Cannabis Category: Cannabinoids
Also called: hash, hashish, weed, blow, pot, ganja, grass, THC, blunts, bush, herb, puff, resin, smoke, spliff, Afgan, Moroccan, squidgy black, soapbar, skunk, edibles, shatter
Cannabis is the most commonly used controlled drug in Ireland.
It comes from the cannabis plant and can be used in a number of ways. The cannabis plant is complex and contains hundreds of compounds called ‘Cannabinoids’.
The main psychoactive compound which gets people ‘high’ is called THC (delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol). Another well-known compound is CBD (a non-psychoactive compound which is thought to make people less likely to feel anxious and paranoid).
Plants are grown to contain different concentrations of various cannabinoids and therefore different varieties will have different effects.
In addition to the cannabinoids which are in the Cannabis plant, there are also now laboratory created cannabinoid chemicals which are called synthetic cannabinoids.These are sometimes sprayed onto dried plant material and sold in products to be smoked. They are known my many names such as ‘Spice’. They are often much more potent than cannabis and appear to cause increased side effects.
Cannabis comes in many forms, below are commonly known varieties.
Cannabis resin (hash)
Hash or resin is a black or brown lump made from the resin of the cannabis plant. It is made by separating the sticky resin from the buds and leaves and comes in blocks.
Herbal cannabis (grass / weed)
Herbal cannabis is common and is generally made from the dried leaves and flowering parts of the female plant and looks like tightly packed dried herbs in brown/green shades. In Ireland, herbal cannabis is often grown indoors using techniques involving artificial light and nutrient solutions to produce higher levels of the chemical THC. Stronger variations, higher in THC mean increases risk to the user’s mental health.
Skunk is a general term given to stronger forms of cannabis that contain more THC. This term may be less commonly used in Ireland.
Cannabis oils can vary in consistency or thickness and could be amber, gold or dark brown. Oils may be sold in droppers, syringes or capsules.
Oil extracted from cannabis plants can contain varying amounts of THC and CBD.
These are highly concentrated forms of cannabis that are extracted using a solvent. This production process is risky to perform and produces glass like ‘shatter’ with the smoking process in a pipe known as ‘dabbing’.
Cannabis ‘edibles’ are food products infused with cannabis. Edibles come in many forms—including baked goods, sweets, ’gummy bears’, 'cannabis gummies' chocolates and lozenges. They have many different names that include 'space cakes', 'Gummies', 'THC sweets'. Learn more here.
How cannabis is used
Cannabis is mostly smoked in a ‘joint’, pipe or ‘bong’, or can be vaporised. It can also be made into food or tea.
How it’s consumed will impact on it’s effects. When inhaled, effects occur almost immediately. Eating cannabis products will lead to a delay in the effects, which may not reach their peak for a couple of hours. It is harder to know the amount being taken when eating products which can lead to over consumption. This can cause prolonged negative and frightening effects or cannabis poisoning which is similar to an 'overdose' when you take too much of a substance.
Short-term effects of cannabis
Drugs can effect each person differently, and the same drug can have different effects on the same person when used on separate occasions. The effects will depend on personal factors such as your physical and mental health as well as the dose and potency of a substance.
The onset of effects will vary depending on how the cannabis is used and the potency of the product, this could change from time to time.
The short term effects include:
- You may feel relaxed, chilled out and introspective (thoughtful)
- Some people feel happy, chatty and giddy
- Some people feel tired or withdrawn
- Bloodshot eyes, dry mouth.
- You may get ‘the munchies’ or feel hungry after use.
- Effects for some can include feeling confused, anxious or paranoid. These effects could be more severe for some people than others.
- You may experience mild hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that do not exist). Risks of this increase if you take particularly high potency products such as shatter or edible products which are available on the market. People may experience anxiety or hallucinations for a number of hours.
- Coordination and reaction time can be impaired, which can cause problems if riding a bicycle or driving a car.
- Memory and the ability to learn can be affected while stoned.
- Edible products have been linked to people experiencing negative experiences due to their potency.
Long-term effects of cannabis
Like any substance, frequent use can lead to issues for some people. Each person will have a different relationship with cannabis.
- Smoking could damage your lungs and lead to breathing problems. Risks are increased if you use tobacco and plastic bottles as ‘bongs’.
- Frequent cannabis use has been linked with mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety or paranoia for some people.
- Using products with higher levels of THC further increases the risk of mental health problems over time
- Regular use may affect your memory, mood, motivation and ability to learn.
- People may become dependent and develop a number of issues including drug related debt.
- Risks increase for people with a family history of mental health and substance use issues, for people who begin use at a young age and for people who use frequently.
- The younger you are when you start using cannabis, the higher your risk of experiencing harms including becoming dependent upon cannabis. There is increasing scientific evidence that using during adolescence can impact on the developing brain which can increase the risk of long term mental health or dependency issues.
- Compared to before, cannabis is now grown under conditions that make it much stronger in THC and lower in CBD, this is generally associated with weed. More THC means that there is a higher risk of negative effects or dependency.
- Unlike alcohol, cannabis does not come with a label telling you how strong it is. You can't tell just from looking at or smelling it. There is always a risk that cannabis could be a different strain than you thought, contain other substances or be contaminated with fungi, bacteria or pesticides.
- Synthetic cannabinoids have been identified in hash and weed products in Europe which increase the risks. Learn more about synthetic cannabinoids here.
- Psychosis – when you disconnect from reality and start showing symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations even when you are not using drugs
- Risk of accidents if used when driving. Cannabis can also remain in your system for some time after smoking which may be detected by the machinery used as part of road side analysis. See Irelands drug driving laws
- Like tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals, but it's not clear whether this raises your risk of cancer
- There is increased risk of 'cannabis poisoning' with high strength products such as edibles or shatter available on the market.
Cannabis dependency is now the most common reason for young people in Ireland (under 25 years old) to need addiction treatment, even more common than alcohol dependence.
As with all other types of substance dependence, cannabis dependence is associated with:
- Difficulty in sticking to self-imposed limits on the amount of use
- Increased time spent getting cannabis, being stoned and recovering from the effects of use
- Mental health or social problems caused by use
- Cravings to use (i.e. a compulsion to use even if you would rather not use)
- Less time spent doing other activities and less time with peers and people who avoid cannabis use.
- An inability to cease or reduce use, even after having made a definite decision to do so.
After prolonged use some people may experience withdrawal if they stop using. Withdrawal symptoms could include:
- Anxiety, irritability
- Urge or cravings to smoke
- Sleep problems, restlessness
- Loss of appetite
Tips on reducing cannabis use can be found in the Cannabis and You Resource here
Find information on reducing the harms if you choose to use
Find a service local service here
Contact the HSE Helpline Monday – Friday 9:30 – 5:30 on free phone 1800 459 459 or email email@example.com« Back to Types of Drugs page