What is Cannabis?

Marijuana, pot, weed and grass are just some of the common names for Cannabis. Cannabis is a plant that grows naturally in many places all over the world. You can read more about cannabis at National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. The cannabis plant contains a substance called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (more commonly known as THC) this is what causes what’s known as a ‘high’. Although it is the most used illicit drug in Australia, like any drug there are  risks to using cannabis you should know about.

When smoked or eaten it gives you a high making you feel relaxed and euphoric. Marijuana is usually smoked in hand rolled cigarettes called joints or water pipes called bongs, but some people also cook it into baked goods such as cookies or brownies. Cannabis affects your mood and changes the way you think about and relate to your environment, this can make everyday activities like watching TV really intense.

What are the effects?

The short term effects of Cannabis include:

  • feeling happy
  • talkativeness
  • loss of inhibitions
  • laughing
  • increased appetite
  • drowsiness
  • decreased nausea
  • loss of co-ordination
  • bloodshot eyes
  • dryness of the eyes, mouth and throat
  • anxiety and paranoia

If you, or a friend, starts to feel paranoid or anxious after smoking go into a quiet room and have a drink of water and try to relax until you feel better.

If you mix cannabis with alcohol you could have some bad side effects like nausea, vomiting, turning pale, sweating and feeling dizzy. Feeling sick like this is called “greening out” and can also happen if you smoke too much cannabis. If this happens to someone you’re with get them a glass of water and take them somewhere quiet where they can lie down until they feel better. You can find out more about the effects of alcohol and cannabis here.

Long term use of cannabis could have some pretty serious side effects such as:

  • increased risk of respiratory diseases associated with smoking (including cancer)
  • decreased memory and learning abilities
  • decreased motivation in areas such as study, work or concentration
Cannabis and Mental Health

Cannabis can also affect your mental health. Some people can experience drug induced psychosis when they smoke a lot of cannabis (or more than they are used to). Psychosis can cause people to hallucinate (to see, hear, smell or taste things that aren’t there) or to become delusional (believe things that aren’t true). Drug induced psychosis can be really scary, for both the person experiencing it and the people around them. If this happens to one of your friends try to get the person experiencing the psychosis to a quiet and safe place, and keep them calm. The psychosis should go away once the cannabis has worn off. If you are worried about their safety call an ambulance. The ambulance workers are there to help you and will not get you in trouble or get the police involved.

Smoking cannabis can also trigger psychotic disorders in people who are at risk of developing them, schizophrenia is one such disorder.  If you are at risk of developing a psychotic disorder, like if there’s a history of it in your family, you should avoid using cannabis. If you already have a psychotic disorder you should try not to use cannabis, or to stop using it if you already are. Check out the Clear your Vision site to help you quit.

Cannabis is sometimes used by people to relieve symptoms of other mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Although some people say cannabis relieves their symptoms there is some scientific evidence that it makes symptoms worse. You can read more about cannabis and mental health here.

Where to get help?

If you, or someone you know, is using cannabis and it’s getting out of control there are places you can go for help and support. You can also check out the Clear your Vision site for help quitting cannabis. If you are having mental health issues you can get confidential online counselling at eheadspace.