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Cannabis

cannabis; marijuana; drug; hashish; hash; oil; law; health; smoke; pot; dope; grass; weed; reefer; joint; smoking; tobacco; cigarette; cancer; psychosis; bong;

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Dope, marijuana, weed, pot, cones, ganga, hash, mull, wacky baccy... whatever you call it, cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in Australia. Many people view it as a 'soft' drug, one that mellows people out and doesn't cause any harm - but its use can cause health problems.

Regular marijuana use during adolescence is strongly and independently associated with reduced educational attainment, mental health problems, and substance use in young adulthood, according to a new meta-analysis. (See Reference below)

Cannabis is illegal throughout Australia, as it is in just about every country in the world. Using, possessing, growing and selling cannabis is illegal. This means you can't have any part of the plant, including the seeds.

For information about the law in South Australia

For more information about the law in Australia

What is cannabis?

Cannabis comes from the cannabis or hemp plant. Cannabis sativa is the most common variety of the plant that is used as a drug.

  • 'Marijuana' usually refers to the dried flowers ('heads' or buds) and leaves of the cannabis plant.
  • Hashish (hash) is the compressed resin or sap from the cannabis flowers.
  • Hash oil is a concentrated oil made from the cannabis plant.

The word 'cannabis' refers to the plant itself, as well as the products that are used - the dried flowers, leaves, hash and hash oil.

For more information

Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia
http://www.dassa.sa.gov.au/

National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC)
http://ncpic.org.au/

How is it used?

Cannabis is most often smoked.

  • Cannabis in all its forms can be smoked in a cigarette called a 'joint', sometimes rolled with tobacco.
  • It is often smoked in a pipe or a water 'bong' (a pipe which passes the smoke through water to cool and filter it). A full pipe-load is called a 'cone'.
  • If smoked, cannabis usually affects the person quite quickly.

Sometime people will eat cannabis, mixed with other ingredients, eg. in biscuits (cookies) or cakes.

  • If it is eaten, the effects take much longer to be felt, but can build up and get stronger over a longer time.
  • It is much harder for someone to control the dose of the drug when cannabis is eaten.

What does cannabis do to you?

The main active ingredient that makes people feel 'stoned' is THC or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. There are many other chemicals in cannabis, some of which also act on the brain.

Cannabis affects your mood, thinking, concentration, sense of time and memory. Some of the effects are viewed as pleasant, and some are not always pleasant.

For more information

National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC)
http://ncpic.org.au/

Drug Info Clearinghouse - Australian Drug Foundation
http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/

Why do people use cannabis?

Cannabis can make people feel 'high' or 'stoned'. A group of young people gave the following reasons for why they use cannabis:

  • for relaxation
  • for socialising
  • to relieve boredom
  • to cope with stress
  • for peer acceptance - eg. because all their friends use it
  • to manage pain
  • for the adventure of taking a risk
  • to forget problems
  • to experiment
  • to rebel against adults, or have a secret from parents
  • to help get to sleep.

Another reason that some people give for using cannabis is that they believe it can be helpful with certain illnesses.

Risks - short-term

When a person uses cannabis, there are some risks to consider:

  • Cannabis can affect a person's driving, sometimes causing accidents.
  • There is an increased risk of psychotic episodes (psychosis is when a person sees, hears or feels something that is not there, or thinks that people are trying to harm them).
  • There may be a hangover after the drug wears off.
    • You might feel tired or have a headache the next day, and co-ordination may be poor. This may affect school or work performance.

The not so good stuff - long-term

Heavy or long-term use of cannabis has other harmful effects.

For more information

Dependence

Cannabis users can become dependent on it, and cannabis dependence is much more common than people used to think.

  • Dependence is when a person's life becomes centred on using cannabis, and they feel quite stressed if they can't get it.
    • They have difficulty controlling their use - they sometimes use more than they intended, and are often trying to quit.
    • They give up other activities in order to use cannabis.
    • They continue to use cannabis even when it is causing them problems.
  • Tolerance can occur, where the person needs more cannabis to get the same 'high'.
  • There can be some withdrawal symptoms if a dependent person goes without cannabis, such as sleep problems, irritability, feeling anxious, loss of appetite and having an upset stomach.
    • This goes away after a few days of not using cannabis, although there may be sleep problems for longer.

Pregnancy

Cannabis use during pregnancy has not been shown to cause an increased rate of birth defects, but, like tobacco use, the baby’s growth may be reduced. There is some evidence that exposure to cannabis before birth affects a baby's behaviour and may cause long-term behaviour problems.

For more information have a look at:

Memory

Attention and memory may be affected, which means that schoolwork or jobs become difficult, or it may be harder to find employment.

Depression

Teenagers who use cannabis regularly are much more likely to suffer from depression.

Motivation

People who use dope often say that they have low motivation.

  • They find it hard to get on with the things in their life.
  • This can lead to problems with school, friends, money, work, and life in general.

Social life

Heavy cannabis users often find that they are only hanging out with other cannabis users.

  • They may lose contact with old friends who don't use cannabis.
  • They may start to feel isolated and down.
  • The cost of using cannabis all the time can restrict the other activities they could be doing.

Relationships

  • Parents, partners or friends of heavy cannabis users may hassle them about their use, causing arguments and conflict.
  • Being stoned a lot can affect how people communicate - for the worse.
  • Smoking cannabis regularly can be a very costly habit.
  • Some people have to resort to selling it or doing other illegal activities to get the money for dope.

Worried about a friend using cannabis?

If your friend uses cannabis a lot, you could try talking with him or her. This may not be easy - they might get angry or deny the problem.

  • Stay calm and reasonable, stick to the point and don't get drawn into other arguments.
  • Let your friend know you care for him or her, but are concerned about his or her behaviour and health.
  • Don't try talking to them when they are stoned, and don't get angry with them.
  • You can't make them change - you can only try to help them see how cannabis is affecting their life and health.

Giving up

You may have been using cannabis and want to give up for health, legal or social reasons. Cutting down is one choice, but many people say the best way is to 'go cold turkey' (completely stop). If you just cut down, you're likely to end up using more again.

Here are some tips to help you quit. If you are finding it hard, a counsellor can help you with quitting.

  • Be clear about your reasons for giving up - write them down as a reminder.
  • Set a date to stop and stick to it.
  • Get involved in new activities to replace using cannabis.
  • Keep away from the old situations where you used to get stoned.
  • Ask a friend for support.
  • Say out loud to people that you're not into it any more.
  • Reward yourself - maybe use the money you would have used to buy cannabis for something you really want.

Check out this workbook from the Eastern Alcohol and Drug Service (Victoria). You can download 'Getting out of it' - it may help you quit or cut down
http://o.b5z.net/i/u/6136340/i/Getting_out_of_it.pdf

Resources in South Australia

Reference

Silins E et al, Cannabis Cohorts Research Consortium (Australia) 'Young adult sequelae of adolescent cannabis use: an integrative analysis' Lancet online September 2014 
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(14)70307-4/fulltext

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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