What it is
Cannabis is a product of the cannabis sativa plant that's used for its psychoactive and therapeutic effects. Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical substances called cannabinoids. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid and is most responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis.
How it’s used
Cannabis comes in many forms, including dried flowers and leaves; hash; extracts such as oil and shatter; and edibles like chocolate, candy, or baked goods. It’s now legal for adult use in Canada. 3.6 million (12 per cent) Canadians used cannabis in 2015 (when it was still illegal). When cannabis is inhaled, cannabinoids are absorbed through the lungs and into the bloodstream, with immediate effects. When swallowed, cannabinoids are absorbed through the stomach and intestine—which takes longer to have an effect.
How it affects us
Many people who use cannabis socially say it helps them relax, but some people actually feel anxious after using cannabis. Cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of some medical conditions such as some types of pain and nausea. But over time, smoking a lot of cannabis can irritate the respiratory tract, increasing risk of chronic coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing.
Heavy use is associated with a variety of harms, including psychosis—when a person experiences a break from reality or bizarre thinking. Regular use by young people can interfere with healthy brain development, and with normal patterns of social interaction with friends. People who use often may feel they need to use cannabis to feel normal and function during the day. And people who stop using cannabis after regular use may experience mild feelings of withdrawal (e.g. anxiety, sleep disturbances, feeling uneasy). Compared to tobacco, the risk of developing some cancers is lower for cannabis users.
Lowering the risk
Don’t use too much at one time, start smaller and see if that’s enough. Choose safer inhalation methods like vaporizers or e-cigarettes, or edibles. Don’t use too often. Avoid using every day or every weekend. And use cannabis only in safe times and places. If going out, stay in the company of trusted friends and use safe transportation options. If using edibles, remember that they take longer to kick in. If smoking, leave tobacco out of the mix. Avoid unsafe practices like deeply inhaling or holding your breath.
Here’s more information on lower risk cannabis use.
When to seek help
Using cannabis is a problem if it affects your life or the lives of others in a negative way. Even using just once can be a problem—if it leads to a poor decision like driving before the effects have worn off. If you’re concerned about your own cannabis use, speak to your doctor about your options for getting help.
SMART Recovery - Self-Management And Recovery TrainingSMART Recovery - Self-Management And Recovery Training
Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) is a global community of mutual-support groups. At meetings, participants help one another resolve problems with any addiction (to drugs or alcohol or to activities such as gambling or over-eating).
CAPSA - Community Addictions Peer Support AssociationCAPSA - Community Addictions Peer Support Association
CAPSA is a National leader on the topic of stigma, its impacts on individuals who use substances or have a substance use disorder and on identifying and correcting instances of systemic stigma imbedded in organizations.
Wellness Together CanadaWellness Together Canada
Wellness Together Canada is a mental health and substance use website to support people across Canada and Canadians living abroad in both official languages. They provide the following resources for you at no cost:
Mental Health 101The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Knowledge is power. This series of free online tutorials is a starting point for learning about mental health. You can come away with a greater understanding of the mental health concern you are interested in knowing more about.
Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselling Association of Nova Scotia (NADACA)
Recovery Support Centre
The Recovery Support Centre is a welcoming space that provides education, recovery and harm reduction support, along with one on one support and group treatment for people struggling with substance use and/or gambling concerns.
IWK Mental Health and Addictions Program
The IWK Mental Health and Addictions Program provides specialized care throughout the province for children and youth up until their 19th birthday within a patient and family...
The Marguerite Centre
The Marguerite Centre provides a holistic, women-centred approach to recovery from substance misuse and gambling addiction. We are an inclusive, safe, non-judgmental...
Eskasoni Mental Health
Eskasoni Mental Health Services (EMHS) provides a wide range of services to the Mi’kmaq people of Eskasoni, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Tui'kn Residential School Survivor...
