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How Cannabis Works

The Effects of Cannabis

Cannabis consumption produces a wide range of effects. Find out more to manage your own experience.

Highlights:

    • The effects of cannabis vary depending on multiple factors, but almost all effects are temporary.
    • Effects can include stress relief, anxiety reduction, increased creativity and an increased appetite.
    • The best way to minimize unpleasant effects is to consume small amounts.



The way in which the phytocannabinoids in cannabis interact within the body's Endocannabinoid System can produce a range of temporary effects on the mind and/or body. The effects vary from person to person and depend on many factors, including an individual’s physiology, the strain, how it’s consumed, how much is consumed and the THC/CBD content.

Reasons some people use recreational cannabis:

  • to relax
  • to feel happier, more social or more energetic
  • to become more focused, creative or productive
  • to increase appetite or arousal

Because cannabis interacts uniquely with each individual, it’s possible you’ll experience something different than what you may have expected. 

 

Achieving Desired Effects

Until the 1980s, it was believed that the species of cannabis- sativa or indica-was solely responsible for the effect produced by cannabis: sativa was typically thought to produce a more energetic experience, while indica was said to be more sedating. Now, with hundreds of hybrids and new strains on the market, coupled with new beliefs about active components and the effect of their combinations, this information may be misleading.

While many licensed cannabis producers are trying to cultivate new strains to reliably produce certain desired effects, the science of producing a product with consistent effects for every person is not yet well enough understood, and much more research will be needed before this is possible. For this reason, it’s not possible to completely predict the experience you will have.  

Many licensed producers will communicate the intended or reported effect(s) of their products. Often, the information they provide will be crowd-sourced, which means it has been reported by consumers who have used the product. It is important to know that this information is not often scientifically gathered or tested, and to remember that every individual reacts to cannabis differently. 

 

Avoiding Unpleasant Effects

Experiencing undesired effects is always a possibility when consuming cannabis, particularly when too much is consumed. These unpleasant effects can include:

    • an inability to concentrate
    • memory problems
    • anxiety, panic or paranoia
    • disorganized thoughts
    • dizziness or hallucinations
    • reduced reaction time
    • sleepiness

You can learn more about these unpleasant effects from this Health Canada brochure.

Most of these effects are temporary, but two excellent ways to avoid or minimize them are to choose cannabis with low THC content and to consume small amounts slowly. Use our Tips for Responsible Use to help manage your own experience.

 

Long-term Effects of Cannabis Consumption

Some studies have suggested there may be long-term effects associated with prolonged use of cannabis. These long-term effects may include (but are not limited to):

    • risks to brain development if consumption begins before age 25, especially when consuming strains with high THC content and/or if consumption is frequent
    • an increased risk to mental health for long-term heavy consumers
    • possible lung damage and infections associated with deep inhalation
    • possible addiction (Health Canada estimates a 9% addiction rate)
    • coughing and throat irritation from inhaling cannabis
    • exposure to harmful second-hand smoke
    • risk of harm to concentration, decision making ability, intelligence and memory

 Consult the Health Canada website for further information on the potential health effects of consuming cannabis

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The Endocannabinoid System