Cannabis is a class of drugs that includes marijuana, hashish, and hash oil. They all come from the plant Cannabis Sativa. Cannabis is usually smoked using methods such as joints and pipes called bongs or hookahs. It can also be eaten. Hashish can be added to food and is often used in brownies as it has a dark brown and crumbly texture.
THC (delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol) is the main psychoactive drug found in this plant, although at least 60 others have been identified. When marijuana is rolled into a cigarette form (typically referred to as a joint) it contains more tar then a cigarette and is more toxic as it usually does not have a filter.
THC levels have been increasing over the last 20 years as drug manufactures refine the process of growing and cultivating this plant. Therefore the cannabis that was used back in the 1960’s was significantly weaker than what is available today.
Typical effects from an average dose of cannabis (5 – 10 puffs from one joint) are feelings of relaxation, decreased inhibitions and decreased motivations. People may feel more outgoing and more talkative than usual and their level of concentration may become altered. Other effects include impaired balance, rapid heart beat, reddening of the eyes, increased appetite (also known as the “munchies”), dry mouth and throat, and drowsiness.
With higher doses of cannabis typical effects may include feelings of fear, anxiety, panic, paranoia, frightening hallucinations, and severe impairments of one’s perception of time and space.
The effects of cannabis use can last a few hours but the chemical THC has been known to store itself in the body’s natural fat stores. It then continues to slowly release itself over days and perhaps weeks. This is why someone could have a positive drug screen long after the “high” is over.
Regular long-term use of cannabis can have some serious effects on the body. Some of these effects include decreased memory and learning abilities, altered patterns of growth and sexual development, bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer. It can also be dangerous for people who have heart problems, as it speeds up the heart rate and causes it to work faster. For people who have a history of mental illness or emotional problems, regular cannabis use can make these symptoms worse. With consistent use of cannabis people can become psychologically dependent and experience symptoms such as cravings and anxiety if they cannot get the drug. It is also possible to become physically dependent on cannabis and to experience withdrawal symptoms such as sleeping problems, anxiety, irritability and loss of appetite. For more information on the impact of cannabis use, check out Health Canada’s website.
Driving or engaging in any risky behaviour can become extremely dangerous when one uses cannabis. Studies have shown that it can impair depth perception, attention span and concentration, slows reaction time, and decreases muscle strength and hand steadiness – all of which are very important when you are driving.
Check out arrive alive Drive Sober and OSAID (Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving new site ‘Eggs on Weed’ and the Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis Series: Highlights for more information on the impact of driving while under the influence of cannabis.
Cannabis use can also interfere with academics and/or work performance. It directly impacts thinking, short-term memory and levels of motivation- again all of which are pretty important for success in school and on the job.
For more information on the affects of cannabis on academics, check out Parents: the anti drug and the National Institute on Drug Abuse websites.
CAMH: Do you know… Cannabis