Ontario Medical Association President, Dr Nadia Alam, made a contentious statement on CBC Radio’s London Morning on 4 October this year. London Morning, hosted by Julianne Hazlewood, is a morning radio show that discusses everything happening in London, Ontario, from news and current affairs to traffic and weather. Thus, many people heard Dr Alam’s statements and the things that she said about recreational cannabis use caused a lot of pain, distress and offence amongst cannabis users as well as experts in the field who disagreed with her. In order to rectify her statements and subdue the situation which unfolded as a result, she will provide anyone who took offence more than just an apology.
The statement she made that caused offence regarded the recreational use of cannabis. She established essentially that there were hidden dangers of cannabis use, and said specifically that it was a gateway drug. She was on the radio to discuss the topic in light of Canada’s legislation of its use as of 17 October 2018. Calling it a gateway drug has many specific connotations, but it mainly implies that people using cannabis are more susceptible to using other, more addictive drugs, such as cocaine. This notion is a theory, rather than a medically proven reaction, thus it was a risky statement to make and the backlash that it caused is somewhat unsurprising. Especially considering the number of people who are supportive of Canada’s decision for legislation. Dr Alam also said it could lead to anxiety, antisocial behaviour, and addiction which would lead to the use of more seriously addictive drugs over time.
Dr Alam was corrected by numerous physicians, namely Dr Andrea Sereda, who explained her errors, and Dr Alam has quite quickly accepted this mistake. Many people called into the radio station, which resulted in two more shows occurring where the topic was further explored and the facts thoroughly checked. Dr Sereda, a physician at the London InterCommunity Health Centre, has expertise with patients suffering from addiction in disadvantaged communities and explained that often, the only “gateway” experience occurring is the triggering trauma and poverty that led to the initial consumption of cannabis, rather than the cannabis itself.
Dr Alam does not, however, deny that there may still be detriments and risks to using cannabis recreationally. She holds that while her statements regarding it being a gateway drug are false, unproven and inaccurate, abusing it can still be extremely damaging and worrisome. She has responded in a way that is respectful and acknowledges the facts that she has been presented with. Overall, she appears to be appreciative of physicians who have helped her rectify her mistakes and calm the tension she stirred.
Dr Alam not only accepts that she made a sweeping statement previously, but she is eager to rectify it and being particularly proactive in finding a solution for the disruption that was caused. On top of the apology, she is offering people who suffered in any way emotionally from her statements a prescription of forty oxycodone pills. The satisfaction of those offended is of a significant amount of importance to her, and she is therefore willing to up the prescription and dosage if people are not completely content. It seems an extreme response for a medical professional to take, but it is something she deems a necessary step towards remedying her mistake.
Ontario Medical Association pride themselves on their desire to provide the community with reliable information, treating everyone with respect and providing perspective. It seems fitting that they have been so thorough in their apology, albeit disappointing that the error of judgement occurred in the first place. All those involved have taken their roles as knowledge-providers very seriously and it is encouraging to know that such a thorough exploration of relevant topics is taking place in response to the legislation.