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Centre de recherche
Wednesday, March 23 2016

Cannabis and youth health – Recent findings and implications for Canadian drug policy

A full day of scientific presentations opened to the public to inform the debate on cannabis legalization in Canada

MONTRÉAL, Wednesday, March 23, 2016 – Considering the current debate about the legalization of cannabis in Canada, the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center, affiliated with Université de Montréal, will hold a day of presentations on the theme ''Cannabis and youth health: What have we learned from science?'' on Tuesday, April 5, from 8:45 AM to 3:15 PM, in the Justine Lacoste-Beaubien amphitheatre at CHU Sainte-Justine, and will be livestreamed over the web. The audience may ask their questions at the venue, online or on Twitter (@CoventureLab, #CDebate2016).

Who's invited?

Counsellors, clinicians, students, decision-makers and the general public are welcome.

Topics and full program

Full program

  • Cannabis use and brain maturation during adolescence
  • Cognitive, academic and drug use outcomes following adolescent onset cannabis use
  • Early onset of cannabis use and psychosis risk
  • Brain volume differences in alcohol, cocaine and cannabis dependent adults
  • Youth relevant policies in the context of decriminalization
  • Evidence-based interventions for young cannabis misusers
  • Medical marijuana in pediatric epilepsy management

Guest speakers

Louise Arseneault, PhD, King’s College London

Louise Arseneault, PhD, is Professor of Developmental Psychology at King’s College London, the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. Her research focuses on the study of harmful behaviours such as violence and substance dependence, their developmental origins, their inter-connections with mental health, and their consequences for victims. In the early stages of her career, she examined harmful behaviours as a developmental outcome, primarily in adolescents and in adults. Over time, the focus of her research broadened to include harmful behaviours as causes of psychiatric disorders. She has taken a developmental approach to investigate how the consequences of violence begin in childhood and persist to mild-life, by studying bullying victimisation and child maltreatment. Her research aims are to answer questions relevant to psychology and psychiatry by harnessing and combining 3 different research approaches: developmental research, epidemiological methods and genetically-sensitive designs. Her work incorporates biological as well as social measurements.

Josiane Bourque, MSc, Université de Montréal

Josiane Bourque, MSc, is a PhD student at the University of Montreal under the supervision of Patricia Conrod, PhD (2013-). Her research interests focuses on brain and cognitive markers of psychosis at risk. It aims at early identification of adolescents struggling with psychosis symptoms and suggest preventive interventions in this population. More specifically, it focuses on the mechanisms by which cannabis use in adolescence is a risk factor for psychotic symptoms and how emotional symptoms (anxiety and depression) are involved in this association.

Lionel Carmant, MD, FRCP(C), CHU Sainte-Justine and Université de Montréal

Lionel Carmant, MD, FRCP(C), research focuses on the mechanisms of seizure-induced brain damage and how to prevent it. He uses both clinical research and basic sciences to study the mechanisms involved with the use of novel antiepileptics, the use of surgery, and the study of the neuropsychological impact of seizures in human development. In the laboratory, he uses both in vivo and in vitro studies to develop new possible treatments for the control of seizures and seizure-induced brain damage, but also to understand the pathophysiology of such a complex process. 

Natalie Castellanos Ryan, PhD, Université de Montréal

Natalie Castellanos Ryan is an Assistant Professor at the École de Psychoéducation, Université de Montréal. Previously, she was a research fellow at the Centre de recherche du CHU Sainte-Justine and Psychiatry Department, Université de Montréal (2010-2014). She completed her PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London (2009), where much of her work centered on the implementation and evaluation of a prevention and early intervention approach targeting personality risk factors for substance use and other behavioral problems in adolescence. Currently, her research focuses on investigating the common variance and risk factors shared across mental health disorders, particularly externalizing disorders, as well as their prevention. More specific interests include how pubertal and cognitive development and deficits in self-regulation predict substance use problems and comorbid psychopathology in youth, and how personality and environmental factors are implicated in these associations.

Patricia Conrod, PhD, CHU Sainte-Justine and Université de Montréal

Patricia Conrod, PhD, is researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine, full porfessor in the Department of Psychiatry of Université de Montréal and chairlholder of the Dr. Julien/Marcelle and Jean Coutu Foundation Chair in Community Social Pediatrics. Her research focuses on cognitive, personality and biological risk factors for the development and maintenance of drug abuse and the factors that mediate the co-occurrence of addictive behaviours with other mental disorders. Her experimental research focuses on factors that make people more susceptible to seek out behavioral reinforcement from drugs of abuse. More recently, her research findings have led to the development of new approaches to substance abuse treatment and prevention that target personality risk factors and the underlying motivational determinants of drug use in subtypes of substance misusers. Patricia Conrod was a member of the King’s College London Research Ethics Committee (2005-2010) and Associate Editor of Current Drug Abuse Reviews. She is consultant to the UN and the European Commission on guidelines for drug and alcohol prevention and has published extensively on this issue.

