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 disrupts neuro-connections required for optimal thinking, memory, learning, and calculating risks and rewards

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 whether other factors besides cannabis use are involved.

Reduced Cognitive Skills

  • Evidence 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) are wise decisions since your main job right now is school and cognitive functions are key to your success 

Potential for Addiction 

  • Did you know 1 in 6 youth who use cannabis during adolescence, especially before age 16, will experience problematic use, dependence/addiction and or cannabis withdrawal symptoms? (1 in 11 adults will experience this) 
  • This jumps as high as 1 in 2 among youth that use weed daily
  • This supports the idea that youth are more susceptible to THC interference with the developing reward centre of the brain

Additional Substance Use Problems

  • There is moderate evidence of an association between cannabis use and the development of problematic use of other substances used, including alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs, but the majority of cannabis consumers do not advance to using harder drugs (however, the majority of cannabis consumers do not go on to use harder drugs)
  • This association is true even for late onset and occasional use

Potential of Psychoses/Schizophrenia

  • There is substantial evidence that early, frequent cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of early onset psychotic disorder, especially if there is a family history of mental illness, in particular, schizophrenia

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

  • There is moderate evidence that regular, frequent use among youth is likely to increase the risk for developing social anxiety