January 3rd, 2024
Whether you reside in a region where marijuana is legal or not, it’s evident that attitudes and accessibility regarding the substance have undergone significant shifts. In today’s post, our focus will be on recognising that, despite the notable advantages of marijuana, improper use can lead to substantial harm.
Our goal is to provide straightforward harm-reduction tips, enabling you to enjoy the best possible experience while avoiding the misconception that weed is entirely harmless.
So, if you’re a novice exploring cannabis for the first time or a seasoned pro seeking to revisit harm-reduction strategies, these nuggets of advice are tailored to meet your needs.
Cannabis harm reduction advice
1. Start low, go slow
Adhering to the ‘start low, go slow’ approach is key. Begin with a small amount of cannabis and give your body time to respond. This gradual introduction helps you gauge your tolerance level and minimises the risk of overwhelming effects.
2. Observing your body’s reactions
Pay close attention to how your body and mind react to cannabis. Note any changes in mood, perception, or physical sensations. This self-observation allows you to become familiar with your personal response and adjust your consumption accordingly.
3. Tracking consumption
Keep a record of your cannabis consumption, noting the type of product, dosage, and effects experienced. This record can serve as a valuable reference point, helping you make informed decisions about future use based on past experiences.
Tracking consumption is not just a tool for understanding your body’s response; it’s also a crucial deterrent against dependency and addiction. By documenting usage patterns, you can identify and proactively address any emerging signs of reliance.
4. Understanding Potency
It’s crucial to identify the potency of the cannabis product you’re using. Different strains and products feature varying levels of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Familiarising yourself with potency aids in managing consumption for a more controlled and predictable experience.
Recent research indicates that individuals who consume high-potency cannabis face a higher risk of addiction compared to those using less potent alternatives. Additionally, the study proposes an increased likelihood of encountering a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, among those who use high-potency cannabis.
5. Environment matters
The setting in which you consume cannabis significantly influences your experience. If you find yourself in a new or unfamiliar environment, exercise caution with your cannabis use. External factors, such as surroundings, can profoundly impact your high. Being mindful of your environment contributes to a more enjoyable and comfortable experience, minimising potential discomfort or anxiety.
6. Mixing Substances
Avoid mixing cannabis with other substances, especially if you are unfamiliar with potential interactions. Combining substances can amplify their effects and increase the risk of adverse reactions.
One of the most popular combinations with cannabis is alcohol, but you may want to be careful with this. Combining weed with central nervous system depressants like alcohol and opioids can make their effects stronger. This increases sedation, causing drowsiness and coordination problems, known as ataxia.
The mix intensifies the depressant impact on the central nervous system, raising the risk of accidents, especially in tasks requiring alertness, like driving. Impaired cognitive function may lead to poor decision-making, heightening the chance of accidents.
7. Consumption methods
As technology progresses, so will the methods of consumption in the world of weed. There are some pretty innovative ways to get cannabis into your system these days, but are they all safe? While many will turn to vaporizing and edibles in favour of smoking for the obvious health benefits, it begs the question, are these methods completely safe?
Vaporising cannabis is often considered a healthier alternative to smoking due to reduced exposure to harmful combustion byproducts. Vaporisation eliminates the inhalation of tar and carcinogens associated with combustion, potentially mitigating respiratory issues. However, the method’s efficiency in delivering cannabinoids may contribute to increased tolerance, necessitating higher doses for the desired effects. This escalation in consumption raises the risk of developing cannabis use disorder (CUD), as users may find it challenging to maintain control over their intake.
Consuming cannabis through edibles presents a potentially healthier option compared to smoking, as it avoids the respiratory risks associated with inhaling smoke. Edibles offer a method of reducing harm to the lungs. However, their delayed onset and longer-lasting effects may lead to a higher risk of overconsumption, as users might underestimate the time needed for the full impact. This delayed feedback can contribute to increased tolerance and, consequently, a greater likelihood of developing CUD.
8. Home safety
Are you familiar with weed edibles that model their design after popular confectionery snacks for advertising purposes? While most adults may easily distinguish between the two, the same cannot be said for children.
