Some of the information we hear about cannabis is contradictory, making it difficult to determine how it might effect our children. Is it habit-forming? Is it capable of causing psychosis? Is it true that it is a medicine? What happens if my child makes use of it? What should I tell — and what shouldn’t I tell — my child about it?
The Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research has amended and updated a prior resource prepared in collaboration with the F.O.R.C.E. Society for Kids’ Mental Health and the online dispensary Canada now that cannabis is legal for adults in Canada (BC Division). The goal of the former work is maintained in this current edition.
Our goal is to provide you with an open and honest dialogue about cannabis so that you can make better decisions regarding cannabis use—or non-use—in your family.
Hemp, cannabis, marijuana, and hash are all terms for the same thing.
You’ve probably heard these terms before, even if you don’t understand what they mean. Are they similar or dissimilar? “Both” is the answer.
HEMP is a plant with roots, a stalk, leaves, flowers, and seeds, just like other plants. Hemp stalks are frequently utilized in the production of fiber-based products like as paper and cloth.
The hemp plant’s scientific name is CANNABIS. Cannabis comes in a variety of forms. When smoked or ingested, the leaves and blossoms of each species generate different mind-altering and therapeutic effects. Cannabis sativa and cannabis indica are two of the most popular hemp strains.
MARIJUANA is a slang term for cannabis leaves and blossoms used in Mexico (aka buds).
HASH, short for hashish, is formed from squeezed resin extracted from cannabis buds and so has a stronger effect.
Perhaps you’ve heard…
You’ve probably heard a lot of claims about cannabis in the news or in regular conversation. You may have heard that cannabis use causes cancer or causes students to drop out of school. You may also have heard that cannabis smokers have a low risk of cancer and that the herb can assist relieve school-related anxiety.
Making sense of these contradictory promises as a parent can be difficult. While almost all of them include some truth, accurate and balanced cannabis knowledge is more complex than simple statements.
There are no clear explanations for how cannabis usage affects people’s minds, bodies, relationships, or future prospects. Why? Because individuals are complicated beings with equally complex decisions and behaviors.
Even if you have little experience with drugs, you probably know more about the major difficulties than you believe. For example, most people intuitively realize that all medications can be both good and bad. Even medication prescribed by a doctor can be harmful if not used correctly. When it comes to cannabis, almost everyone knows someone who has had a good time or benefited in some manner from using the drug. Similarly, almost everyone knows someone who has had a poor experience.
While most medications are beneficial in some way, they all come with some danger. In general, it’s best to avoid using any drug until the possible advantages clearly outweigh the potential risks. This entails determining the context and purpose of use.
It’s helpful to imagine drug usage as taking place within a matrix with two axes reflecting potential benefit and potential damage (see the illustration). Different types of use have different benefit/harm profiles, which vary based on a variety of factors.
Several factors influence the likelihood that drug usage will result in specific harms and/or benefits:
A higher dose of a medicine entails a higher danger. Increased risk is connected to increased drug use, both in terms of quantity and frequency, as well as drug strength.
The younger you are, the greater the risk. The younger a person is when they begin routinely taking a drug, the more likely they are to suffer negative consequences or develop problematic substance use later in life.
Risk is influenced by where you go, when you go, and what you do. Trying cannabis with friends at a weekend party and then going home is less likely to cause harm than smoking cannabis on school grounds or driving while intoxicated.
It’s crucial to understand why young people use cannabis. Curiosity or experimentation frequently lead to infrequent use. Cannabis may be used by teenagers to help them feel better by lowering anxiety in social situations and allowing them to interact with their peers. While cannabis can help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression, it can become problematic if young people take it on a regular basis to relieve distressing sensations. When a teen uses cannabis to improve their grades or fit in with a group, they may be listening to others instead of prioritizing their own needs and goals, which can lead to poor decisions.
