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Cannabis Information for Teens and Young Adults

In light of cannabis legalization, the Porcupine Health unit advises that legal does not mean harmless. Cannabis can have negative effects on your physical and mental health for everyone, but the risks are even higher for youth.

We urge people to know the risks, and encourage those who choose to use cannabis to be considerate of all community members and help reduce second-hand exposure.

What is cannabis?

Cannabis has many other names such as: grass, weed, pot, joint, dope, green, doobie, blunt, reefer, hash, hash oil, marijuana, Mary Jane/MJ, shatter, dabs.

All forms of cannabis come from the dried flower buds and leaves of the Cannabis Sativa plant. It ranges in colour from grayish green to greenish brown and may contain seeds and stems. Cannabis contains the mood-altering chemical THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis use.

What are the risks of using cannabis?

Cannabis use has well-documented short and long-term negative effects on your physical and mental health, as well as safety risks.

For younger people, the risks of mental illness, cannabis dependence and cognitive problems from cannabis use are greater than for adults.

It is best to avoid cannabis use until age 25 or older. Important brain development occurs until the mid-twenties and cannabis use can affect this development. Earlier and frequent use of cannabis increases your risk, but even occasional use can cause problems. These problems include:

  • problems with thinking, memory, attention span, making decisions
  • problems with coordination
  • risk for mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, hallucinations and even psychosis
  • repeated episodes of severe nausea and vomiting
  • impaired ability to drive safely, leading to fatal and non-fatal injuries
  • lung problems from smoking
  • reproductive problems
  • high risk of developing cannabis dependence

Risks also increase:

  • with the frequency of cannabis use
  • with use of higher THC cannabis products
  • when mixing cannabis with alcohol or other drugs (including over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs)

Edible cannabis products by-pass respiratory-related risks. However, with edibles it takes longer to feel the effects, which can lead to using more than you planned.

If you are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, you should not use cannabis as there are risks to the fetus and baby.

Those who already have a mental health illness or substance use disorder, and those who have a close family member with mental health problems, are at increased risk and should avoid cannabis use.  

Not using cannabis is the best way to prevent these risks.

If you have been thinking about trying cannabis, or have decided that you will use cannabis, follow these Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines to reduce your risk.

Find out more

There's lots more information about cannabis on our Cannabis: What you need to know webpage.

 

This webpage was last updated on 2018-10-17.