What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant that grows naturally in many places all over the world. Marijuana, pot, weed and grass are just some of the common names for cannabis. 

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 you should know about.

When smoked or eaten, it gives you a high making you feel relaxed and euphoric. Cannabis 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.

You can read more about cannabis at the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. 

What kind of effect does Cannabis have?

The short term effects of Cannabis include:

  • feeling happy
  • dryness of the eyes, mouth and throat
  • talkativeness
  • loss of coordination
  • loss of inhibitions
  • nausea
  • uncontrollable laughter
  • increased appetite
  • drowsiness
  • bloodshot eyes
  • 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
An image of a person's hand holding a cannabis leaf.
What is medical cannabis? 

Medical cannabis is actually legal in Australia, but there are strict rules around how it can be accessed and used under the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Medical cannabis is a high quality medicine that can be prescribed by a doctor to treat the symptoms of certain medical conditions, and the side effects of some treatments. There is evidence that medical cannabis is useful in treating epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and cancer for example. Check out this video for more info about medical cannabis. 

What’s the link between cannabis use and poor mental health?

Like all drugs, cannabis can have an impact on 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). 

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  stop using it if you already are. Check out these tools 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. Read more about how cannabis can affect the brain here.

How can you look after someone experiencing drug induced psychosis?

Drug induced psychosis can be really scary, for both the person experiencing it and the people around them.

If this happens to your friend, try to get the person 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 on 000. The ambulance workers are there to help you and will not get you in trouble or get the police involved.

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. 

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which Rosie has been created, the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nation, and pay our respects to elders past and present. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

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