The reasons a young person uses cannabis, their family history, the setting, amount, and method of use all have a role in whether their use is useful, detrimental, or both. The risks associated with cannabis usage differ from person to person, and even from day to day for a given person. This can make deciding whether to use cannabis, when to use it, and how to use it challenging. Parents frequently have to balance the pros and drawbacks of many options in order to make decisions that are best for their family.
So, with that in mind, and in light of the evidence, let’s take a deeper look at some of the most prevalent cannabis claims.
PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES (PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES) are medications that impact our central nervous system (particularly the brain) and cause us to see, think, feel, and act differently than usual.
Cannabis claims that are commonly made
The human brain begins to grow in the womb but does not reach full maturity until later in life. Drugs have an impact on how our brains develop. Cannabis use at a young age has been shown to have harmful impacts on brain development.
From caffeine to heroin, all psychoactive drugs have an immediate effect on the brain. Cannabis, on the other hand, has far fewer negative effects than some other narcotics, such as alcohol.
While the detrimental effects of cannabis on the brain are frequently minor and reversible, psychoactive substance exposure should be avoided during development.
There isn’t enough research to say whether cannabis causes psychosis. However, it does show a link between the two, with frequent cannabis users having a higher risk of psychosis.
Cannabis could be one element that interacts with others, such as a psychotic susceptibility. Someone with a family history of psychosis, for example, may be more sensitive to cannabis’s possible psychosis-producing effects than someone who does not have this predisposition in their family.
However, cannabis usage can cause short-term psychotic symptoms such as odd perceptions and feelings in certain people (e.g., they may hear voices or think someone is trying to harm them). Cannabis use can be harmful to someone suffering from a psychotic disease like schizophrenia.
Studies on the effects of cannabis on depression have also yielded mixed results. There is some evidence that there is a link between cannabis consumption and depression. However, it’s unclear how much of the link is due to cannabis usage and how much is due to other factors including familial and societal difficulties, poverty, and other circumstances beyond the person’s control.
Even though cannabis smoke contains carcinogens (toxins that cause cancer), cannabis smokers had a lower risk of acquiring some cancers (such as mouth, tongue, and lung cancer) than tobacco smokers. This is due to the fact that cannabis users prefer to smoke less. Cannabis smokers typically consume one to three cannabis cigarettes per day, but tobacco smokers consume 10 to 30 cigarettes per day.
Another factor has to do with the cannabis plant’s characteristics. Cannabis, for example, includes compounds known as cannabinoids, which some experts believe may protect against lung cancer.
While there is a correlation between cannabis use and dropping out of school, the link could be due to shared factors—for example, personality features or family issues—that enhance the chances of both cannabis use and dropping out of school. It’s also possible that a cannabis-related school regulation is to blame. For example, a zero-tolerance drug policy at school, which separates suspended children from their friends and teachers, may be more likely than drug use to cause a student to drop out.
While there is a correlation between cannabis usage and other illicit drug use, the apparent links are due to personal, societal, and environmental factors rather than the drug’s effects.
Personal characteristics include psychological features (such as sensation seeking) that may lead a young person to experiment with cannabis and then move on to other illicit drugs. Alternatively, a young person might experiment with other substances to see whether they have the same impact as cannabis to relieve symptoms of a mental health problem (e.g., anxiety).
Other illegal drug use is influenced by social and environmental factors such as how acceptable certain drugs are in a young person’s social group and how readily available they are in their community.
Thinking about cannabis and making decisions with your family can be a difficult issue for parents. Personal history and views toward drug use, as well as family values, medical history, legal status, community norms, and personal aspirations, can all influence what you do. It can take some time to think about the issues thoroughly. It’s crucial to keep in mind that you’ll make the greatest decision you can at the time. As the scenario and facts available change, you can re-evaluate your position and make various options.
Is it legal to use cannabis?
