Understanding Cannabis

Contents provided by: Community Health Promotion Services (CHPS) Child & Adolescent Addiction, Mental Health & Psychiatry Program

Information on this page can be downloaded as a handout.

What is Cannabis?

  • Cannabis is a plant
  • Can be used in many forms

THC : Tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive chemical

CBD : Cannabidiol is another chemical that may have some medical benefits

Medical Cannabis

  • Chronic nerve pain, palliative care, nausea/vomiting form chemotherapy and spasticity from multiple sclerosis
  • Do not need to feel high
  • Do not help for anxiety, other nausea/vomiting or pain conditions

How is Cannabis used?

by smoking

by eating


How does it make you feel?

  • Time distortion
  • Calm/relaxed feeling
  • Increased appetite and heart rate
  • Cognitive impairment
  • You may say or do things you wouldn’t normally
  • Increased senses
  • Followed by depressant period
  • May experience anxiety or paranoia

Who use Cannabis?

What are the health effect of Cannabis?

Effects on the Body

  • Damage to lungs
  • Second-hand smoke can be harmful
  • Use while pregnant and breastfeeding can cause harm to the baby

Effects on the Brain

Short Term

  • Confusion, slower reaction time, anxiety, fear or panic
  • Can affect memory, learning and attention

Long Term

  • Can affect ability to make decisions, personality and ability to achieve goals
For people under 25
  • Brain is still developing
  • Can have lasting impacts for life
Developing Brain
  • Can affect attention, judgment, decision making and ability to learn
  • Changes the way one think, act and feel can have impacts on major life areas
  • Can lead to poor performance in school and drop out

Effects – Mental Health

  • Increased risk for mental illness, depression or anxiety
  • If there is family history, avoid using
Credits: Cannabis Information and Support You Tube Channel

Side effects

Very Common (10-30%)Common (1-10%)Uncommon but serious (<1%)
Intensely happy or uneasyImpaired memoryIntense vomiting
Sedation or relaxationConfusionLoss of motivation
Difficulty speakingBlurred vision
NumbnessVisual hallucination
Disconnected thoughtsLoss of touch with reality or self
Muscle twitchingProblematic use
Changes in heart rate
Changes in blood pressure


  • Can cause toxic effects
  • If combined, the risk increases
  • Signs of poisoning include:
    1. Change in heart rate
    2. Extreme nausea or vomiting
    3. Anxiety
    4. Extreme confusion
    5. Panic attacks or paranoia
    6. Seizures
Cannabis Dependence

Cannabis Laws

Federal Laws
Provincial Laws

So why youth use substances?

  • Curiosity
  • Fun seeking
  • Peers – fitting in
  • To look more mature
  • To assert their independence
  • To escape problems or fill gaps or cover feelings
  • Lack of alternative coping skills
  • Family or community norm

Talk to your child – early and openly about cannabis

What can we do?

  • Stay connected
  • Talk about it
  • Be positive
  • Focus on safety
  • Be informed
  • Be supportive
  • Be an example

Keep the conversation going

  • Connect and encourage
  • Remind and repeat
  • Share facts and resources

Download a cannabis talk kit

Reduce your Risk

  • Start using later in life
  • Choose low-strength product, lower THC or higher CBD
  • Do not use synthetic cannabis
  • Smoking is the most harmful way
  • Avoid inhaling deeply
  • Try to limit your use


Alberta Health Services Addiction Helpline

The Addiction and Mental Health Help Line is a 24 hour, 7 day a week confidential service that provides support, information and referrals to Albertans experiencing addiction and mental health concerns, including problem gambling.

Poison and Drug Information Service (PADIS)

Poison & Drug Information Service (PADIS) offers free and confidential telephone advice 24/7 to the public and health care professionals on poisons, chemicals, medicines, and herbal supplements.

Services may include:
– emergency advice about poisonings
– drug information for healthcare providers
– poison education and prevention
For more information visit the Poison & Drug Information Service

Poison Centre
What to do when you call:
– Have the poison container with you when you call
– Be prepared to answer important questions
– Listen carefully to instructions
– Ask the Information Specialist to repeat anything you don’t understand
– Follow the Information Specialist’s adviceWhat to expect when you call:
– Information Specialists will want to know:
– name
– gender
– weight
– what was swallowed
– how much was swallowed
– information from the container label
– if you’ve had anything to eat or drink since swallowing the poison

Kids Help Phone

Online and telephone counselling and support in English and French

More Information / Websites

Drug safe website : trusted source for Albertans to find vital information on reducing the harm of alcohol and other drugs.
They have excellent resources on all the facts, resources to help parents to talk to their children, and even for youth to learn more.

Government of Alberta resources on cannabis and laws

811 Health Link Alberta

Free, 24/7 Health information and advices by nurses over the phone.

Information on this page can be downloaded as a handout. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Disclaimer: This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an “as is”, and “where is” basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied, or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability, or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials and for any claims, actions, demands, or suits arising from such use.  Last updated August 2023.