What is cannabis?
Cannabis comes from a plant called Cannabis Sativa. Cannabis, hashish and hashish oil all come from different parts of the plant. Each is a different strength with cannabis being the least powerful and hashish oil being the most.
Effects of cannabis
Using cannabis can have both immediate and longer-term effects. These effects may vary from person to person. Things that may influence how you are affected by the drug are:
- The amount and strength of the cannabis, hash or hashish oil
- The way it is taken (eg smoked or eaten)
- Your weight, size and health
- Your mood when you take it
- What else you are taking with it
- The environment where you are taking it eg, at home with friends, at a party, or by yourself.
Some of the more immediate effects of cannabis use may include:
- A feeling of euphoria
- A loss of concentration
- A feeling of confidence
- Wanting to eat more
- Red eyes
- Wanting to talk and/or laugh more than usual
- Losing balance and coordination
- Feelings of anxiety or paranoia
Some of the possible long-term effects of cannabis use are:
- Lung problems (eg chronic bronchitis, lung cancer). Cannabis smoke contains ingredients that can damage the lungs, affect your physical health and fitness and possibly cause cancer. If cannabis is smoked over many years it may get in the way of the functioning of the lungs, this may increase the chances of developing lung disease.
- Difficulties with memory and attention - It has been shown that cannabis use over the longer term can cause problems with memory, attention and processing of complex information. This may affect everyday life when you are learning something new or doing something difficult.
- Development of dependence - most people who use cannabis don't go on to use it regularly, or develop problems with it. However, there are a number of people who will become dependent on cannabis. The chance of becoming dependent on cannabis is similar to the chance of becoming dependent on alcohol. If someone is dependent on cannabis they may experience a difficulty controlling their use or be spending a lot of time involved in cannabis and less time on other things in their life.
- Increased risk of mental health problems - some people have a greater risk of developing mental health problems than others. Cannabis use may trigger problems if you have a family history of serious mental illness (such as schizophrenia or depression), or you are vulnerable to developing it. If you already have a serious mental illness, cannabis use may make some of your symptoms worse.
Cannabis and experimentation
It is not uncommon to experiment with cannabis. Experimentation does not necessarily lead to problem use. If you are concerned about someone's cannabis use it may be helpful to speak with The Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS). ADIS specialise in drug and alcohol issues. It may also be helpful to calmly talk with the person you are concerned about. Engaging them in a confrontational way may only alienate them.
Mixing cannabis with other drugs
Mixing cannabis and other drugs may be dangerous. If cannabis is taken with other drugs the effects of the cannabis may be stronger.
Cannabis and driving or operating heavy machinery
If you have been using cannabis driving or operating heavy machinery is dangerous. If you are stoned your attentions span may be less or you may find it harder to react if something unexpected happens. It is possible to experience these effects even if you don't feel stoned.
Cannabis and the law
The use and sale of cannabis is illegal in all Australian States and Territories, but each one has different laws and penalties. In some places, the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis have been decriminalised. This does not mean that cannabis use is legal in these places, it means that if you are caught, you may have to pay a fine and can still end up having a criminal record. While being busted for cannabis use may not seem like a big deal when you are young, having a criminal record for a cannabis offence may restrict your options for things you want to do in life such as employment or travel.
Getting help for cannabis use
It may be a big step to get help for your cannabis use. Managing your drug use may include speaking to a professional or it may be possible to reduce it on your own.