Cannabis can Affect Your Health
Most people who use cannabis occasionally will not experience negative consequences to their health over time. However, some people will experience harm, especially people under 25 and those who use every day or a few times a week. Not using cannabis is the best way to avoid potential risks to your health.
Cannabis is a plant that has hundreds of chemicals. Some of these chemicals are called cannabinoids, including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is psychoactive, meaning it affects your brain to create a “high” feeling, while CBD is non-psychoactive.
Cannabis can affect people differently. It can make you feel happy, relaxed and talkative, or it may cause unpleasant effects that can include confusion, sleepiness, anxiety, fear, panic, paranoia, delusions or hallucinations.
Leaves and buds from the cannabis plant can be smoked or vaped. Cannabis can also be used to make oils and waxes that are either smoked, vaped, or consumed by eating or drinking.
Some research shows that the CBD (cannabidiol) found in cannabis may help treat specific medical conditions. Hastings Prince Edward Public Health encourages anyone who is considering the use of cannabis for medical purposes to talk with a health care practitioner and to not self-medicate or access cannabis from the Ontario Cannabis Store for medical purposes.
Know how Cannabis Affects You
There is still a lot to learn about cannabis. Here are a few things to know to help you keep your mind and body safe and healthy:
- The effects of eating or drinking cannabis take longer to feel and last longer than smoking or vaping. Different strains of cannabis, and the way you use it, can have different effects. The effects of smoking or vaping cannabis can be felt within minutes and can last up to six hours. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to feel the effects from eating or drinking cannabis. These effects can last up to 12 hours.
- Cannabis smoke can be harmful to your lungs. Inhaling any kind of smoke can harm your lungs. Burning cannabis and rolling papers produce smoke that has the same harmful chemicals and carcinogens as the smoke caused by burning cigarettes. These harmful chemicals are made by combustion and are not found in the cannabis plant. Smoking cannabis often can lead to chronic bronchitis, which is a cough that doesn’t go away, lots of mucus and wheezing. Smoking cannabis can also lead to more infections in your lungs, like pneumonia.
- Cannabis use can lead to dependence. Regular cannabis use can lead to psychological and physical dependence. The risk for dependence is higher for frequent users and people under 25. If you are dependent, you can experience unpleasant feelings called withdrawal symptoms when you reduce how much you use or stop using completely.
- Cannabis can lead to mental health problems. Using cannabis can increase the risk of experiencing psychosis and schizophrenia, especially if you are a teenager, use everyday or almost everyday, or someone in your family has, or had, these conditions.
- Cannabis impairs your ability to drive safely. Cannabis impairs the skills everyone needs to drive safely, like judgement, quick response time, attention and coordination. Nobody should use cannabis and drive. For more information visit canada.ca/dontdrivehigh.
Using cannabis can come with risks, especially for people who are under 25, use often, or use high levels of THC. These tips can help you make a responsible choice that considers your mental health, physical health, and safety.
Have more cannabis-free days
What to know: Using cannabis every day or a few times a week can increase the risk of negative effects to your mind and body.
How to reduce your risk: Limit your cannabis use to one day a week, at most.
Go easy on your lungs
Ingesting or vaping cannabis is less harmful than smoking, but be aware that these methods may have their own risks.
If you vape, watch for symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. Seek medical attention if you have concerns about your health. Only dried cannabis is legally available for use with a vaporizer.
If you choose to ingest cannabis (e.g. edibles, oils), review the Start low. Go slow. section below for more information.
Obtain cannabis from legal sources. Products from illegal, or unregulated, sources are not subject to any controls for safety or quality.
If you smoke cannabis, avoid inhaling deeply or holding your breath.
Secure your stash.
Keep cannabis products in their original packaging and in a locked place that is out of reach, and out of sight of children or pets.
According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, unintentional ingestion can cause overdose symptoms like severe drowsiness and breathing problems. If this happens, your child needs urgent medical care and may need to be hospitalized. If a child has consumed cannabis, contact the Ontario Poison Control Centre at 1-800-268-9017.
Pace yourself. Start low. Go slow.
What to know:
Different strains of cannabis and the way you use it can have different effects. While you feel the effects of smoking or vaping within minutes, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to feel the effects of edible cannabis. The effects of edibles can last up to 12 hours.
Synthetic cannabis, like K2 and Spice, are stronger and more dangerous than natural cannabis products. Using these can lead to severe health problems, such as seizures, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations and, in rare cases, death.
How to reduce your risk: Start with a small amount, especially if it is your first time, and wait 30 minutes or more to feel the effects before deciding if you want to have more. Consider using products with low THC and some CBD. You can know how much THC and CBD is in your cannabis by reading the label on the package. If you are sharing with a friend, ask them how much THC is in their cannabis. Don’t use synthetic cannabis products.
Stick to one drug at a time – leave tobacco out of the mix too.
Using more than one drug at a time can lead to unpredictable changes to how you think, feel and act. Tobacco contains nicotine that is also addictive and can make it hard to cut down or quit.
Share with care.
What to know: When you share your joint, bong, vaporizer or whatever else you use, you may also be sharing germs and infections from your mouth and saliva with each other.
How to reduce your risk: Try to avoid sharing with other people.
Plan a safe ride.
What to know: Cannabis impairs the skills everyone needs to drive safely. The effects can last six to 12 hours and could be longer depending on the person and the product used.
How to reduce your risk: If you are planning to use cannabis, plan a safe ride with a sober friend, use public transit, or call a taxi.
Individuals 19 years and older can buy and use cannabis legally. There are restrictions on where you can use, how much you can have in public and grow at home, as well as restrictions on driving after consuming cannabis. See the Frequently Asked Questions section below for more information about the legal use of cannabis in Ontario.
Using cannabis as a teen can change the way the brain grows and how it works. Help your teen reach their full potential: Talk early, often and openly about cannabis.
- Cannabis Talk Kit: Know How to Talk to Your Teen
- Strategies for Parents to Prevent or Delay Teen Substance Use
For Preconception, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Cannabis use may affect the ability to become pregnant. There is no known safe amount of cannabis use in pregnancy or when breastfeeding.
Additional Cannabis Education Resources
Looking for help? You are not alone. There are many programs and resources available to support you.
This page content has been adapted with permission of Ottawa Public Health. For educational and non-commercial purposes only.