Cannabis Myths & Facts
It’s Legal So It’s Safe
Research shows that youth cannabis use is connected to:
- Mental health issues (depression, anxiety) – especially regular use
- Impaired development of reason and judgement
- Poor educational outcomes
- Reduced earning potential
- Risk taking & unsafe behavior
- Impaired driving
- Psychosis (in rare cases)
Cannabis Is Not Addictive
Cannabis is addictive, especially for young people. Overall, about 1 in 11 – or 9% – of people who abuse cannabis will develop an addiction over time. The risk rises to 17% if users start a cannabis habit during adolescence. It rises further to 25-50% for those who use the drug every day.
Cannabis is Safe to Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Cannabis use in pregnancy may affect the baby’s brain development and when the child reaches school age, it may have problems with attention, behaviour, memory, delayed reading skills, and depression.
You Can’t Overdose on Cannabis
You cannot die directly from taking cannabis, however, it is possible to overdose and become physically ill (nausea, vomiting), experience extreme anxiety, paranoia, and short-term psychosis (loss of touch with reality). These effects can take several hours to go away, depending on how the cannabis was consumed. The risk for overdose is especially high if you consume homemade edible cannabis products, as it is usually not possible to accurately measure your dosage.
Holding It in Your Lungs Makes the Effects Better
There is no scientific evidence to support this. Instead, holding the smoke in your lungs potentially increases the damage to your lungs. If you smoke or vaporize cannabis, it is best to exhale and not hold it in your lungs for any amount of time.
Everybody Uses Cannabis
In Manitoba, 55% of people have tried cannabis at some point in their life. However, in 2017, 80% of Manitobans reported that they had not used cannabis in that year.
Prohibiting Cannabis Keeps Kids From Using It
Despite the fact that cannabis has been illegal in Canada until 2018, Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use for both youth and adults in the world.
Countries that have more relaxed laws about cannabis use – Portugal with decriminalization & the Netherlands with a more permissive approach – do not have more use of cannabis than countries like the U.S or Canada.
Cannabis Is a “Gateway” Drug
There has been no consistent relationship between the use patterns of cannabis and other drugs. While studies of large numbers of people have indeed found that those who smoke cannabis are more likely to use other drugs, these studies show a correlation without showing causation. In short, just because cannabis smokers might be more likely to use other drugs like cocaine, does not imply that using cannabis causes one to use cocaine.
It's Natural, So It’s Harmless
About 10 milligrams of THC can potentially cause toxic psychosis—or THC-induced, psychotic-like symptoms such as delusions—in about 40% of people. Natural/organic/herbal does not mean safe!
"It's Not a Big Deal, I Smoked It in the 70's"
In recreational cannabis, levels of THC have been increasing while levels of CBD have been decreasing. This decreases the “protective” effect that CBD may have had on the effects of THC. It is likely that the higher THC content allows people to ingest less tar. At the same time, CBD levels in seized samples have lowered, in part because of the desire to produce higher THC levels and because more illegal growers cultivate indoors using artificial lights. This helps avoid detection but reduces the CBD production of the plant.
It's Safe to Drive While Under the Influence of Cannabis
Drugs and driving don’t mix. Remember that driving a vehicle while high can pose the same risks as drinking and driving. Just like alcohol, marijuana affects a user’s brain function. A person high on marijuana will have:
- Decreased reaction time
- Decreased visual ability
- Decreased attention
- Impaired decision making
Never Drive High
Cannabis affects your focus, reaction time and coordination, which means that driving while high can increase your chance of getting in an accident. Driving requires you to pay attention to your surroundings so that if you have to make a split second decision, you’re in the right frame of mind to make it. It is recommended to wait at least six hours before driving after using cannabis, and wait even longer if you’re using a stronger product or have a lasting high. Driving impaired is illegal and could result in fines, criminal charges and even jail time. Don’t get behind the wheel or in a car with an impaired driver –– it’s not worth it.
Choose Products With Higher CBD Compared to THC Content
The only way to avoid all of the risks is to not use cannabis. If you choose to use, choose products with low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Products with higher THC content can be harmful, resulting in short – and long-term problems, such as mental health concerns, dependence or injuries. CBD (cannabidiol), is another compound in cannabis that can reduce negative effects such as memory impairment, paranoia and high heart rate. Few people experience psychotic symptoms or other associated mental health problems when using a cannabis product that has higher CBD content. Choose a product with low THC content or higher CBD compared to THC.
Choose Natural Cannabis Products
Synthetic cannabis products such as K2 or Spice are designed to copy the effects of THC but the contents of most synthetics are unknown, untested and change from product to product. Synthetic cannabis has been shown to lead to severe health issues, and in some cases, death. Simply avoid synthetic cannabis products altogether, and use natural cannabis instead, which is less risky.
