Any use or certain use? What’s myth and what’s fact? If I’m a parent, what should I tell my young adult?
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Using cannabis has the potential for benefits and harms. Young people use cannabis, like other psychoactive drugs, to feel good, to feel better, to do better or to explore. Trying cannabis out of curiosity, as an experiment, or while socializing with friends, is related to moderate use and lower potential for harm. Using cannabis to cope with daily life, deal with unpleasant feelings, or fit in with a social group has higher potential for harm. This is because dealing with these kinds of issues is associated with frequent and heavier use, less thought about potential harms and little consideration of alternatives for coping such as talking with a parent or trusted adult or physical activity with friends.
Evidence suggests that the younger a person is when they start using cannabis and the more often they use, the greater the potential for harms. The legal age to use cannabis in BC is 19. However, our brains do not finish developing until about age 25. Delaying cannabis use until early adulthood may reduce potential harmful effects on the brain.
Some young people, especially those with many factors predisposing them to serious and persistent mental health issues, should probably not use cannabis. Cannabis has been associated with an increased risk for psychosis and schizophrenia in this small group of people. Some people with serious mental health issues have also reported that using cannabis has helped them cope with their illness by helping them feel less anxious or stressed. As in most situations, balancing potential benefits and harms of using cannabis will be key for young people who have serious mental health concerns.
Mixing drugs, such as cannabis and alcohol, can also increase the possibility of experiencing harms. Intoxication may be more intense and long lasting and the young person may not appreciate how impaired they are. We often suggest, “Not too much, not too often, and only in a safe context” as a simple way to gauge your use of any psychoactive substance.
As a parent or caring adult, an open respectful relationship with a young person is one of your best resources and ways to prevent harms from substance use. Letting the youth know they can approach you at any time to talk about cannabis, other substances, or anything else of concern to them, says they matter to you and you are ready to listen and engage in dialogue with them. This is a great place to begin addressing anything that might come the young person’s way in life!
About the author
The Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, formerly CARBC, is a member of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information. The institute is dedicated to the study of substance use in support of community-wide efforts aimed at providing all people with access to healthier lives, whether using substances or not. For more, visit www.cisur.ca.