Cannabis can be a risky product.
Follow these tips to stay safe.
Because everyone’s body is different, it’s possible for you to experience something different from another person who also consumes cannabis. As with any drug, the same form, serving amount and potency can have different effects on different people. When consuming cannabis, some may feel relaxed, lively, talkative or giggly, while others feel tense, anxious, fearful or confused. A person can even have a different experience from one time to the next.
Risks when consuming cannabis
While cannabis may make one person feel relaxed and happy, someone else can experience unpleasant, unwanted or negative effects. Cannabis is not a benign substance, and comes with risks for those who consume it.
Short-term risks of cannabis use
A person who consumes cannabis can experience short-term effects, such as:
- anxiety, fear or panic;
- nausea or vomiting;
- reduced ability to react quickly;
- poor decision-making; and
- an impaired ability to remember things, concentrate, pay attention or react quickly.
For some people, using cannabis can result in psychotic episodes with feelings of paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.
Long-term risks of cannabis use
The long-term risks of cannabis on the brain include an increased risk of dependence; and decreased memory, concentration, ability to think and make decisions, and mental health. These effects may not be fully-reversible when a person stops using cannabis. In particular, frequent (i.e., daily or almost every day) cannabis use that continues over weeks, months or years, can cause effects that could continue from several days to months, or longer after the person stops using cannabis.
Some people can develop a tolerance to the effects of cannabis, which means they require a larger dose or amount to experience the effect the want. For some people, tolerance to cannabis can develop very quickly, after only a few uses. A tolerance to cannabis may mean that the person is developing a dependence on cannabis, which is a substance use disorder.
Cannabis use may increase the risk for someone to develop a mental illness like psychosis or schizophrenia, especially in people who start using cannabis when they are young, use it daily or almost every day, or who have a personal or family history of psychosis and/or schizophrenia. Frequent cannabis use has also been associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders and suicide.
The long-term risks of smoking cannabis are similar to those of smoking tobacco, and include poor lung health, and respiratory and cardiovascular problems like bronchitis, lung infections, chronic cough, and increased mucus build-up in the throat. Smoking cannabis with tobacco exposes a person to the risks of both substances.
Can I overdose on cannabis?
Though not fatal, it is possible to overdose on cannabis. A cannabis overdose may look like severe nausea or vomiting, increased blood pressure, chest pain, extreme anxiety, loss of contact with reality and seizures.
If you suspect you or someone else is overdosing on cannabis, call your local poison control centre, healthcare provider, the emergency department of your nearest hospital or 911.
Effects on pregnancy and children
There is no known safe amount of cannabis to consume during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Although consuming cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding is not advisable, you should be aware that pregnancy is a protected health condition under Manitoba’s human rights legislation. Refusing to sell cannabis on the basis of visible pregnancy could be considered discrimination.
Cannabis and alcohol
People will sometimes consume cannabis and alcohol together, or one after another. Cannabis and alcohol each affect people in different ways, and mixing them can lead to unpredictable effects. The effects of either substance may be stronger or the combination may produce different, unexpected reactions.
The risks of consuming cannabis with alcohol include:
- Increased negative effects. Consuming cannabis and alcohol at the same time increases the possibility of physical effects, such as nausea or vomiting. It also increases the risk of psychological effects, like panic, anxiety and paranoia.
- Effects on driving. Like alcohol, cannabis affects a person’s ability to concentrate and timely react while driving. Even in small quantities, consuming cannabis and alcohol at the same time is dangerous. It puts drivers, their passengers, others on the road and the general public at serious risk for harm.
- Increased levels of intoxication. Consuming both cannabis and alcohol can make people more intoxicated than if they consumed cannabis or alcohol alone. A person may feel the effects more quickly, and may be less aware of themselves and their surroundings. This puts a person who is mixing cannabis and alcohol at greater risk of making unsafe decisions that affect others; not being able to look after themselves and their belongings; and being vulnerable to others.
How can you lower your risks?
To lower your risk of a negative reaction, keep the following in mind:
- Don’t mix cannabis with alcohol. Choose only one or the other.
- Don’t drive under the influence of cannabis. Wait at least six hours before you drive.
- Keep cannabis out of reach of kids and pets. Always lock up your cannabis products at home.
- Buy products from licensed retailers. This is the only way to fully-know what is in your cannabis. Licensed cannabis retailers can sell only cannabis made by licensed manufacturers. All cannabis products available at a licensed store must be labeled.
- Label your cannabis products. If you serve any type of cannabis product to others in your home, always let them know if the ingredients include cannabis.
- Consume using the appropriate method of use. Make sure you’re using the products the way they are intended. Read the label.
- Use cannabis in a safe place with people you know and trust. If you consume cannabis with strangers, you may feel more anxious and be at a higher risk of a negative reaction. Use cannabis only in a place where you feel safe.
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