Consider Your Risk Factors and Avoiding Cannabis Use if you are Pregnant
If you or your family has a history of psychosis or substance use disorder you are at a higher risk of experiencing cannabis-related psychosis, dependence or mental health problems. If you are vulnerable to mental illness it is recommended to avoid the use of cannabis. Using cannabis during pregnancy has been related to having a lower birth weight and developmental effects in children such as problems with attention, behavior, memory, delayed reading skills, and depression.
Try to Avoid Smoking Cannabis
Smoking cannabis is the most harmful way of using it because of the effect it has on your lungs. Try vaping instead of using joints or bongs. You can also eat edibles but remember that your high will be delayed so it’s important to pace yourself. If you do choose to smoke or vape cannabis, don’t hold it in your lungs for any amount of time as it will increase damage to your lungs.
Mind & Body Facts
Being impaired by cannabis effects coordination, reaction time and decision making. This has led to many fatal and non-fatal motor vehicle accidents. Driving impaired is a criminal offence and can result in an impaired driving charge. Passengers are placing themselves at risk when driving with impaired drivers.
Using cannabis can negatively impact your mental health. It can cause an increase in feelings of anxiety and depression, impair your memory and cognitive functions, and may increase the risk of psychosis.
Using cannabis throughout pregnancy has been related to having a lower birth weight and developmental effects in children. Cannabis can also be passed through breast milk to the baby.
Cannabis smoke contains many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke. If you choose to smoke cannabis, avoid holding your inhale, as it increases damage to the lungs.
Reducing health risks
related to cannabis use
When choosing to use cannabis, you can actively take steps to reduce risks to your health. Below are 10 science-based recommendations for how to do so. These recommendations are aimed mainly at non-medical cannabis use.
Cannabis Use Has Health Risks Best Avoided by Abstaining
Remember that every form of cannabis use poses risks to your health. The only way to completely avoid these risks is by choosing not to use cannabis. If you decide to use cannabis, follow these recommendations to lower risks to your health.
Delay Taking up Cannabis Use Until Later in Life
The earlier in life you begin using cannabis, the higher your risk of serious health problems. Teenagers, particularly those younger than 16, should delay using cannabis for as long as possible. You’ll lower your risk of cannabis-related health problems if you choose to start using cannabis later in life.
Identify and Choose Lower-Risk Cannabis Products
Higher-strength or more powerful cannabis products are worse for your health. If you use products with high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, the main mind-altering ingredient in cannabis, you’re more likely to develop severe problems, such as dependence or mental health problems. Cannabidiol (CBD), another cannabis ingredient, can counteract some of THC’s psychoactive effects. If you use, choose low-strength products, such as those with lower THC content or a higher ratio of CBD to THC.
Don’t Use Synthetic Cannabinoids
Compared with natural cannabis products, most synthetic cannabis products are stronger and more dangerous. K2 and Spice are examples of synthetic cannabis products. Using these can lead to severe health problems, such as seizures, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations and in rare cases, death.
Avoid Smoking Cannabis – Choose Safer Ways of Using
Smoking cannabis (for example, smoking a joint) is the most harmful way of using cannabis because it directly affects your lungs. There are safer, non-smoking options like vaping or taking edibles that are better for your lungs. Keep in mind that these alternatives aren’t risk-free either.
Don’t Use and Drive or Operate Other Machinery
Cannabis use impairs your ability to drive a car or operate other machinery. Don’t engage in these activities after using cannabis, or while you still feel affected by cannabis in any way. These effects typically last at least six hours but could be longer, depending on the person and the product used. Using cannabis and alcohol together further increases your impairment. Avoid this combination before driving or operating machinery.
Limit and Reduce How Often You Use Cannabis
The more frequently you use cannabis, the more likely you are to develop health problems, especially if you use on a daily or near-daily basis. Limiting your cannabis use to occasional use at most, such as only using once a week or on weekends, is a good way to reduce your health risks. Try to limit your use as much as possible.
If You Smoke Cannabis, Avoid Harmful Smoking Practices
If you choose to smoke cannabis, avoid inhaling deeply or holding your breath. These practices increase the number of toxins absorbed by your lungs and the rest of your body and can lead to lung problems.
Avoid Cannabis Use Altogether if You Are at Risk for Mental Health Problems or are Pregnant
Some people are more likely to develop problems from cannabis use. Specifically, people with a personal or family history of psychosis or substance use problems, and pregnant women should not use cannabis at all.
Avoid Combining the Risks Identified Above
The more risks you take, the greater the chances of harming your health as a result of cannabis use.
Your Brain on Drugs
VIDEO: This is what you look like, on the inside, when smoking cannabis. The effects of Marijuana on your brain, and how it defines your experience.
Even though cannabis is legal in Canada, there are still rules and regulations that have been put in place by each provincial government. It is important to familiarize yourself with Manitoba the laws so that you can safely, legally and responsibly use marijuana.Learn More
If alcohol, drugs or gambling are causing problems for you or someone you know, call the Manitoba Addictions Helpline at 1-855-662-6605 (toll free) or the Youth Addictions Centralized Intake at: 1-877-710-3999. For information about our programs and services please visit Mental Health & Addictions, Shared Health.