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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.

1. Delay use past adolescence

The earlier in life you begin using cannabis, the higher the risk of serious health and learning problems, especially for youth.

2. Start low and go slow
  • Choose legal products with labels that indicate a lower THC content or higher ratio of CBD to THC.
  • Using products with a high THC content, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, makes it more likely that you might develop problems, such as dependence or mental health disorders.
  • Start with a small amount, 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, as these drugs can cause severe health problems and, in rare cases, death. (Note: this warning is not referring to synthetic medical cannabis products such as Marinol®.)
3. Avoid smoking
  • Smoking cannabis (for example, smoking 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 that are better for your lungs. Keep in mind that these alternatives aren’t risk free either.
  • 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.
4. Not too often
  • 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 is 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.
5. Don't mix drugs
  • 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.
6. Take care with edibles
  • Eating cannabis 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 easily lead to consuming too much THC which can result in motor impairment, dizziness, mental confusion, hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, extreme sedation and cardiac stress.
  • Edibles will not be available for legal sale until 2019. In the meantime, it will be legal to make your own edibles at home. However, it is impossible to determine exactly how much THC is in a homemade product. If you choose to use edibles, start with a small amount and go slow!
7. Keep it out of reach
  • 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.
8. Plan a safe ride
  • 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.
  • Avoid being a passenger with an impaired driver.
  • Impairment can make other activities such as bicycling, skiing and snowboarding dangerous too.
9. Your own risks
  • 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.
10. Protect your baby
  • 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. Community resources for more information are CMHA.ca and Motherisk 1-877-439-2744 (Toll-free).

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

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