What is Cannabis?
Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The plant contains the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC) and other related compounds.
THC is the part of the plant that gives the ‘high’. There is a wide range of THC potency between cannabis products.
Cannabis can be grown in almost any climate, and is increasingly cultivated by means of indoor hydroponic technology. Cannabis is used in three main forms: marijuana, hashish and hash oil.
Marijuana is made from dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. It is the least potent of all the cannabis products and is usually smoked.
Hashish is made from the resin (a secreted gum) of the cannabis plant. It is dried and pressed into small blocks and smoked. It can also be added to food and eaten.
Hash oil, the most potent cannabis product, is a thick oil obtained from hashish. It is also smoked.
Cannabis is usually smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (known as ‘joints’) or in special waterpipes (‘bongs’). These pipes or bongs can be bought or made from things such as orange juice containers, soft drink cans, etc.
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How many people use cannabis?
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in Australia. According to the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 35% of the Australian population reported using cannabis at some time in their lives, with 10.2% having used it in the last 12 months.
3.5% of Australians used cannabis in the previous week.
8.6% of 12-17 year olds reported recently using cannabis
22.9% of 18-24 year olds and 15.6% of 25-34 year olds reported ever using the drug
19% of indigenous people aged 14 years and over used recently
28.8% of homosexual and bisexual people have used recently
Most people who use cannabis do so to experience a sense of mild euphoria and relaxation, often referred to as a "high". Cannabis causes changes in the user's mood and also affects how they think and perceive the environment, e.g. everyday activities such as watching the television and listening to music can become altered and more intense.
What are the short-term effects of cannabis?
Short-term effects of cannabis include:
feeling of well-being
loss of inhibitions
loss of co-ordination
dryness of the eyes, mouth and throat
anxiety and paranoia
What are the long-term effects of cannabis?
There is limited research on the long-term effects of cannabis. On the available evidence, the major probable adverse effects are:
increased risk of respiratory diseases associated with smoking, including cancer
decreased memory and learning abilities
decreased motivation in areas such as study, work or concentration
There is also much concern about the link between cannabis use and mental health problems and the risk of dependence. Using even a small amount of cannabis can increase your risk of mental health problems, including anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks and schizophrenia.
1 in 7 cannabis users report experiencing mental health problems. This risk increases the earlier you start and the more you use.
13 to 17 year olds that use cannabis are 3 times more likely to experience depression compared to those that don’t. This risk increases the earlier you start and the more you use.
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