Seven ways to reduce risks when using cannabis



​​​​A message from the FNHA's Mental Health and Wellness Team

If you choose to use cannabis on 4/20 or beyond, it's important to know the risks associated with cannabis use so you can stay healthy, well and safe.

Whether you make the decision to use cannabis products, or are simply wanting to learn more to support your loved ones, we want you to know the risks of consuming cannabis so you can make informed choices for safer use.

Remember, the safest option is to avoid using substances altogether. Instead of using cannabis on 4/20, you could use the day to connect to culture, spend time with family or your community or plan an activity with friends, like a nature walk.​

If you decide to use cannabis, here are 7 tips to reduce your risk:

1. Delay using cannabis until you’re an adult. Your brain is still growing until your mid-20s, and using cannabis during this time can interfere with healthy brain development. Health impacts can include cognitive impairment (attention, memory and verbal learning) and increased risk of psychosis, physical injury and substance-use related problems.

2. Choose lower-potency products. Using cannabis extract or concentrate products (cannabis oil pens, shatter, wax, and hash) is riskier as they have extremely high levels of THC (the substance responsible for the effects of cannabis on a person's mental state). High-potency THC products are strongly related to mental health problems, cannabis dependence and injuries. 

3. Choose non-combustible cannabis products. Smoking cannabis is harmful for your lungs and has been linked to problems like lung cancer, particularly when mixed with tobacco. Although all cannabis use comes with some risk, if you do use, it is preferable to choose another method of ingestion, e.g., edibles or flower vaporizers.

4. Use cannabis in moderation. Daily or near daily use puts you at a high risk for health problems like changes to your brain function, cannabis dependence, mental health problems, problems with school or work and even risk of suicide. 

5. Never drive after using cannabis. Driving after cannabis use affects your attention, your ability to think and solve problems and your reaction times. This is why it is legally considered impaired driving. It is important to wait at least six hours after consuming cannabis to drive, and longer if you have consumed a high-potency product. 

6. If you or members of your family have a history of psychosis or schizophrenia, it is best to avoid using cannabis. There is a link between cannabis use and developing or worsening existing psychosis or schizophrenia, particularly for young men.

7. Avoid using cannabis if you are pregnant. Cannabis use during pregnancy affects your baby’s brain development. The more cannabis that is consumed during pregnancy, the more your baby’s developing brain is affected.

For more information on cannabis please see the following resources:

Harm reduction and cannabis info sheet: See more tips for making safer cannabis choices

Cannabis concentrate guide: Everything you need to know about cannabis concentrates

FNHA cannabis resources

CAMH lower-risk cannabis-use guidelines for adults

CAMH lower-risk cannabis-use guidelines for youth

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