• Though cannabis use has become more widespread, it may also pose certain health risks.
  • It's best to remain fully informed and aware of how to diminish these risks, which can affect your mental and/or physical health.
  • Check out the Quebec government's website for all of the important facts.

Cannabis has been legalized in Canada since 2018, and ever since then, its consumption has become a more socially acceptable and open practice in society. But even though there’s nothing wrong with indulging, it’s still important you remain aware of all the risks associated with cannabis consumption — especially considering new ways to consume it, such as edibles. 

Whether you use cannabis or know someone who does, the best thing is to be in the know when it comes to the associated risks and ways to mitigate them, so that you can make a fully informed decision. True, it might be a little overwhelming to find the official facts when it comes to cannabis risks and how to diminish them. Therefore, to make it simple, we’ve broken down the major risks of usage and how to help lower them. 

1. To avoid becoming dependent, moderate your usage

It's no secret that when you use something regularly, it becomes routine (also known as a habit). We have amazingly plastic brains, meaning they are constantly firing and rewiring based on our behaviours. While this can be a good thing (e.g. eating more salads), it can also cause us to become routinely accustomed to substances. When your system gets used to being in a certain state (for instance, intoxication), it learns to recognize this as a new normal. 

Since cannabis became legal, one of the warning labels you may or may not have seen notes the potential for dependency. This is because, with continued use, your body might equate the feeling of inebriation with normalcy. The best thing you can do is stay aware of your consumption and make sure to moderate your usage.

2. To avoid feeling anxious, be in tune with your state of mind

Anyone who has experienced anxiety or panic attacks knows that they can get pretty bad (and often scary). Unfortunately, many studies show that people who use cannabis actually feel anxiety more than those who don't. There is no hard and fast way of telling whether cannabis will negatively impact your anxiety levels. Whether this impacts you directly depends on a lot of factors, though it is helpful to know that the risk is there. 

To best handle this potential pitfall, mindfulness is key. Understanding yourself (and your propensity for nervousness) will help avoid this issue. If you are prone to panic, make sure that you assess this risk thoroughly.

3) To avoid overdoing it, monitor how much you consume

One of the easiest risks to forget about is how easy it is to overconsume cannabis. Because inebriation comes in phases, you can mistake the substance for "wearing-off" when, really, it is just moving on to the next step. 

With edibles, there is even more risk for overconsumption. Since, when ingested through food or drinks, the effects of cannabis have a delay of 30 to 60 minutes, it's easy to think that there are no effects at all. In actuality, depending on the person and what was ingested, the effects may only fully kick in five hours later (and last up to eight hours!). 

Because there is such a significant time lag, it is easy to think that overconsuming won't have any impact. This risk makes it all too easy to overdo it (thereby increasing other risks and pitfalls). A good way to handle this is to keep an eye on the clock. If it helps you, write down what and how much you consume. Keep in mind that there is a time delay to avoid doubling up.

4) To avoid poor judgement, consume in a safe space

It's no mystery that cannabis impacts your mental state. This means that, while the substance can lead to elevated emotions, it also has some other (significant) impacts. One of the key risks involves memory since, when you use cannabis, both short and mid-term memory are altered. It also inhibits your overall concentration and ability to pay attention to your surroundings. The real risk here is that, since cannabis impairs judgment and delays reactions, it becomes harder to make good decisions. 

Depending on your surroundings, it is critical to keep your wits about you, from crossing the street to properly handling social interactions. Take care of yourself by making sure you are in a safe place if you choose to use cannabis. Avoid making important decisions and ensure that you have a friend to call if needed.

5) To avoid physical and psychological effects, be informed

Anything you consume comes with a lot of effects. Cannabis is no different. Actually, it has a wide range of effects on personal health. Now that it is 2020, we know that whole health is a composite of physical and mental wellbeing (and cannabis poses risks to both). 

In terms of physical health, not only does cannabis increase the effects of existing issues, but it also has many hidden pitfalls. When you consume cannabis, it causes your heart to beat faster and can even change your ticker's rhythm. Not only that, but it also poses risks to blood pressure and respiratory distress. When it comes to mental health, the risks are even more extensive. These range from paranoia to hallucinations (auditory: sound disruptions, visual: seeing things, and tactile: strange touch sensations). Further risks include depressive feelings like sadness, irritation, and tiredness.

Since cannabis usage impacts all aspects of health, it is especially important to weigh all the risks. Talk to your healthcare professional and keep track of your personal wellbeing. This way, you have all the information you need to stay healthy.

6) To avoid interactions, don't mix with other substances

Okay, so while cannabis was studied before its legalization, there is no way to tell it's interactions with all medications. What we do know, however, is that it does interact with other substances.

Whether you are taking antibiotics, muscle relaxants, or just had that extra shot of espresso in your java, cannabis can alter the other substance's impact on your system. Since most of the effects are unknown, it is super important to be responsible and understand the risk associated when mixing substances. A couple of interactions that we know about are cannabis plus alcohol, and cannabis plus tobacco. While there are limited specifics, studies show that, especially when used together, the risk of harmful health effects increases significantly. 

To manage this, limit other substances you consume if you plan on using cannabis, and try to avoid consuming cannabis while taking medication. If you have questions about any potential interactions, don't be shy. Talk to your doctor to make sure you are equipped with all the facts.

7) To avoid any surprises, consider your health holistically

You are a unique individual, and this means that the way cannabis affects you personally will be unique as well. The law of effect basically states that cannabis will impact you differently based on your physiology, mental state, the concentration of CBD and THC, and more. 

Knowing yourself is the key to mitigating this risk. Did you have a negative experience before? Are you hydrated? Have you slept and eaten sufficiently? Consider all aspects of your wellbeing before proceeding to ensure that you are making a responsible decision. 

The important thing for you to remember is that it is always best to have the unvarnished facts. Thankfully, in the internet age, it is easier than ever before to find helpful facts from reliable sources (so that you can be a well-informed judge).

To learn more helpful details on cannabis usage, be sure to check out Québec.ca/cannabis. There, you can source reliable information and answer all of your questions on the subject.

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