The province of British Columbia has legalized cannabis. In British Columbia, you must be 19 years old to buy, possess, or use cannabis or cannabis products for non-medical purposes. It is against the law to sell or give cannabis to anyone under the age of 19. People under the age of 19 are not allowed to possess cannabis unless their doctor has given them permission to use it for medical reasons. The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations govern medical cannabis access (ACMPR). Canadians (including those under the age of 19) who have been authorized by their health care practitioner to access cannabis for medical purposes can buy safe, quality-controlled cannabis from one of Health Canada’s licensed producers, grow a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical purposes, or designate someone to grow it for them under the ACMPR.
Although there is a lack of data on the potency or strength of cannabis, the research implies that THC levels vary widely (the main psychoactive ingredient). While the average THC level has risen over the last two decades, the growth has not been spectacular. Selective breeding and more improved production techniques are mostly responsible for increases in THC levels.
While the long-term harmful effects of higher-potency cannabis on respiratory and mental health are unknown, some researchers argue that consuming smaller amounts of higher-potency cannabis minimizes a person’s exposure to smoke and pollutants, potentially lowering risks. Smokers modulate their dosage according to the intensity of the cannabis by taking smaller or fewer puffs and/or inhaling more air with their puffs, according to clinical studies.
In British Columbia, cannabis purchased through government shops is tested for quality. If obtained from a dealer or a friend, the THC concentration may not be known, leading to users using more than they want and experiencing unpleasant consequences as a result.
THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol.
THC stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidinol, a chemical molecule. THC is the most well-known active component in cannabis, as it is responsible for the “high” sensation associated with its use.
Cannabis has an effect on reaction time, lane maintenance, information processing, speed and distance estimation, eye movement control, and focus when driving. It also creates fatigue, which is a driving hazard in and of itself. As a result, it is best to refrain from driving for three to four hours after using cannabis.
Cannabis combined with even tiny amounts of alcohol poses a bigger risk to one’s health than either drug alone.
A person may have difficulty remembering or learning things three to four hours after taking cannabis. These effects could hinder a young person’s ability to do well in school or perform at work if they use cannabis before or during school or work. The majority of data suggests, however, that any long-term impacts on learning and memory are minor.
The respiratory tract can be irritated by any type of smoke. People who consume cannabis on a daily basis may develop respiratory tract irritation (the part of the body involved in breathing). They may develop persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing as a result of this.
The use of a vaporizer can help to lower the risk of respiratory issues. However, “safest” does not imply “risk-free.” Using a vaporizer simply minimizes the hazards associated with smoking, not the risks associated with the medication itself.
Taking a look at some of the most popular cannabis uses
Some methods of cannabis smoking are safer than others. Unfiltered joints, for example, are less dangerous than water pipes (also known as bongs) and joints with cigarette filters.
Cannabis smokers inhale less tar and more THC, the active element in cannabis, when they smoke unfiltered joints. Cigarette filters and water pipes diminish THC levels in the lungs, causing smokers to inhale more forcefully and produce more tar.
The safest way to use cannabis is through vaporizers. They produce a thin mist of THC while reducing the harmful by-products of burnt cannabis. Ingesting cannabis also eliminates the dangers of smoke and pollutants, but it does so at the expense of other issues. For example, finding the appropriate amount is more difficult because THC takes longer to absorb in the body. This can result in a person using more than they intended and maybe having a negative or even scary experience.
While the majority of cannabis users do not move to problematic use, those who use cannabis often (daily or nearly daily) over time may be putting themselves at risk of becoming addicted.
If a person feels compelled to take cannabis just to feel normal and function during the day, they may be addicted. People who quit using cannabis after a long period of regular use may experience moderate withdrawal symptoms. Restlessness, anxiousness, irritability, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping are all common signs of cannabis withdrawal.
Those who begin using cannabis consistently at a young age are more likely to acquire dependent.
While some fear that cannabis sold on the street may be mixed with crystal meth or other unpredictable drugs, there is no evidence that this is the case.
It’s critical to know where your cannabis comes from. Purchasing from government distribution centers is the most secure option.