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All about cannabis


January 12, 2020 Addictions


Par Audrey Fortin


Since its legalization in Canada in October 2018, cannabis has been a hot topic of conversation. 

Before talking about it with our children, however, we as parents need to know a little more about the subject. By being better informed ourselves, we can more effectively share fair and objective information about cannabis with our teen.

What exactly is cannabis?

First of all, cannabis is a drug, just like alcohol and medication. 

These psychoactive substances can change our moods and behaviours.

 Whether they are legal (e.g. caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, etc.) or not (e.g. cocaine, heroin, etc.), their use carries health risks and can lead to addiction.

Coming from the plant of the same name, cannabis, also known as pot, marijuana, weed, or grass, contains hundreds of chemical substances. The most well-known to date are THC and CBD. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis and it's responsible for the disruptive and euphoric effects that users experience. These effects are often described as being "stoned," "high," "frozen," or "buzzed..

CBD does not have the mind-altering properties of THC, but it is of growing interest to the scientific community. Recent studies suggest that it could be associated with certain therapeutic effects (anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-nausea, etc.). It also acts as a regulator for the effects of THC. Cannabis comes in different forms (dried plants, liquid or solid concentrates, and edibles) and is consumed in many ways. The most common way of consumption is by inhalation (by burning or vaporizing).

Why use cannabis?

People use cannabis for many different reasons. Some people use cannabis for self-medication, to reduce pain, or to help them sleep. Others use it to feel good (a buzz), to control their emotions (anxiety, depression, social stress), to be more productive and creative, or simply out of curiosity to try new things or to be like others in social settings.

The effect felt depends not only on what is consumed. The person consuming it and the environment in which it is consumed also have an impact. Personal characteristics like height, gender, weight, state of health and mind, etc., as well as the products used (quantity, frequency, tolerance, combination, amount, etc.) and the context of consumption (place, time of day, relationship with others, conflicts, laws, etc.) all influence the effects a person will feel from canabis.

What are the risks of using cannabis?

Like the effects, the risks associated with using cannabis depend on several factors. These include the duration and intensity of use, the potency of the drug, individual factors (genetics, personality, experiences, etc.), and the person’s age at first use. The adverse effects impact cognitive functions as well as physical and mental health.

These include a decrease in the person’s memory, attention, concentration, and judgment. Cannabis use also slows down one’s ability to react and make decisions. Other manifestations, such as hallucinations, paranoid ideas, depressive symptoms, or panic attacks could occur.

Cannabis is a drug that alters the brain’s functions! The effects can be positive or negative and its use can be addictive.

When does cannabis use become a problem?

Cannabis use (as with any other drug) becomes problematic when the person loses control over their consumption. That is, when everything revolves around their use. They always use more than expected or more often and, despite some attempts, can’t seem to cut back. It also becomes problematic when the person withdraws from social activities or is no longer able to fulfill personal and professional obligations.

They may even take risks by using in dangerous contexts. They may ignore the appearance of physical or psychological consequences and continue to use. And lastly, cannabis use has gone too far when someone develops a tolerance and displays symptoms that are linked to withdrawal.

Are you concerned about a loved one's use?

If you are worried about a loved one’s cannabis use, the first thing to do is to educate yourself on the subject. Then talk about it with people you trust. Seek the help of a professional who will accompany you in your next steps. To learn how to reduce the risks associated with cannabis use and how to talk to someone you’re worried about, click here!

Resources for parents

Do you speak cannabis? – Gouvernement du Québec

Regulation of Cannabis in Québec


References (in French)

Association Canadienne de Santé Publique, Cannabases
Gouvernement du Québec, Le cannabis
Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Dossier Cannabis et santé
Santé Montréal, Lumière sur le cannabis : Parler avec les ados
Institut de la statistique du Québec, Enquête québécoise sur la santé des jeunes du secondaire, 2016-2017