RISKS

Weed may be legal, but it’s not risk-free.

Risks are greater for youth younger than 25 years of age. The brain appears to be more susceptible to risks when THC is consumed early (especially before age 16) and frequently.

Your Brain is Your Best Asset, Protect it! 

  • During youth (roughly 12-24 years of age), your brain may be more sensitive to cannabinoid-receptor interactions.
  • Endocannabinoid system plays a big role in brain wiring i.e., making sense of which connections are important and necessary and which ones are not.
  • Consuming THC early and frequently before brain is fully developed may disrupt neuro-connections required for optimal thinking, memory, learning, and calculating risks and rewards, although we still have a lot to learn about this association.

For an animated look at how cannabis may increase youth vulnerability to risks, watch the video. Under Construction: Cannabis and the Teen-Age Brain

What Are Unique Risks for Youth?

There is evidence of several associations between early and frequent cannabis use and negative outcomes. More research is needed to better understand the strength of the associations, whether they are causal (that is, cannabis is the sole and direct cause of observed outcomes), and what other factors besides cannabis use are involved.

Reduced Cognitive Skills

  • There is some evidence which suggests adolescents exhibit worse cannabis-related short-term effects on learning, attention, and memory than adult users
  • There is some evidence that once cannabis use stops, the effects may be reversible 
  • Delaying or limiting use and consuming less potent weed (i.e., lower percentage of THC) can be wise decisions to limit potential risks until we know more

Potential for Problematic Use

  • Did you know 1 in 6 youth who use cannabis during adolescence, especially before age 16, will experience problematic use, dependence and or cannabis withdrawal symptoms? (1 in 11 adults will experience this) 
  • While most people do not develop a dependency on cannabis, the risk is higher for those who are younger and use more frequently
  • Those reducing or stopping use may experience irritability, nervousness, trouble sleeping, appetite loss, or other mild symptoms of withdrawal

Additional Substance Use Problems

  • The majority of cannabis consumers do not go on to use harder drugs
  • There is little evidence that supports cannabis as a "gateway" into harder substance use
  • There is some evidence of an association between cannabis use and the development of problematic use of other substances used, including alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs- this association is true even for late onset and occasional use

Potential of Psychoses/Schizophrenia

  • Available evidence has not concluded whether cannabis use leads to psychoses
  • However, some evidence shows a link between early, frequent cannabis use and psychoses, especially if there is a family history of mental illness, in particular, schizophrenia - but we need better evidence to tell us the direction and strength of that association

Increased Self-Harm/Suicide

  • Research to date points toward an association between adolescent cannabis use and an increased risk of suicide later in life, but the direction of this association is not yet clear

Increased Risk of Social Anxiety

  • Research is mixed on the impact of cannabis use on social anxiety
  • There is some evidence that regular, frequent use among youth may increase the risk for developing social anxiety 
  • There is some evidence that suggests particular cultivars of cannabis - such as those which are high in CBD and low in THC in low doses - may reduce feelings of anxiety