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Lower your risk of harm

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​There are risks to using cannabis. But there are ways to lower your risk of harm.

Know the health effects

All forms of cannabis use have health risks​. The only way to completely avoid these risks is by choosing not to use cannabis.

Avoid using cannabis if you have a personal or family history of mental health problems or substance use problems.

If you choose to use cannabis:

  • delay use until you are 25 or older
    • The earlier in life you begin using cannabis, the higher your risk of serious health problems.
  • avoid smoking it, as the smoke can damage your lungs
    • Other forms of cannabis use, such as vaping or edibles, are less harmful for your lungs but still have health risks.
    • Avoid breathing in deeply or holding your breath as this may cause lung damage.
  • limit your use as much as possible, such as 1 day a week or only on weekends
    • Using cannabis often is linked to a higher risk of health problems.
  • ​avoid combining cannabis with alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs as this makes it more likely you will have unwanted effects.

Know how cannabis can react with your medicines

Cannabis can react with your medicines (called an interaction) and affect your health. Medicines that interact with cannabis include:

  • Pain medicines
  • Heart medicines and blood thinners
  • Sleeping pills
  • Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicines
  • Antibiotic and antifungal medicines
  • Allergy, cold, and flu medicines
  • Heartburn medicines
  • Anti-seizure medicines
  • Drugs to treat HIV/AIDS

​Before you try cannabis, talk to your healthcare provider about any medicines you use and how they might interact with cannabis.

Don’t use cannabis and drive

Don't drive or operate machinery after using cannabis. Also, don’t ride in a vehicle with someone who has recently used cannabis.

If you use cannabis while driving, you may:

  • be less able to use your judgment or make decisions
  • have less coordination
  • have a higher risk of being in a car accident (collision)

If you use cannabis, make a plan to get home safely. Have a designated driver or take a taxi or bus.

Know what you’re using

It’s important to know what type of cannabis you’re using and what’s in it. Understand how soon you may feel the effects of the product you use, and how long those effects may last. Check the product label for this information.

  • Choose products that have low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or a higher amount of cannabidiol (CBD). Learn more about THC and CBD.
    • Always read the label of any products you're thinking about trying.
    • There are many different types and strengths of cannabis that can have different effects.
  • Don't use synthetic cannabis products, such as K2 and Spice.
    • These drugs are stronger than cannabis and can have dangerous side effects. These include seizures, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, and in rare cases, death.
    • These synthetic drugs don't have any cannabis in them.
  • Always buy cannabis from a legal source. Learn more about legal cannabis in Alberta.

Keep others safe

If you use cannabis, it’s important to protect others from harmful effects.

  • Don’t use cannabis when you’re around children.
    • Cannabis can make it harder for you to make decisions, respond to your children’s needs, or react in an emergency.
  • Store cannabis in a safe and secure place (such as a locked box).
    • This is especially important for edible cannabis, which can be easily mistaken for regular food or drinks.
    • Make sure that children and pets can't get to them.
  • Protect others from second-hand smoke or vapour.
    • It’s unsafe to smoke or vape with children or others around.
    • Second-hand cannabis smoke can cause babies and young children to get sick. It can make them less alert and affect their understanding and judgment.
    • If you're around someone smoking cannabis in a closed space with poor air flow, you may feel some effects of the drug.
    • Think about using oils and edibles instead of smoking or vaping cannabis.
    • Learn more about ​smoking and vaping exposures (second-hand and third-hand smoke and aerosol)

If a child comes into contact with cannabis, call:

More information

Visit 10 ways to reduce risks to your health when using cannabis (PDF)​ for more information about lowering your risk of harm from cannabis.

Current as of: July 25, 2023

Author: Addiction and Mental Health, Alberta Health Services