(NC) With the upcoming changes to the legal status of cannabis in Canada being considered, many of us are wondering about the possible health effects and risks. While cannabis may make you feel relaxed and happy, you could also experience unpleasant, unwanted or negative effects on your brain and body. Here are some health facts to help you make an informed decision.
1. Short-term effects. Even occasional use of cannabis has been linked with confusion, fatigue, difficulty remembering and anxiety. The short-term effects on the body can include decreased blood pressure, which can cause people to faint; increased heart rate, which can be dangerous for people with heart conditions; and damaged blood vessels caused by inhalation of smoke.
2. Your brain. Long-term harmful effects of cannabis use develop gradually and with regular and especially frequent (e.g., daily) use, and can affect memory, concentration, IQ and the ability to think and make decisions.
3. Your body. Some of the long-term effects on the body of smoking cannabis are similar to the effects of smoking tobacco, and include increased risk of bronchitis, lung infections and chronic cough as well as increased mucus buildup in the throat.
4. Mental health. For some people, cannabis use increases their risk of developing mental illnesses like psychosis or schizophrenia, especially among those with a personal or family history of mental illness. Frequent use of cannabis may also be associated with increased incidence of suicide, depression and social anxiety disorders.
5. Impairment. Although many people think it’s safe to drive a couple of hours after using cannabis, impairment can actually last far longer. Cannabis use can impair your ability to drive safely or participate in other higher-speed activities, like biking and skiing. This is because cannabis can affect your coordination, reaction time, ability to pay attention, decision-making and ability to judge distances. Combining cannabis with alcohol greatly increases your impairment and the risk of an accident.
6. Safety. Keep in mind that there are more health dangers with using cannabis obtained illegally. Since the THC potency of illegal cannabis is often unknown, you could end up using a stronger product than expected, which could heighten or prolong effects such as confusion or anxiety. Illegal cannabis may also have been treated with pesticides that are harmful to health.
7. Addiction. Contrary to popular belief, people can become addicted to cannabis. Research shows that THC in cannabis causes an increase in levels of dopamine, the pleasure chemical, in the brain, motivating people to keep using it. In fact, it’s estimated that 9% of cannabis users will develop an addiction to it — a figure that rises with daily use and among people who start using as teenagers.
Find more information at Canada.ca/Cannabis.