug, including things like fentanyl and other opioids and … prescription drugs that contain cannabis derivatives and yet we’re not able to authorize the use of cannabis itself,” Silcox said.

The prohibition on veterinary use of cannabinoids has made research into the potential benefits “challenging,” but Silcox said preliminary studies suggest positive benefits for managing pain from arthritis and other conditions, epilepsy, anxiety and general inflammatory conditions.

It is particularly useful for treating cats, who are more sensitive than dogs to the other pain medications currently used for animals, she said.

Silcox’s group and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have lobbied the government to authorize veterinary use of cannabinoids. Silcox said they’ve been told by the policy adviser to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor that it is not a priority at the moment, but can be considered when the Cannabis Act is reviewed in three years.

However, Silcox noted the government is in the process of reviewing cannabis regulations now in preparation for adding edibles and oils to the list of legal products next year. It would take only a “few small changes” to add vets to the medical practitioners authorized to prescribe cannabinoids and to change references to people to patients, covering both the human and animal variety, she said.

The Canadian Press


Community

Scott: Healthier weight while taking anti-psychotic meds

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photo of Scott

This story was originally published on the PCN website in May 2018.  

Scott: Healthier weight while taking anti-psychotic meds

My health issue is schizophrenia and the side effects associated with the anti-psychotic medication I take. I had a conversation with my family doctor about the bariatrics clinic at the hospital and he assessed my obesity and referred me to the Health Basics course. I had hoped to get control of my body weight because I have had chronic pain, injuries, and intense frustration with my physical abilities.

A major barrier to my mental concentration was the lack of structure regarding my knowledge around health. I had been advised to control my eating by family and friends but I felt that my weight would naturally sort itself out if I could just get my medications decreased. I had previously connected with a dietitian through AHS however I could not keep a food journal or make adjustments that she recommended.

In the Health Basics program, I committed to the group therapy process and began journaling for the first time. I increased the proportion of fruits and vegetables in my diet. I now plan snacks and focus on “in-control” eating. Further, I practice the 80/20 rule regarding the Healthy Road vs. Easy Street and this keeps my spirits up when I slack off. I simply remind myself that I can make a better choice in any moment to “save the day”.

The last I weighed myself, I had dropped fourteen pounds and my waist was quite a bit smaller. I am getting comments about my physique. I am working through the side effects of my medication with gratitude for the treatment team that helps me, and I am overall noticing less symptoms of depression. In addition, I am maintaining my active lifestyle and achieving the high level of performance that I demand from myself.

I recommend anyone needing weight loss and a healthier lifestyle to take the Health Basics course and attend and participate for yourself AND the others in the group. Make your nutrition a priority because I believe “you are what you eat”. Find a career that forces you to exercise at a high intensity. One big motivator to me is that I need to start a family and I believe that I can have more fun in life with a body that I am happy with.

I am on track to continue to be healthy. I eat enough fruits and vegetables. I continue to journal my food intake. I drink water as my main beverage. I stretch daily. I make my soccer referee job the priority in my career. I am currently participating in the sleep course at the PCN to make sure that I am improving other areas of my health as well.

Here are some other stories from Primary Care Network:

Finally the dam broke

Achieving Mental Health is an Everyday Task

About the Red Deer Primary Care Network

We (RDPCN) are a partnership between Family Doctors and Alberta Health Services. Health professionals such as psychologists, social workers, nurses and pharmacist work in clinics alongside family doctors.

In addition, programs and groups are offered at the RDPCN central location. This improves access to care, health promotion, chronic disease management and coordination of care.  RDPCN is proud of the patient care offered, the effective programs it has designed and the work it does with partners in health care and the community.

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Alberta

Province pumping millions into mental health supports for post-secondary students

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Representatives from the Student Counseling Office and Mental Health at NAIT, Kids Help Phone, United Way and members of Alberta Students’ Executive Council stood with Associate Minister Luan and Minister Nicolaides 

From the Province of Alberta

More mental health supports for students

Government is investing $22 million to deliver more mental health supports for post-secondary students.

Students at the 26 post-secondary institutions across Alberta will have more access to mental health and addiction crisis supports through text and chat, and professional counselling by phone. Those services will be supported by a new digital navigation and crisis hub that will link service providers, including United Way’s 211 service, helplines such as Kids Help Phone, HealthLink/811 and other distress lines.

“Our government is committed to eliminating barriers to mental health and addiction services for post-secondary students. Working together, we’ll make it easier for students to talk openly about mental health and ensure they have access to supports when they need them.”

Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

In addition, Budget 2019 continues to support a range of on-campus mental health services, including:

  • increased access to counsellors
  • early alert systems
  • peer support programs
  • awareness campaigns and mental health literacy
  • training for faculty, staff and students in suicide-prevention
  • helping others in distress
  • personal coping strategies

“One of the common themes I have heard from our students, from Day 1, is the need to strengthen mental health supports on campus. This initiative will improve access to mental health services and will make sure our students can find help when they need it. I am always listening to students, and this announcement demonstrates their advocacy pays off.”

Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education

On-campus services are supported by the Post-secondary Mental Health Grant of $7.6 million this year.

In addition, government is funding expansion of digital services by providing $6.75 million to Kids Help Phone to expand its 24-7, free, confidential and professional online and telephone counselling and volunteer-led text-based crisis support. Another $7.5 million will fund a new digital navigation and crisis hub that will link United Way’s 211 service to other helplines such as Kids Help Phone, HealthLink/811 and other distress lines.

“Kids Help Phone is pleased to be a part of this initiative that will help Albertans, particularly post-secondary students, connect to the services they need in a timely fashion. Navigating the mental health system is complex and we are proud to work with partners to ensure all Albertans get the help they need, when they need it most.”

Katherine Hay, CEO, Kids Help Phone

“More than 500,000 Albertans access at least one mental health service each year, with many others unable to get help when they need it. With this partnership, Albertans will have access to information and help at any time no matter where they live in the province, allowing anyone to connect when they need to most.”

Rob Yager, president and CEO, United Way Alberta Capital Region

“Mental health is critical to the success and well-being of everyone. In order to thrive inside the classroom and beyond, mental health needs to be supported.”

Glenn Feltham, president and CEO, NAIT
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december, 2019

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