What is cannabis?
It’s the most widely-used illegal drug in Britain, although the numbers of people using it are falling.
- Cannabis is naturally occurring - it is made from the cannabis plant.
- The main active chemical in it is tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC for short).
- THC is the ingredient in cannabis that can make you feel very chilled out, happy and relaxed.
- THC can also make you hallucinate, meaning that it can alter your senses, so that you might see, hear or feel things in a different way to normal.
There are many myths about cannabis - that it’s safe because it’s natural, that using cannabis will completely ruin your life, your health and your future or that using cannabis will lead you into using other, more dangerous drugs. What is true is that cannabis can havesome very real, harmful effects on your mind and body, as well as creating longer-term problems:
- Cannabis effects how your brain works. It can make you feel very anxious and even paranoid, it can make it difficult for you to concentrate and learn, make your memory worse and make you feel less motivated.
Tobacco and cannabis share some of the same chemical 'nasties' and just like smoking tobacco, smoking cannabis has been linked to lung diseases like tuberculosis and lung cancer.
Using it has also been linked, in some people, to serious, long-term mental health problems.
An arrest for possessing cannabis could lead to a caution, a fine or even jail.
What are the different types of cannabis? Although it’s all from the same plant, cannabis comes in many different forms.
- Hash is a black or brown soft lump made from the resin of the cannabis plant. It’s much less common in the UK than it used to be.
- Grass, also known as weed, is made from the dried leaves and flowering parts of the female cannabis plant and looks like tightly packed dried herbs. This traditional grass was normally imported and much weaker than the ‘skunk’ types of cannabis usually sold now.
- Skunk is a group of different types of strong herbal cannabis. Sinsemilla, homegrown cannabis, netherweed are all different types of cannabis that are part of this ‘skunk’ group. Cannabis can seriously affect your mind and body and this group could pose even more risks because of their strength.
- Cannabis oil is a sticky, dark honey-coloured substance and is much less common.
How is cannabis taken? There are a few ways of taking cannabis:
- Most people mix it with tobacco, roll it up into something known as a ‘spliff’ or a ‘joint’, and then smoke it.
- Some people smoke it using a type of pipe called a bong.
- Others drink or eat it mixed in cookies, cakes or even cups of tea. Taken this way, the effects of cannabis can be more difficult to predict or to control. It takes cannabis longer to get in to your body by this route; and so if unpleasant side-effects do start to develop, it’s too late to do very much about it except wait for the effects to reach their peak and then wear off.
• As e-cigarettes have become more available, some people have used the technology to smoke cannabis – either by using specialised cannabis ‘vapers’ or by turning their cannabis into a liquid (called an e-liquid) which can be used with a normal e-cigarette. Some people claim that ‘vaping’ cannabis is safer as there is no tobacco involved, but there is no definitive evidence on the long-term health impacts of e-cigarette use to support this claim. There is also no evidence on the safety of home-made cannabis e-liquids.