Cannabis (marijuana) is a drug that is made up of the leaves, flowers, and buds of the cannabis plant. People may use cannabis for medical or non-medical reasons.
THC and CBD are the two main cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that are studied, though there are more than 100. THC affects how you think, act, and feel. It can make you feel "high." CBD can help you feel relaxed without the "high".
There are many types, or strains, of cannabis. Each strain has a different THC-to-CBD ratio. Because of this, some strains have different effects than others. For example, if a strain of cannabis has a higher ratio of THC to CBD, it's more likely to affect your judgment, coordination, and decision making.
There are several ways to use cannabis. You can smoke, vapourize, eat, drink, swallow, or absorb it through your body tissues.
Smoking or vaping
You can smoke cannabis as a dried plant or inhale it as a vapour (sometimes called vaping). If you choose to smoke or vapourize cannabis, start with 1 or 2 puffs. You should feel the full effects of the cannabis within 30 minutes.
When smoking or vaping cannabis, choose products with 100mg/g (10%) or less THC. This will lower your risk of having an unwanted reaction (called an adverse effect). Look for the amount of THC on the label of the container.
It’s important to know that inhaling any type of smoke can be harmful. Even though vaping may be less harmful than smoking, there are still health risks and harms from contact with the chemicals in vaping products.
Eating, drinking or swallowing
You can eat cannabis in foods or drink it as a brewed tea or in other beverages. These products are sometimes called edibles. You can also swallow cannabis as an oil or in capsules, or spray it in your mouth or under your tongue. These cannabis products are sometimes called extracts.
When eating, drinking or swallowing cannabis, choose products that have 2.5 mg of THC or less, especially if you are a new user or only use cannabis once in a while. Look for the amount of THC on the label of the container.
It is important to know that:
Cannabis products that are put directly on your body, such as your skin, hair, and nails, are called topicals. Topicals may be a cream, lotion, oil, or come in other forms.
In general, these products don’t make you feel “high”. At this time, there isn’t much research on topical cannabis products.
When you use cannabis, you may be putting your health at risk.
People often use cannabis for the way it makes them feel. Using it may make them:
But it may also cause unwanted side effects, such as:
How soon and how long you may feel the effects of cannabis depends on several things, including how it was taken. For example, when cannabis is smoked, the effects can usually be felt within seconds after inhaling. On the other hand, when cannabis is eaten, it can take several hours to feel the full effect. Since the effects aren't felt right away, people may think they need more and use too much. To avoid this, start with small amounts until you know how edibles affect you.
How much cannabis you've used and how long you've been taking it can also affect how your body responds to it. You may feel the effects of cannabis for hours after you use it.
Long-term regular use of cannabis may lead to problems such as:
Using cannabis is not safe for you or your baby. If used during pregnancy, it can harm a developing baby (fetus). It can pass through the placenta to your growing baby. THC can then build up in the baby's brain and fat cells, and can stay in their body for weeks.
Cannabis can cause problems for you during your pregnancy and when it is time for your baby to be born. It may also affect your baby both before and after he or she is born. These risks get higher, the more cannabis is consumed.
Cannabis may cause:
Using cannabis before the age of 25 can affect a young person's brain development, as well as emotional and social development. Cannabis affects the parts of the brain that deal with judgement, decision making, and emotions. This can make it harder for young people to think, learn, reason, remember, solve problems, and make good choices. They may be less able to control their emotions and actions. For example; they may engage in risky behaviours like driving when “high”, having unsafe sex, binge drinking, or using other drugs.
Young people who use cannabis regularly may be more likely to have anxiety and depression than others who don’t. They may have more problems in school, relationships, and work.
Some young people who regularly use cannabis may develop cannabis use disorder. They may find it hard to control their use and keep using cannabis even though it's having harmful effects on their lives.
Some people who regularly use cannabis may develop cannabis use disorder. This can range from mild to severe (dependency). They may find it hard to control their use and keep using cannabis even though it's having harmful effects on their lives.
The risk of cannabis use disorder is higher in people who:
People who use cannabis often and then quit may have withdrawal symptoms. These include anxiety, trouble sleeping, and intense cravings for the drug.
Using cannabis isn't risk-free. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick or injured.
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines for the full list.
Current as of: April 9, 2019
Author: Adapted with permission of Healthwise ®
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