WHAT IS CANNABIS?
Cannabis consumption affects several functions of the body and central nervous system. Natural in origin, cannabis is composed of more than 500 different substances, the main ones being
— tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): a psychoactive substance that causes a “high”;
— cannabidiol (CBD): a non-psychoactive substance that may alleviate certain adverse effects of THC. CBD is also currently being studied for its potential therapeutic uses.
Also worthy of mention is the presence of terpenes, the substances that provide cannabis with its aromatic properties.
All the effects of the various substances contained in cannabis are not yet known. Each person reacts differently and several factors influence the consumption experience: the person’s physical and mental state, the product and quantity consumed, and the context in which it is used.
CANNABIS CONSUMPTION - CERTAIN FACTS TO BE AWARE OF
Cannabis consumption has health and safety risks. It remains difficult to predict whether or not an individual will experience significant problems after using cannabis. In short, experts agree that cannabis use is never completely safe.
HOW TO USE RESPONSIBLY AND REDUCE HEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS
Use cannabis on an occasional basis
Using cannabis regularly (every day or almost every day) increases the risks to your health, performance at work or school, and to your social life. There is a time for everything. Keep in mind that cannabis affects your perception, concentration and coordination.
Choose quality products and identify your limits
Try to use natural products with a low THC concentration and that contain CBD. Wait until you feel the effects of the products before considering consuming again. Extremely high THC concentrations may cause effects that are too intense and make you feel unwell (for example: pulse rate increase, anxiety, disorientation).
By choosing the legal market, you will obtain products that are subject to quality controls, whether for THC and CBD concentrations or the presence of pesticides and mould.
Go easy with edible products that you prepare and eat
Edible cannabis products are not harmful to your lungs. However, it is difficult to estimate the quantities of absorbed THC and CBD. Also, their effects take longer to be felt and last longer. Start with a low dose of THC and avoid consuming more within the next 2 to 3 hours, so as to reduce the risks of overdose.
Store edible products in a secure location so that children or household pets will not ingest them by accident.
Protect your lungs
If you smoke, do not hold the cannabis smoke in your lungs. Taking a big puff and keeping it in as long as possible does not increase your “high”, it will only extend the time your lungs are exposed to the toxic substances.
It is possible to vaporize certain forms of cannabis. Although it is not without risk, it produces less toxic substances and odours since the cannabis is heated and not burned.
Be considerate toward your family and loved ones
Do not expose them to second-hand cannabis smoke.
Do not drive or operate machinery after using cannabis
Identify a solution to return home: designate a sober driver, call a cab or use public transportation when you choose to use cannabis.
Even if you try to be careful, cannabis increases your reaction time and reduces your attention span. You run the risk of being involved in an accident, moreover, the risk is multiplied if you use alcohol at the same time.
Be wary of mixing
Mixing cannabis with alcohol increases the effects of either substance, to the point of making you sick, dizzy or vomit.
Mixing cannabis with tobacco should also be avoided. It can multiply the effects and have greater consequences on your health, not to mention that tobacco is a highly addictive product.
Cannabis and medication? There could be interactions with any medication you are taking. Talk to a health professional, such as your pharmacist, to find out more.
SHOULD YOU REFRAIN FROM USING CANNABIS?
If you are an adolescent or a young adult, you should put off your first use of cannabis for as long as possible. The younger you start using cannabis, especially before the age of 16, the greater the risks.
If you or a member of your immediate family has a history of psychosis or addiction, you should reconsider using. The risk of having problems associated with cannabis is much higher.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid using during that period. The substances contained in cannabis pass through the placenta and breast milk. Using cannabis can adversely affect infant development.
MORE ABOUT CERTAIN HEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS
Cognitive functions: Regular cannabis use reduces short-term memory, attention span, concentration and the ability to organize, integrate and process complex information.
Accidents and injuries: Cannabis affects the functions necessary to drive a motor vehicle and operate machinery. It increases reaction time and reduces attention span, the ability to maintain a trajectory and vigilance. The impairment caused by cannabis doubles the risk of road accidents.
Respiratory system: Regular cannabis smokers cough more and have more secretions and symptoms of chronic bronchitis. Cannabis smoke is harmful and contains more tar than tobacco smoke.
Prenatal exposure: Using cannabis during pregnancy could cause the child to experience certain developmental delays.
Mental health problems: Regular use of cannabis may affect mental health. It may trigger schizophrenia prematurely or other psychoses in individuals with a personal or family history of mental health problems.
Addiction: Cannabis addiction affects approximately 1 out of 10 users. Daily consumption increases the risk to 1 out of 4 persons, and sometimes even 1 out of 2 persons.
MEASURES FOR REGULATION OF CANNABIS
To know more about the measures regulating cannabis in Québec, including possession, cultivation and consumption, as well as measures related to highway safety, visit encadrementcannabis.gouv.qc.ca.
Also make sure you fully understand the rules that apply in the provinces, territories and municipalities you travel to.
It is not permitted to enter or leave the country with cannabis. Be vigilant, even the simple smell of cannabis could cause you problems when going through customs.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR ASSISTANCE
For further information on cannabis, please visit www.encadrementcannabis.gouv.qc.ca.
If you experience a health problem after using cannabis or need advice or references, please contact Info-Santé (free and confidential telephone consultation service) at 8-1-1.
To reduce or stop cannabis use
Cannabis users may wish to ease off or quit. Some people may feel the need for professional help. Here are the services available:
— Telephone service: Drugs: Help and Referral (available at all times, free, anonymous and confidential) at 1 800 265-2626.
— Telephone service: Info-Social (available at all times, free, anonymous and confidential) at 8-1-1.
— Integrated Health and Social Services Centres: Those centres provide, in every region, free services for individuals who want to reduce or stop using cannabis. Contact your CLSC or visit sante.gouv.qc.ca/repertoire-ressources/clsc/.
— Community or private resources offering addiction lodging: To find a resource, consult the directory of resources at www.msss.gouv.qc.ca/repertoires/dependances/.