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 it's 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 have more risks. Learn about cannabis and the effects here.
Cannabis and your mental health
Cannabis can cause mental health issues for some people.
You may be more at risk of experiencing negative effects on your mental health if:
- You start using cannabis at a young age (in your teens)
- You use cannabis frequently (daily or almost every day)
- You use stronger or ‘higher potency’ cannabis
- You have a personal or family history of psychosis and/or schizophrenia. You should avoid use if these are concerns within your family
Each person’s mental health status is unique to them. Similarly, each person will have a different relationship with substances.
The area of drugs and mental health is complex. Some people may be more at risk to experiencing negative mental health effects than others. Therefore, what causes a positive effect for one person may cause a negative effect for another.
Remember, what others choose to do may not be the right choice for you and your mental health.
See our key facts for teens regarding risks and mental health:
- The younger a person starts using drugs the more harm it can cause to their health. Your brain will continue to develop until your mid-twenties.
- Using as a teen can impact on your brains development. This is why health professionals recommend teens to avoid using substances, including alcohol. Learn more here.
- Starting to frequently use substances in your teens can make people more likely to experience concerns in later life such as mental health or dependency issues.
- Some people with mental health concerns may use substances like cannabis or alcohol to relieve their symptoms. While people may experience that this substance use is associated with short-term improvements in symptoms, these are not effective treatments and can make things worse.
- People who are already at risk of developing mental health problems are more likely to start showing symptoms of mental illness if they use cannabis regularly. For example, if someone in your family has depression or schizophrenia, you are at higher risk of getting these illness’s when you use cannabis.
- Available evidence indicates that people who use cannabis in their teens have an increased risk of developing of serious psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia when compared with non-cannabis users. This can also be influenced by frequent use and your family history.
- Frequent use over a long period of time can impact on aspects of your memory and thinking which could impact on your school work
- If you stop using cannabis once you have started to show symptoms of mental illness, such as depression, paranoia or hearing voices, these symptoms may go away. However, not everyone will get better just by stopping smoking.
- Some people may be at risk of feeling suicidal if they use in their teens. It’s important to talk about these feelings and not to be afraid to discuss them with a trusted person.
- Higher THC products can increase the likelihood of experiencing negative mental health effects. This includes new products on the market like cannabis edibles ‘jellies’. It is possible to take too much and experience hallucinations, anxiety or a panic attack.
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.
Get more information
- Drugs and the developing brain
- Different drugs and their impact on your on mental health
- Find support for young people concerned about their mental health on SpunOut.ie