Martin Gignac, MD, FRCP(C), Université de Montréal

Martin Gignac, MD, FRCP(C), is a psychiatrist in charge of outpatient severe behavior disorders in adolescence. He is also director of the department of psychiatry and chief of child psychiatry and adolescent section. He presented several scientific conferences and helped organize numerous conferences and national and international conferences. Martin Gignac carried out several research and published articles and book chapters in the field of pediatric psychopharmacology.

Scott Mackey, PhD, University of Vermont

Scott Mackey, PhD, has obtained both an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Neurology & Neurosurgery from McGill University. His graduate thesis on the anatomy of the ventral frontal cortex was supervised by Michael Petrides at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Deciding to combine his interest in anatomy with in vivo neuroimaging, Scott Mackey pursued a post-doctoral opportunity in the lab of Martin Paulus at the University of California, San Diego examining different populations of stimulant users with structural and functional MRI. More recently, Mackey was recruited to the lab of Hugh Garavn at the University of Vermont to coordinate the Addiction working group of the ENIGMA project, an international “big data” collaboration that combines neuroimaging phenotypes with genomic association studies. The ever expanding Addiction working group has sites in 14 countries spanning nine time zones which together possess substance use related neuroimaging and genomic data on over 10,000 subjects.

Jean-François Morin, Université de Montréal

Jean-François Morin is a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology. His research interests focuses on the interaction of adolescent cognitive development, personnality profile and substance use habits.

Tomas Paus, PhD, Université of Toronto

Tomas Paus, PhD, is the Tanenbaum Chair in Population Neuroscience at Baycrest, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and the Dr. John and Consuela Phelan Scholar at Child Mind Institute in New York. His work integrates epidemiology, neuroscience and genetics – through a new discipline of population neuroscience - in the pursuit of knowledge relevant for child and youth mental health. The work published by Tomas Paus and his colleagues have been well received by peers, being cited in over 29,000 publications. In 2013, Springer published his book Population Neuroscience. Paus received the Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award, Gold Medal of the Masaryk University, is an elected member of the International Neuropsychology Symposium and an elected fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, serves as Associate Editor of the Human Brain Mapping and Social Neuroscience, and as a member of several Scientific Advisory Boards in Europe and North America.

Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, University of California 

Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, is a Professor of Health Policy in the School of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. She holds a joint appointment in the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine. Schmidt is also Co-Director of the Community Engagement and Health Policy Program for UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. She received her PhD training in sociology at UC Berkeley and while there, completed doctoral coursework in public health, and also holds a masters degree in clinical social work.

Schmidt's central goal is to bridge the worlds of biomedical research, clinical practice and population health in ways that help us better understand some of the most pressing issues in health and health care today: the widening of health disparities and the societal of regulation risk factors in chronic disease. Substantive areas of her research include addiction, poverty, obesity-related metabolic disease—all burdens that are profoundly influenced by the organization of care and the social environment. A hallmark of her research is blended methodologies: she incorporates historical-archival, ethnographic and quantitative methods into most of her studies as a way to cross-validate findings and better interpret their meaning. Since its inception, her research program has been stably funded through awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in combination with funding from private foundations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Commonwealth Fund, Atlantic Philanthropies and the Laura & John Arnold Foundation.

Format of the presentations

The duration of the presentations is 20 minutes. Each is followed by a 10-minute discussion period in which the audience is encouraged to participate and virtual participants can send in their questions and comments. Presentation are in French or English. This event is financially supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Why this conference day?

“Science must inform decision-makers in the debate surrounding cannabis legalization”, says researcher and clinical psychologist Patricia Conrod, PhD, who leads the organization of the event. The scientist is concerned that the focus on legalizing cannabis use for adults has distracted Canadians from making evidence-based decisions for young people. Under a decriminalizing policy, cannabis will remain illegal for young people, leaving them with the same strategies that were determined to be unhelpful for adults and led to policy change. “If we are going to revise drug policy in this country, we should also take a close look at the policies that are (and are not) in place to protect young people from the harms caused by drugs in our society.”


Until March 30

Sabrina Diab, sabrina.diab@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca, 514-345-4391, ext. 4071

Live streaming access and Twitter handle


Persons mentioned in the text
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Updated on 3/30/2016
Created on 3/23/2016
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