Caregivers Nova Scotia
Caregivers Nova Scotia provides free programs, services, information, and advocacy for family and friend caregivers. We are dedicated to providing recognition and practical assistance to friends and family giving care.
Kids Help Phone
Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7, national support service. We offer professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young...
211 is a free, confidential information and referral service that can connect you to thousands of programs and services offered by local community groups, nonprofits and government departments across Nova Scotia, 24/7.
Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services - Mental Health Programs and Services
Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) is responsible for administering Non-Public Property (NPP) on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff and for delivering...
Veterans Affairs Canada Assitance Service
Veterans Affairs provide targeted services and benefits to improve well-being including support and services related to your physical and mental health and wellness.The VAC...
NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of people for whom drugs had become a major problem. We are recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. This is a program of complete abstinence from all drugs. There is only one...
Mental Health and Addictions Wellness Program
The Wellness Clinic is an ongoing, client-focused program that is based on what the client or group of clients want to work on that day. There is no waitlist or referral...
Health Psychology offers psychological interventions for those with chronic and acute health conditions. The main focus is on the patient's mental and emotional reaction to an illness or their recovery from an illness.
Wellness Court Programs are specialty or problem-solving courts, where a team of professionals helps treat the issues contributing to the individual coming into conflict with...
Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Program
Seniors mental health services provide assessment, consultation and treatments to:
- seniors aged 65 and older for a new onset of mental health challenges
- individuals of...
Mood Disorders Clinic
The mood disorders clinic provides consultations for individuals with severe mood disorders such as possible bipolar disorder. This is a specialized service that provides diagnosis and treatment of severe mood disorders.
First Responders Assist
This service will offer short-term counselling and supportive services, including follow up if needed, for first responders and their families impacted by the tragedies of...
Inpatient Withdrawal Management Unit
The inpatient treatment program provides medical, supervised withdrawal management and support to individuals that require treatment and support to manage their withdrawal...
Driving While Impaired (DWI) Program / Alcohol Ingnition Interlock Program (AIIP)
If your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked for an alcohol or drug-related offence, you are required by the Registry of Motor Vehicles to attend the DWI Program in...
Adult Addictions Day Treatment Program
The Addictions Day Treatment Program is a two-week group program for individuals that require a more intensive and daily treatment option.
Individuals may benefit from this type of program if they recently left an inpatient treatment program (i.e...
Seniors Mental Health Services
Seniors mental health services provide assessment, consultation and treatments to:
- seniors aged 65 and older for a new onset of mental health challenges;
School Mental Health (SchoolsPlus)
The school mental health clinicians provide individual and group therapy, mental health and addictions education for school staff and consultation services. Clinicians are on...
Nova Scotia Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Clinic
The Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Clinic provides mental health services to Veterans, eligible members of the Canadian Forces (CF), RCMP members and former members, who have...
Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line
The Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line provides crisis intervention for children, youth and adults experiencing a mental health crisis or mental distress.
First Nations Services
Mental Health clinicians work as part of the first nations health care team in several first nations communities. The Mental Health Clinician provides assessment, diagnosis...
Crossroads Cape Breton is community organized to support people living with mental illness in reclaiming and enhancing their lives. People are referred to as “members” because...
Community Support Service (Adults)
The Community Support Teams for Adults/Community Supports for Adults supports individuals living with persistent mental illness to develop and maintain a safe, satisfying...
Adult Community Mental Health and Addictions Services
Community Mental Health and Addictions includes a team of mental health and addictions professionals who provide services on an outpatient basis. The team provides assessment...
Child and Adolescent Services
Child and Adolescent Services/Child Youth and Family/Child and Adolescent Outpatient Clinical Services provide mental health and addiction services to children and youth...
Adolescent Outreach Services
Adolescent Outreach Services (AOS) is an expansion of the CaperBase model, which originated in Cape Breton. AOS focuses on providing:
- Brief and Early Intervention
- Community Partnerships
The AOS model is set up for...