Weed and Young People

Weed (cannabis) is legal in Canada starting on October 17, 2018. In Ontario, you have to be 19 or older to legally buy, use, possess, or grow weed.

There are health risks to using weed, especially if you start using before age 25. It can affect your mental health, change the way you learn and remember things, and cause addiction.

There are legal risks too, because weed is still illegal to buy, use, possess and grow, if you are under 19.

If you are 21 or under, or are a new driver (G1, G2, M1, M2 license), it’s against the law to have any weed in your system while you’re driving. No matter how old you are, driving after using weed is illegal and dangerous.

If you choose to use cannabis, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Explore:

What happens we you use weed

Weed (cannabis) affects people differently. It might cause enjoyable, harmful or medicinal effects. These effects can change depending on the strain of cannabis as well as the amount of the active ingredients (including tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] and cannabidiol [CBD]).

The effects of weed can include:

  • A sense of well-being
  • Relaxation
  • Feeling high (euphoria)
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling hungry
  • Dry mouth

If you’re smoking or vaping:

  • You’ll likely feel the effects within seconds to minutes
  • The effects can last up to 8 hours or more

If you’re eating or drinking weed:

  • You’ll likely feel the effects within 30 minutes to 2 hours or more
  • The effects can last up to 24 hours

When you use weed, it affects your brain. It:

  • Slows your reaction time
  • Affects your judgement
  • Makes you less coordinated
  • Makes it harder to pay attention, make decisions and remember things
  • May affect your mental health

Because of these effects, using weed can increase your risk for injuries and accidents.

Driving after using weed is dangerous and illegal. Learn more about driving and weed.

How weed affects your health

Weed (cannabis) can affect your physical and mental health.

Using weed regularly before the brain is fully developed (about age 25) can affect memory, thinking and attention. Some harms from using weed at a young age may never go away. This is especially true when:

  • You start using weed as a teenager
  • You use weed every day or almost every day
  • You use weed for a long time

The risks of dependence (addiction), mental health issues and lung damage are also greater in young people.

Short-term effects

Besides affecting your reaction time, judgement, coordination and ability to make decisions, weed can:

  • Affect your mood and mental health (e.g., cause confusion, panic, anxiety)
  • Trigger psychosis (hearing and seeing things that aren’t really there)
  • Decrease blood pressure, causing some people to faint
  • Increase heart rate, which can be dangerous for those with heart conditions

Long-term effects

Over time, if you continue to use weed, it can:

  • Harm your lungs, if you smoke it
  • Make you physically or psychologically addicted
  • Affect your mental health
  • Affect your concentration, ability to learn things, and memory

Your risk of experiencing these effects is higher if you use weed daily or almost every day.

To learn more about weed or to get help:

Using weed for medical reasons

Some people use weed for medical reasons. If you want to use weed for a medical reason, talk to your healthcare provider. Weed might interact with medications or conditions you already have.

To learn more about weed or to get help:

Addiction

Cannabis (weed) can be both physically and psychologically addictive, especially if you start using at a young age.

  • 1 in 6 people who start using as a teenager will develop addiction
  • If you use every day, the risk can be as high as 1 in 2

To reduce your risk of becoming addicted to weed:

  • Delay use as long as possible, ideally until age 25
  • Avoid using it every day or almost every day

It’s possible to be addicted to substances (such as weed, alcohol or tobacco) or activities such as gambling or gaming. Any addiction can cause serious harm to your health, social life, school, work and financial future.

Signs of addiction include:

  • Use getting in the way of everyday life, like going to school, working a job or participating in sports or other activities
  • Using more or longer than planned
  • Not being able to cut down or control use

To learn more about weed or to get help:

Mental health

Using weed (cannabis) can affect your physical and mental health. It can also be addictive—both psychologically and physically.

Using weed can:

  • Have the opposite effect than you’re hoping for (e.g., using to relieve stress/anxiety can make the problem worse)
  • Increase your risk of psychosis (e.g., losing touch with reality, hallucinations)
  • Increase your risk of having a lifelong psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia (risk is even higher if you have a personal or family history of psychosis)
  • May increase your risk of suicide, depression and some forms of anxiety (more research is still needed to better understand this)

The mental health risks are higher if:

  • You starting using weed at a young age (under 25) because the brain is still developing
  • You use weed every day or almost every day
  • You have a personal or family history of mental illness
Some people say they use cannabis to help them cope with stress or for mental health reasons. If you find you’re using cannabis for these reasons, check out how to deal with stress in a positive way.

To learn more about weed or to get help:

Learning and memory

If you use weed (cannabis) regularly, it can make it harder for you to learn, pay attention, make decisions and remember things. These effects can last for weeks after you stop using.

