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Cannabis: the facts – Healthy body

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Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.

The effects of cannabis can vary a lot from person to person. It can also vary depending on how much or how often it’s taken and what it contains.

Some examples include:

  • feeling chilled out, relaxed and happy
  • laughing more or become more talkative
  • feeling hunger pangs (“the munchies”)
  • feeling drowsy, tired or lethargic
  • feeling faint or sick
  • having problems with memory or concentrating
  • experiencing mild hallucinations
  • feeling confused, anxious or paranoid

Can you get addicted to cannabis?

It’s possible to get addicted to cannabis, especially people who are considered regular or heavy users.

If regular users stop taking cannabis, they may get withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling moody and irritable, feeling sick, difficulty sleeping, difficulty eating, sweating, shaking and diarrhoea.

Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco also increases the risk of becoming addicted to nicotine and experiencing withdrawal symptoms from nicotine as well as cannabis if you cut down or give up.

Regularly using tobacco also increases the risk of tobacco-related diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.

Trying to give up cannabis?

If you need support with giving up cannabis:

  • see a GP
  • visit Frank’s Find support page
  • call Frank’s free drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600
  • see Drug addiction: where to get help
  • Marijuana Anonymous is a free self-help group. Its “12 step” programme involves stopping using marijuana with the help of regular face-to-face and online support groups. You can call them on 0300 124 0373 (callback service).

Cannabis and mental health

Regular cannabis use increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia.

A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that are not really there) and delusions (believing things that are not really true).

The risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher in people who:

  • start using cannabis at a young age
  • smoke stronger types, such as skunk
  • smoke it regularly
  • use it for a long time
  • smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness

Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse.

Other risks of cannabis

Other risks of regularly using cannabis can include:

  • feeling wheezy or out of breath
  • developing an uncomfortable or painful cough
  • making symptoms of asthma worse in people with asthma
  • reduced ability to drive or operate machinery safely

If you drive while under the influence of cannabis, you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. This is one reason why drug driving, like drink driving, is illegal.

Cannabis and pregnancy

Cannabis use may affect fertility. Regular or heavy cannabis use has been linked to changes in the female menstrual cycle and lower sperm count, or lower sperm quality in men.

Using cannabis while pregnant may harm the unborn baby. Cannabis smoke contains many of the same harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco increases the risk of a baby being born small or premature.

Cannabis has not been linked to birth defects, but research suggests that using cannabis regularly during pregnancy could affect a baby’s brain development as they get older.

Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. 2 of these – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – are the active ingredients of a prescription drug called Sativex. This is used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.

Another cannabinoid drug, called Nabilone, is sometimes used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer.

Clinical trials are under way to test cannabis-based drugs for other conditions including cancer pain, the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS, and epilepsy in children.

Read the latest updates on cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer – the evidence so far on the Cancer Research UK website.

Page last reviewed: 3 December 2020
Next review due: 3 December 2023

Read about how cannabis (marijuana, weed, dope, pot) affects you, the risks and where to find help if you're trying to quit.

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Trade Sexual Health is a health charity working with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGB&T) communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (United Kingdom).

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Trade Sexual Health is a health charity working with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGB&T) community of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

We offer a range of free and confidential support and advice services around sexual health and HIV information; one-to-one emotional and practical support; support in ‘coming out’, sexuality and relationships; rapid HIV testing; community based men’s sexual health clinics; safer-sex packs for men and women; and a fully qualified counselling service.

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We believe that by providing you with these services, you will be able to make more informed choices about your sexual and overall health.

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Practicing safer sex means protecting yourself and others from sexually transmitted infections and HIV infection by taking the necessary precautions during sex and foreplay.

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There are a whole host of of support organisations specifically for the LGB&T community within Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Within this section we aim to give you an idea of what services are available for a range of differing needs. We try to update this on a regular basis, however if there is a service you know of that isn’t listed, or one you cannot find please contact the Trade office on 0116 254 1747.

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Cannabis

Cannabis

What’s the Score?

Cannabis is also known as marijuana, Mary Jane, dope, pot, spliff, hash(ish), weed, puff, grass, herb, draw, wacky backy, smoke, ganja, hemp, or skunk which is a much stronger variety.

It’s a psychoactive (mood changing) drug made from the buds or flowers of the cannabis plant. It can come as a block of soft, greenish/brown resin or can look like dried herbs, in which case it’s known as weed, marijuana or grass. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main active chemical in the drug that causes the high.

Sex on Cannabis

Cannabis can make you feel horny, increase your sense of touch and lower your inhibitions. If you take too much its tranquillising effects get in the way. Orgasms may seem weaker but more sensual and not just felt in the dick. There can be a stronger sense of connection to who you’re with, with sex being more ‘touchy feely’.

But the drug can also make people feel withdrawn and less interested in sex. If you smoke it with tobacco, you have the same long-term higher risk of erection problems that cigarette smokers have.

Taking Cannabis

Cannabis resin is usually mixed with tobacco and smoked in joints. It can be smoked using a bong which is a kind of water pipe, eaten, for example baked in cakes, or drunk in warm drinks.

Highs and Lows

You can be high or stoned for up to four hours after taking cannabis. This can make you feel chilled out, sociable, talkative and giggly. You might feel you have new insights into life and experience touch, sounds and colours differently. It can also cause a distorted sense of space and time, and you might hallucinate. Cannabis can also make you feel hungry, sleepy or light-headed, and it can dull pain.

Cannabis can leave you feeling ‘woolly headed’ and can cause short-term memory loss, confusion, co-ordination difficulties, and slower reflexes which makes driving dangerous. Higher doses can make you feel sick, anxious, paranoid, or panicky.

A Long Term Relationship?

You can become dependent on cannabis. It can leave some people with a poor memory and less able to concentrate or stay motivated – the classic ‘dope head’.

Researchers are looking at the link between cannabis and mental illness as the drug seems to trigger mental health problems, including schizophrenia, in a small number of people. This is more likely to happen in people who already have depression or anxiety or who are vulnerable to mental health problems, although they usually won’t know they’re vulnerable.

Mental illness seems more likely if you use cannabis as a teenager, if you use it a lot, or if you use the stronger types.

Cannabis with Other Drugs

Tobacco – smoking cannabis with tobacco has a high risk of addiction to nicotine and smoking-related illness like cancer, heart disease and breathing problems. People smoking both cigarettes and cannabis take in very high levels of cancer-causing tar.

Alcohol – using cannabis and alcohol together can have negative effects. You may feel sick or lose track of how much of each substance you’ve taken. This also leaves you open to taking risks you might not otherwise.

HIV drugs – there are no known dangerous interactions, however, one study has shown that marijuana decreases the levels of Atazanavir in the blood.

Useful to Know

Cannabis smoke contains more harmful substances than cigarette smoke.

Smoking it with tobacco has the same health risks as smoking cigarettes, such as cancer, chest and breathing problems. The risk may be higher because cannabis smokers breathe in deeper and for longer.

Eating it gets round these drawbacks but it’s harder to control the dose and the effects can be much stronger than you might want.

Using bongs is more harmful than joints because you breathe in more drug and smoke.

The Law

Cannabis is illegal. In 2009 it was reclassified upwards from a Class C drug to Class B. Possession can now mean up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Intending to supply cannabis, which includes giving it to your mates, can mean up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Trade Sexual Health, 2nd Floor, 27 Bowling Green Street, Leicester LE1 6AS

Sex. Love. Life. Telling it how it is Trade Sexual Health is a health charity working with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGB&T) communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland