Everyone knows about cannabis, it's been around for centuries, so what's all the fuss about? One of the reasons cannabis is still big news today is that the nature of the drug has changed a lot over the years. Cannabis has become one of the most trafficked illegal drugs in the world. It no longer just grows naturally but is grown under conditions that make it much more potent.
The potency relates to the THC content - the chemical in cannabis that gets you high. Some types of cannabis are grown to be unnaturally high in THC. This means that there is a higher risk of negative effects from using it. The more potent forms may also be more addictive.
The potency varies between different types of cannabis - herb, resin (hash) and oil. Unlike alcohol, cannabis does not come with a label telling you how strong it is. You can't tell just from looking at it.
What are the risks?
Cannabis is one of the drugs young people use the most. There is a myth that this is one of the safer options but cannabis can trigger underlying mental health problems in some people. Cannabis has hallucinogenic properties which can make you feel paranoid, anxious and, in some people, lead to a psychotic episode. It can also become a habit as you develop an overwhelming desire for the drug.
Some of the risks linked to cannabis are:
- You may become psychologically dependent (you feel you can't cope without it)
- You may become isolated and lose motivation
- It's illegal so you risk getting in trouble with the law
The younger you are when you start using, the higher your risk of becoming addicted to cannabis. Heavy and long-term users can also experience withdrawal. Symptoms can include:
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Loss of appetite
- Problems with concentration and attention
My friend is using cannabis, is there anything I can do?
It's a very sensitive topic but you should talk with your friend and listen to what they have to say. It is a good idea to find out all you can about cannabis from online or helpline services, guidance counsellors or someone else you trust. Tell your friend that there are support services they can use to find out information and get advice. Tell your friend about the risks and let them know that you are worried about them.