Some packaging choices are strikingly similar. In such instances, it is crucial to exercise extra caution to ensure that if weed is brought into the house, it is stored appropriately. Consider trying:
- Lockable containers
- Store in hard-to-reach places
- Consider educating the children in your home fully about the dangers of cannabis use.
- Keeping glass paraphernalia away from accident hot spots.
Recognising signs of overconsumption
Are you feeling like the weed was a bit too strong, or you took too much? It’s okay to press pause. Recognising signals is your body and mind telling you to ease up.
It’s important to note that an overdose on cannabis is not typically life-threatening in the same way that overdoses on some other substances can be. However, consuming too much cannabis can lead to uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms can vary from person to person and may include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Impaired coordination
If someone is experiencing symptoms of a cannabis overdose, here are some general recommendations:
- Stay calm: Panic can exacerbate symptoms. Try to stay calm and reassure the person.
- Hydration: Drink water to stay hydrated, as marijuana can cause dry mouth. However, don’t overhydrate.
- Rest: Find a quiet, comfortable space to rest and allow the effects to subside.
- Wait it out: The effects of marijuana are temporary and will gradually wear off. It may take a few hours.
- Seek medical attention if necessary: If the symptoms are severe or if the person has pre-existing medical conditions, seeking medical attention may be advisable.
Recognising the signs of Cannabis Use Disorder
Similar to any substance, consistent consumption of weed can potentially lead to dependency and addiction. Honestly answering essential questions about your consumption habits can help you maintain a mindful approach and address any potential concerns before they become more significant issues:
- Do you find yourself frequently craving cannabis, feeling a strong urge to use it regularly?
- Have you noticed that you need to use more cannabis than before to achieve the desired effects, or do you find that the effects are not as strong with the same amount?
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, insomnia, anxiety, or loss of appetite, when you are not using cannabis?
- Have you struggled to cut down or control your cannabis use despite wanting to do so and making repeated unsuccessful attempts?
- Are you spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of cannabis?
- Have you neglected important activities or responsibilities at work, school, or home because of your cannabis use?
- Do you continue to use cannabis even though it is causing problems in your relationships, work, or other areas of your life?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it might be an indication that your cannabis use is problematic, and seeking help from a healthcare professional or a mental health expert is recommended.
Where can I get help for cannabis use disorder?
Are you concerned about your cannabis use? Your well-being is our priority, and taking the first step towards change is a sign of strength. If you or someone you know may be experiencing difficulties with cannabis use, or you feel as though you may have CUD after reading our article, know that UKAT is here to help.
If you’re ready to make a positive change and break free from the challenges of cannabis use, reach out to UKAT. Take the first step towards a healthier and happier life.
Contact us today for guidance on the first steps
(Click here to see works cited)
- News-Medical.net. 2022. ‘People Who Use High Potency Cannabis More Likely to Experience Addiction, Psychotic Disorder.’ News, 26 July. Available at: www.news-medical.net/news/20220726/People-who-use-high-potency-cannabis-more-likely-to-experience-addiction-psychotic-disorder.aspx. Accessed: 15 November 2023.
- Antoniou, T., Bodkin, J., & Ho, J. M. 2020. ‘Drug interactions with cannabinoids.’ CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal de l’Association Medicale Canadienne, 192(9), E206. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.191097. Accessed: 15 November 2023.
- Aston, E. R., Farris, S. G., Metrik, J., & Rosen, R. K. 2019 ‘Vaporization of Marijuana Among Recreational Users: A Qualitative Study.’ Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 80(1), 56–62. Available at: https://doi.org/10.15288/jsad.2019.80.56. Accessed: 15 November 2023.
- Reboussin, B. A., Wagoner, K. G., Sutfin, E. L., Suerken, C., Ross, J. C., Egan, K. L., Walker, S., & Johnson, R. M. 2019 ‘Trends in marijuana edible consumption and perceptions of harm in a cohort of young adults.’ Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 205, 107660. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.107660. Accessed: 15 November 2023.