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Cannabis- Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Health

The best way to prevent harm from cannabis is to not use it. However if you choose to use cannabis, there are ways to decrease potential harms.

The earlier in life you begin using cannabis, the higher the risk of serious health and learning problems, especially for youth. Regular use of cannabis at an early age  can harm the developing brain and impact mental health, decision making, and learning and memory.  Waiting as long as possible before beginning use of cannabis (ideally until the mid-twenties hen the brain is fully developed) can decrease the risk of problems.

  • THC is the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis. High THC amounts make it more likely that you may develop dependence or mental health disorders.
    • Choose legal products with labels indicating a higher ratio of CBD to THC.
    • Using caution with products that have high THC content.
  • Start with a small amount of a cannabis product; wait to see what effects it has on you before consuming more.
  • Avoid using synthetic cannabis products (e.g. K2, Spice), sometimes sold at convenience stores and other shops. These drugs are very strong and can cause severe health problems and, in rare cases, death. (Note: this warning is not referring to synthetic medical cannabis products such as Marinol®.)



 

  • Smoking cannabis (a joint, pipe or bong) is the most harmful way you can use cannabis because it directly affects your lungs.
  • Non-smoking options like vaping or consuming edibles may be better for your lungs. Keep in mind that these alternatives can also affect your health. 
  • If you choose to smoke cannabis, avoid inhaling deeply or holding your breath, as these practices increase the amount of toxins absorbed by your lungs.
  • The more often you use cannabis, the more likely you are to develop health problems, especially if you use on a daily or near-daily basis.
  • Reduce your health risks by limiting yourself to occasional use and avoiding daily or near-daily use.
  • Frequent use of cannabis can lead to dependence at any age. The risk of dependence is highest if frequent use starts as a youth.
  • Using cannabis with other drugs increases risks to your health.
  • Combining cannabis with tobacco, alcohol or other drugs may intensify physical and mental impairment, and increases the potential for injury and risky decision making.
  • Smoking tobacco and cannabis together increases risks of cancer, breathing problems, and becoming dependent on both drugs.

If you choose to use edibles, start with a small amount and go slow! 

  • Eating cannabis products tends to produce stronger and much longer-lasting effects (4-12 hours) as compared to smoking or vaping the drug (1-4 hours).
  • Edibles also take longer from the time they are eaten to the time you feel the effects (30 minutes to 2 hours).
    • This can lead to consuming too much THC which can result in motor impairment, dizziness, mental confusion, hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, extreme sedation and cardiac stress.

Edibles are anticipated to be available for legal purchase in the fall of 2019. Some people choose to make edibles at home. It is impossible to determine exactly how much THC is in any portion of a homemade edible item. This can lead to unintended overconsumption.

  • Clearly label all cannabis products and keep them out of reach of children, unknowing adults and pets.
  • If a child consumes cannabis call 911 or the Ontario Poison Centre at 1-800-268-9017.
  • Avoid smoking around others, especially children. Second-hand cannabis smoke can lead to lung irritation and other health problems.
  • Driving while impaired by cannabis is illegal and increases your risk of being in a crash.
  • Cannabis impairs your judgement, coordination, and slows your reaction time.
  • Do not drive a car, truck, motorcycle, snowmobile, boat, off-road vehicle or any other motorized vehicle after using cannabis.
  • Do not take a ride with an impaired driver.
  • Cannabis impairment can make other activities such as bicycling, skiing and snowboarding dangerous too.
  • Some people, especially youth are more likely to develop mental health problems from cannabis use
  • Avoid using cannabis if you have a personal or family history of mental health problems (especially psychosis – i.e. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) and substance use problems.
  • Research to date has shown that cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding may lead to potential harms to the fetal, infant and child health.
  • Talk to a health professional about cannabis and other drugs in pregnancy and breastfeeding. For more information see CMHA.ca, MotherToBaby.ca, or call MotherToBaby at 1-866-626-6847. Sometimes, when using cannabis the effects can make it difficult to parent. Plan ahead for child care.

For more information and for resources you can print and use in your community please see the following links:

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