Some youth may think cannabis is harmless… but the opposite is true.
It’s hard to predict how cannabis will make you feel. Everyone reacts to it differently. Even if cannabis makes you feel happy, relaxed, or less nervous in the short-term, the long-term effects may be different. Regular and heavy cannabis use before age 25, when the brain is fully developed can result it:
- Negative impacts on mental health
- Decreased motivation
- Difficulty learning and poorer grades
Even if it seems like everyone around you is using, remember, the majority of youth DON’T use cannabis. Four out of five Ontario students report not having used cannabis in the last year.1
Shield your mental health by not using cannabis
Young people who use cannabis often are at increased risk of:
Your brain works better without cannabis. Regular cannabis use can make it harder to do well at school or on the job.
Delaying cannabis use can benefit:
Plus, if you’re under 19 it’s still illegal.
Make health choices using facts not beliefs
It is safer not to use cannabis but if you choose to use learn ways to reduce some of the risks to your brain and your body.
Using Cannabis? Tips to Reduce Your Risk
The brain continues to develop until your mid-20s. Regular and heavy cannabis use before the brain is fully developed can make it harder to do well at school or on the job. It may also be harder to stop using cannabis if you start at a young age.
Know What You’re Using
Don’t use synthetic cannabis like “Spice” or “K2.” Synthetic cannabis is not cannabis: it is made by spraying unregulated chemicals onto any type of shredded plant. These chemicals can be toxic and may result in serious health problems.
Go Easy On Your Lungs
Like smoking cigarettes, smoke from cannabis can harm your lungs and make it harder to breathe. To reduce breathing problems, consider a vaporizer or edible cannabis instead of smoking. If you do smoke cannabis, avoid deep inhalation and breath-holding as this increases the amount of toxins brought into the lungs.
Start Low. Go Slow.
Wait to feel the effects of cannabis before deciding whether to use more. It takes seconds to minutes to feel the effects of smoking or vaping and 30 minutes to 2 hours to feel the effects of edibles.
If you’ve never used cannabis before or have low-tolerance start with a lower THC product. If using an unfamiliar strain, sample a small amount first and wait to see how you react.
One At A Time
Complications are more likely if you mix drugs. For example, mixing cannabis with alcohol can cause extreme anxiety, nausea, vomiting and fainting. Mixing cannabis with tobacco also increases health harms. Tobacco contains nicotine which is very addictive and can make it harder to cut down or quit.
Have days where you don’t use. More problems are associated with more frequent use.
If sharing, hold joints or devices in a way that you can inhale the smoke or vapor without touching them to your lips. Sharing items that have touched your lips increases the risk of spreading infections including meningitis, flu and other germs.
Be Careful If Pregnant Or Breastfeeding
If you’re pregnant be aware that cannabis can harm the fetus or newborn child. Speak with your health care provider if you need medicine to help with nausea. Cannabis can also be passed to the baby in breast milk. Until more is known about the short and long-term effects of cannabis on your baby, it is safest to avoid using cannabis while pregnant and breastfeeding
Stay Safe If Impaired
Cannabis impairs coordination and reaction time. The law does not allow young or novice drivers to have any cannabis or other drugs in their body when driving.
Plan a safe ride if you’re planning on using cannabis: Take public transit, call a sober friend or family member, call a cab or ride share, or stay the night and sleep it off.
Being high can also interfere with your ability to operate other machinery, play sports or ride a bike.
Be Aware Of Bad Reactions And Mental Health Effects
Cannabis can lead to scary reactions like feeling paranoid or even seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. You are at increased risk if you have a personal or family history of mental health problems such as psychosis.
If you have a bad reaction and feel too high, try to remain calm, stay hydrated, eat something and find a safe place where you feel comfortable.
Be wise. Know the facts. Use your instincts.
- Fischer, B., Russell, C., Sabioni, P., van den Brink, W., Le Foll, B., Hall, W., Rehm, J. & Room, R. (2017). Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG): An evidence-based update. American Journal of Public Health, 107 (8). DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303818.
- The Link. Use Responsibly. Ottawa Public Health.
- University of Victoria, Take Care with Cannabis, Centre for Addictions Research of BC.
- Canadian Nurses Association. Harm Reduction for Non-Medical Cannabis Use. January 2018.
More Info and Help
For more information or help, talk to your health care provider, or call:
- Connex (Drug and Alcohol Helpline): 1-866-531-2600
- Kids help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
- Alternatives for Youth (ages 12-23): 905-527-4469
- Alcohol, Drug, and Gambling Services (ages 23+): 905-546-3606
- Government of Canada | Cannabis Evidence Brief (August 2018): Is cannabis safe to use? Facts for youth aged 13-17 years
- Kids Help Phone: Cannabis: Important things to know
- Government of Canada: Cannabis Health Effects
- Early Psychosis Intervention Ontario Network (EPION): My Cannabis IQ
- Teen Mental Health: 10 Questions about cannabis use and teens
 Source: Boak, A. Hamilton, H.A., Adlaf, E.M., & Mann, R.E. (2017). Drug use among Ontario students, 1977-2017: Detailed findings from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) (CAMH Research Document Series No. 46). Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
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