Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied on in this way. Individuals wanting medical advice on this issue should consult a health professional.
Cannabis is a depressant drug, which means it slows down messages travelling between your brain and body. When large doses of cannabis are taken, it may also produce hallucinogenic effects. The main active chemical in cannabis is THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol).1
How is it used?
Cannabis is usually smoked or eaten and comes in 3 different forms:
Cannabis may also be refined into what are known as dabs or dabbing, slang names for concentrated butane hash oil (or BHO), a relatively new method of administering/ingesting cannabis that involves the inhalation of highly concentrated THC.
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Cannabis affects everyone differently, based on:
Regular use of cannabis may eventually cause:
Using cannabis with other drugs
The effects of taking cannabis with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous.
Cannabis + alcohol: nausea, vomiting, panic, anxiety and paranoia.4
Cannabis is sometimes used to help with the 'come down' effects of stimulant drugs, such as ice, speed and ecstasy. However, doing this can cause reduced motivation, poor memory, mental health problems and dependency on both drugs.5
Giving up cannabis after using it for a long time is challenging, because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms may last for only a week, but sleep may be affected for longer. Symptoms include:
Broadly speaking, medicinal cannabis is cannabis prescribed to relieve the symptoms of a medical condition, such as epilepsy. It is important to make the distinction between medicinal cannabis and recreational cannabis. Recreational cannabis is the form of cannabis that people use to get 'high'. Recently legislation has been passed in Australia to facilitate access to medicinal cannabis for certain medical conditions.
Reducing the risks
2. Julien, R., Advokat, C., & Comaty, J. (eds.). (2011). A primer of drug action (12th ed.). New York: Worth Publishing.
3. Campbell, A. (2000). The Australian illicit drug guide. Melbourne: Black Inc.
4. National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. (n.d.). Mixing weed with other drugs: What's the deal?
5. McAtamney, A. & Willis, K. (n.d.) Polydrug use among cannabis users.
6. National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. (2011). Cannabis Withdrawal.
7. Wagener, T. L., Siegel, M., & Borrelli, B. (2012). Electronic cigarettes: achieving a balanced perspective. Addiction, 107(9), 1545-1548.
Last updated: 5 May 2016