Canadians are asking questions about cannabis. We reached out to experts to provide you with answers.
If I smoke pot and then breastfeed, will my baby get high?
Just like with tobacco and alcohol, a pregnant woman or a new mother’s use of cannabis can affect her fetus or newborn child. The substances in cannabis are carried through the mother’s blood to her fetus during pregnancy. Also, they are passed into the breast milk following birth. This can lead to health problems for the child. Since there is no known safe amount of cannabis to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, the safest approach is to not use cannabis. If you need more information or support, it is recommended that you talk to your healthcare provider.
Can smoking cannabis trigger schizophrenia in some people?
Although the exact underlying mechanism is still largely unknown, in some people, cannabis use increases the risk of developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. This is particularly true for those who:
- start using cannabis at a young age
- use cannabis frequently (daily or almost every day)
- have a personal or family history of schizophrenia
Youth are especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis, as research shows the brain is not fully developed until around age 25. This is because THC, the substance which gives the “high” in cannabis, affects the same machinery in the brain that directs brain development
You should also be aware that the use of higher potency cannabis products has also been associated with a greater risk of developing schizophrenia. Stopping or reducing cannabis use has been shown to improve outcomes; however, some health effects may not be fully reversible even when cannabis use stops.
What are the known benefits of using cannabis?
There is some evidence of potential therapeutic uses for cannabis or its component chemicals (cannabinoids) and many Canadians report using cannabis for medical purposes for health problems such as chronic pain, nausea/vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, and spasticity with multiple sclerosis. While cannabis can be used by some people for their health problems, determining whether cannabis is appropriate to treat an individual’s symptoms is best made through a discussion with a health care practitioner.
Health Canada has information for health care professionals and for authorized patients on the use of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical purposes. This includes information on potential therapeutic uses, dosing, warnings, and adverse effects. For more information, please visit our Accessing cannabis for medical purposes page.
What are the effects of cannabis second hand smoke?
Any kind of smoke is harmful. In fact, studies have shown that cannabis smoke contains many of the same harmful substances as tobacco smoke. Like smoking cigarettes, smoking cannabis can damage your lungs and can cause bronchitis-like symptoms, coughing and wheezing which can, for example, affect athletic performance. While the effects of second hand smoke from tobacco are well known, more research is needed to better understand the health effects of second hand smoke from cannabis.
How is the government going to prevent driving high like they do driving drunk?
Impaired driving by a drug and/or alcohol is illegal in Canada and will remain so after cannabis is legalized. Police are already able to test for drug-impaired driving using Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) and through the use of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE).
On June 21, 2018, new legislation designed to strengthen impaired driving laws came into force. These new laws make it easier for police officers to detect drug-impaired driving. For example, law enforcement will be able to use an oral fluid drug screening device (once approved by the Attorney General of Canada) to test drivers for drug impairment.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has developed the “Introduction to Drug Impaired Driving” course enhancing the current SFST curriculum to train officers on the signs and symptoms of drug impairment. There are over 13,000 trained SFST officers across Canada (April 2018) and 833 certified DREs (October 2018). It is expected that Canada will train more than 7,000 new SFST officers over the next three years. The RCMP and its provincial partners also have a goal of training approximately 500 additional DRE-certified police officers over the next five years.
Additionally, the federal government launched the nationwide Don’t Drive High campaign, which aims to educate Canadians about the safety and legal risks of drug-impaired driving.
How can I help a friend who is addicted to cannabis?
There is no script for talking with your friend about cannabis addiction and it may be difficult to try to convince him or her to stop using cannabis. You can start by encouraging your friend to compare his or her current life situation to how they were when they limited their cannabis use. They might admit that they felt healthier, happier, and more productive.
When someone experiences problematic substance use (including cannabis), it is very important that they seek help. Many resources are available to answer questions, offer advice or give hands-on help. Our Get help with problematic substance use page contains a list of organizations that can offer your friend some assistance. Help is available across Canada. You can help your friend by preparing a list of organizations that are located in your area, with their websites and phone numbers.