Marijuana Use - Canada

Cannabis Use

Cannabis (marijuana, weed etc.) is the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa plant. It originated in Asia, but is cultivated around the world.

Cannabis use is common. In Canada, where adult access to cannabis is legal, 27% of people ages 16 and older reported having used cannabis in the past 12 months. 

How It’s Used

Cannabis is commonly inhaled or ingested. Hand-rolled cigarettes (joints); pipes and water pipes (bongs); emptied cigars (blunts); and vaporizers (vape pens) are used to inhale or smoke cannabis. It is also ingested in baked goods, teas and sodas.

Higher levels of THC

Over the years, the amount of THC (the main mind-altering component) in cannabis has increased. Higher levels of THC put users at risk for harmful reactions. With regular cannabis use, higher THC levels may also increase the risk for dependence or addiction.

THC, Cannabinoids, and the Brain

Cannabis has over 500 chemical components. The main mind-altering one is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It is one of about 100 cannabinoids in cannabis. Cannabinoids act on the body’s endocannabinoid system - a complex system that affects body organs, as well as the nervous and immune systems.

The body also has naturally-occurring cannabinoids that send chemical signals in the nervous system (neurotransmitters). These cannabinoids are involved in brain functions such as pleasure, thinking, movement, sensations, etc. THC also acts on the same brain areas, providing cannabis' effects. 

Effects on Work and Daily Activities

Cannabis use may impact work and other activities, both short- and long-term.

  • Cannabis' effects may last for days, or even weeks, after use. It depends on the individual’s use, but they may have trouble with attention, memory, and learning

  • Study results suggest that long-term, heavy cannabis use in the teen and young adult years has impacts later in life. There may be:

    • Lower satisfaction with relationships and life

    • Negative educational and financial consequences

    • Work problems (e.g. decreased commitment to work, underachievement etc.)

    • Risk of accidents and injuries (e.g. car accidents, sports injuries etc.)

Long-term Physical Effects

Cannabis may cause the following physical effects:

Long-term Psychological and Behavioral Effects

The psychological and behavioral effects of cannabis can include:

  • Decreased motivation

  • Increase in anxiety and depression

  • Loss of contact with reality (psychosis) with long-term, regular use of very potent cannabis

Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Cannabis Use

Cannabis use during pregnancy is associated with fetal and child development problems and may be linked to preterm birth, low birth weight, and placental problems. THC in breast milk may affect a baby's brain development.

Cannabis Use Disorder

Cannabis Use Disorder is a condition in which cannabis use leads to impairment in one’s life (e.g. health problems, failure to meet responsibilities at work or home). It involves the following signs and can vary in severity:

  • Using more than intended

  • Unable to quit use

  • A lot of time spent using

  • Cravings

  • Using even though it causes work, school, or home problems

  • Continued use even with physical, psychological, or relationship/social problems

  • Giving up important activities

  • Using in high-risk situations (e.g. driving)

  • Needing to use more to get high (tolerance)

  • Withdrawal symptoms when stopping (dependence)

Stopping or Reducing Use

You read about the negative effects of using cannabis. By stopping your use (or even reducing your use), you can lessen the risk of those consequences. 

Of note: people who stop using cannabis after frequent use (e.g. daily or almost daily use), may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, sweating, headaches, irritability, depressed mood, insomnia etc. Speak to your doctor if you might be at risk for this. 

Think about it… In what ways can you benefit by reducing or stopping cannabis use?

If you want to stop or reduce your cannabis use, the following can help: 

  1. Work with your coach to create a plan and set goals. 

  2. Use reminders to help you follow your plan. The reminders may be smartphone alerts, written Post-ItⓇ notes, calendar entries, etc.

  3. Avoid triggers. They may be people, places, or situations. 

  4. Have support in place. If you want to stop or use less cannabis, share the information with a close friend or family member - they can provide support. Of course, your Goodpath coach is also someone who can help.