What is cannabis?
Cannabis is a cannabinoid drug. The number of different cannabinoids in the cannabis sativa plant is still being researched, but it primarily contains the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and the non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD).1 It’s most commonly known as marijuana.
Other names Marijuana, yarndi, pot, weed, hash, dope, gunja, joint, stick, chronic, cone, choof, mull, 420, dabs, dabbing, BHO.
How is it used?
Cannabis can be smoked, eaten or vaporised and comes in different forms. Users report that the subjective effects of cannabis vary significantly depending on the form consumed.2
- Marijuana − the dried leaves and flowers (buds) of the cannabis plant that are smoked in a joint or a bong. This is the most common form.
- Hashish – the dried plant resin that is usually mixed with tobacco and smoked or added to foods and baked goods; such as cookies and brownies.
- Hash oil – liquid that is used sparingly (due to high potency) and added to the tip of a joint or cigarette and smoked.3
- Concentrates – extracts (dabs, wax or shatter) typically using butane hash oil as a solvent, often vaporised in small quantities due to high THC content.3
Cannabis can be put into various foods generally called ‘edibles’. It usually takes between one to three hours to feel its effects.4 Impatient or naïve users might think they have not taken enough to feel the effects, and if they consume more they may experience unpleasantly strong psychoactive effects. When edible products have inconsistent levels of THC, even experienced users may find it difficult to control the amount consumed.5
When smoked or vaporised, the effects are usually felt straight away.6 There are health concerns about the impact of smoking cannabis, especially in the long term. This is particularly the case if mixed with tobacco.
Cannabis can also come in synthetic form, which may be more harmful than real cannabis.
Effects of cannabis
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Cannabis affects every individual differently. Even the same person may have a different experience on separate occasions or over their lifetime.
Some people report feelings of relaxation and euphoria while others report anxiety and paranoia.7 Some factors that might influence these differences could be:
- size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the drug
- expectations of consuming cannabis
- the environment of the individual
- the individual’s personality.6, 7
The effects of cannabis might include:
- feelings of relaxation and euphoria
- spontaneous laughter and excitement
- increased sociability
- increased appetite
- dry mouth. 6, 7
If a large amount, strong batch, or concentrated form is consumed, you may be more likely to also experience:
- memory impairment
- slower reflexes
- bloodshot eyes
- increased heart rate
- mild anxiety and paranoia.6, 7
Long-term effects depend on how much, how often and how the cannabis is consumed (e.g. vaporising a concentrate versus smoking the flower).8 Its heavy, regular use could potentially lead to:
- tolerance to the effects of cannabis
- dependence on cannabis
- reduced cognitive functioning.8, 9
Smoking cannabis may also increase the likelihood of experiencing:
- sore throat
- if smoked with tobacco, cancer.10
Individuals with a family history of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder – or who currently experience symptoms of these conditions – should avoid using cannabis.11, 12
Cannabis use may worsen the course of bipolar disorder, and those who are predisposed to experiencing psychosis (a common symptom of schizophrenia), may be at an increased risk of cannabis-induced psychosis.11, 12 Psychosis symptoms include delusions, hallucinations and seeing or hearing things that do not exist or are distorted.
Using cannabis with other drugs
The effects of taking cannabis with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable, and could cause:
Cannabis + alcohol: nausea, vomiting.13
Cannabis is sometimes used to help with the ‘come down’ effects of stimulant drugs, such as ice, speed and ecstasy.
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