The brain is still developing until around the age of 25. The active ingredient in weed (THC) changes the system that directs brain development. We don’t yet know whether some of these changes are reversible or permanent.

To learn more about weed or to get help:

Ways to reduce your risk

No matter how you use weed (cannabis), there are short-term and long-term health risks. The only way to avoid all of the risks is to not use it.

If you choose to use weed, there are safer ways of doing it. Here are 10 ways you can reduce your risk of harm:

  1. Delay use. The brain is still developing until age 25 and regular use before then increases risks of learning, addiction, and mental health issues. The greatest risk is for those using before the age of 16.
  2. Reduce use. The more weed you use (especially daily or almost every day), the higher the risk of problems with your health, education, and social life. Try to limit use to once a week at most.
  3. Avoid smoking. Smoking cannabis can harm your lungs. Vaping or edibles are safer for your lungs, but are not risk-free. If you smoke, avoid taking deep breaths or holding your breath. Some people believe these practices increase the high. There is not enough evidence to say whether or not that is true, but it is clear these practices increase the toxic chemicals that reach your lungs.
  4. Avoid using too much, especially with edibles. When you eat/drink weed, it can take up to two hours to feel the full effects. Starting with a small amount and going slowly can help you avoid a “bad high” which may include confusion, paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, fast heart rate, nausea or vomiting.
  5. Avoid high potency strains and products. The higher the THC content, the greater your risk for negative short-term and long-term problems. Dabbing and hash oil products can have very a high THC content. Products with a higher CBD content may reduce some of the negative effects.
  6. Think about your source. Illegal sources of weed may contain pesticides, heavy metals, mould or other drugs.
  7. Don’t use and drive. Weed does not make you a better driver. It makes you less coordinated and slows your reaction time. Plan a safe ride home.
  8. Don’t mix with alcohol or tobacco. Using weed at the same time as alcohol or other drugs can cause unpredictable effects (such as anxiety, vomiting or fainting) and increase your risk for accidents and injuries. Using weed with tobacco can lead to nicotine addiction and harm your lungs.
  9. Avoid synthetic cannabis products, like K2 or Spice. These products have been linked to seizures, irregular heartbeat, panic attacks, and in some cases, death.
  10. Think about when and where you use it. Using weed before school or work may affect your ability to learn or meet responsibilities. Choose a safe environment and make sure you are with someone you trust.

When to avoid weed

Sometimes not using is the best choice, like when:

  • You or someone in your family has a history of psychosis (a mental state where people have trouble knowing what is real or not) or addiction (your chances of mental health problems and addiction are higher)
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding (weed can harm your baby)

If you have a bad reaction

If you have had too much or you are not enjoying your experience, try to keep calm until the effects wear off. Use with friends you trust, find a quiet safe space you feel comfortable in, stay with a friend, drink water and have something to eat.

If you or someone you’re with needs help, call:

To learn more about weed or to get help:

When weed is a problem

Signs someone is addicted to weed include:

  • Use is getting in the way of everyday life – like paying attention in school, doing your job or participating in sports or other activities
  • Using more or longer than planned
  • Not being able to cut down or control use

Did you know that people who use weed are 2½ times more likely to gamble?

Many popular web or app-based games actually involve gambling. Gambling can lead to a variety of harms, including problems with your health, relationships, or finances. Many of the same factors that make people more likely to experience issues with drugs, also make people more likely to experience issues with mental health and gambling.

To learn more about the risks of gambling and gaming and to find support, check out:

Get help:

Edibles (food and drinks) made with weed

“Edibles” refers to weed (cannabis) in a form that can be eaten or drunk.

Edibles affect you differently than if you smoke or vape weed.

  • When smoking or vaping, you might feel the effects within seconds to minutes.
  • When eating or drinking products made with weed, it can take up to two hours or more to feel the full effects.

It is possible to eat/drink too much weed. When you this happens, you could experience psychosis, become paranoid or anxious, and experience other health effects.

Planning to eat or drink a product made with cannabis?

  • Do not mix cannabis in any form with alcohol. Mixing cannabis with alcohol can cause anxiety, nausea, vomiting or fainting. It can also increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Know how much is in a serving.
  • Wait until you feel the full effects before consuming more (this could take 2 hours or longer).
  • Keep edibles in a secure (locked) location, away from kids and pets.
  • If a child eats weed, call the Ontario Poison Centre at 1-800-268-9017 or seek medical attention right away. If the child seems ill or has trouble breathing, or you are worried for other reasons, call 911.
  • If a pet eats weed, call your veterinarian.

To learn more about cannabis or to get help:

 

Thank you to Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO) for providing funding to this campaign through the BET: System Impact Grant, and also to the youth and community partners who contributed to this campaign.

This page was last updated: October 15, 2018