Alcohol & Drugs
A picture of Cannabis

What’s the deal with cannabis?

Cannabis comes from two different varieties of plants called Cannabis Sativa and Indica. The active chemical compound in cannabis is known as THC. Cannabis may be found in the following forms:

Marijuana- is the dried leaves and flowers of the plant. It has levels of THC anywhere from 2 to 22%

Hash – is the resin of the dried cannabis plant that’s made into blocks. Its concentration of THC is higher than the unprocessed cannabis buds it originates from. It contains between 7 and 33% of THC.

Hash oil - this is a thick liquid extracted from the plant and contains amounts of THC up to 90%.

How does it work?

Cannabis is generally smoked. It can also be added to food and eaten.

Effects

There is no such thing as a SAFE level of drug use. Substance use carries risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any form of drug. Cannabis may affect people differently based on:

  • A person’s body weight
  • General state of health
  • Regular use of substance
  • If taken in combination with other drugs including prescription medication
  • The amount that is consumed
  • Quality of the drug (this may vary from plant to plant)

Short Term Effects

It takes approximately one hour to feel the effects of eating cannabis. If the substance is smoked the effect is felt almost immediately. Cannabis is likely to affect people differently but some of these effects may include:

  • Increased feelings of relaxation
  • Increased appetite
  • Dry mouth or pasty mouth

Large amounts or stronger strains of cannabis may result in the following side effects:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Blurred vision
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Audio and visual disturbances
  • Increased heart rate  
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Mild anxiety and paranoia

Long Term Effects

If there is a family history of mental illness the use of cannabis may lead to an increase in symptoms of anxiety, depression and psychosis. Psychotic symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations and audio or visual disturbances. Regular use of cannabis may eventually cause:

  • Reduced memory and cognitive impairment
  • Erratic mood swings
  • Reduced libido
  • Decreased fertility for both men and women
  • Drug dependency

Safety

Mixing with Other Drugs

Cannabis + Alcohol is likely to increase the potential for nausea, vomiting and increase anxiety.

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, reduced memory, mental health problems and dependency on both drugs.

Living with HIV

Interactions with HIV Medications

When mixed with heart and blood pressure medication cannabis may cause an increase in heart rate. Protease Inhibitors have the potential to increase the overall THC level in a person’s bloodstream. However, in one study with Atazanavir it was shown that the level of prescription medication in the body was lowered by up to 60%. This could lead to drug resistance with this particular antiviral.

Taking Hormones

For trans, gender diverse or intersex people who are taking some form of hormone therapy, it's important to be aware and informed of how your body processes these treatments.

Currently, there is limited information into the interactions and cross interactions of hormone therapy and recreational drug use but that doesn't mean we'll stop asking for it. Whether your hormones are prescribed by a doctor or you've sourced them yourself from the internet, make it a priority to get regular health checks. Sometimes, a change in dosage or preparation of hormones is needed and a qualified medical practitioner is the person best placed to advise you of this.

If you're not comfortable talking about your gender, gender identity or bodily difference with your doctor, get in touch and we can make recommendations for a service that is best placed to support your needs.

Interactions with Hormones

We don't know of any negative interactions between cannabis and hormone treatments. This does not mean that it is safe. Exercise caution when mixing any form of drugs.

Treatment

Been going a little too hard lately? If your cannabis use has begun to have a negative impact on your overall health or your relationships with family and friends, your ability to focus on work or study or perhaps even the bottom line on your bank account - it's time to TouchBase with somebody who can help.

There are a number of treatment options and support services available for you, for your family or friends if they need it.

Whatever your recovery goals are, if it is to control, reduce or stop cannabis use, reach out for some support.

Counselling & Support

This is the most common kind of treatment, and there are a number of different approaches that might be taken. These might involve talking through your problems, learning to change the way you think, or thinking about how you might deal with difficult situations.

Counselling can be provided individually or in a group situation, and is available both to people who use AOD, and to their family members or support people. A support service can offer counselling or direct you to a service appropriate for you. Speak to your doctor, AOD treatment service or local community health service.

Find help and support services.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation programs take a long term approach to treatment to help you achieve an AOD-free lifestyle.

Residential programs can last from a few weeks to a number of years. No withdrawal medication is provided in the centres, so it is very important that you have already successfully completed your withdrawal treatment.

Residential withdrawal is also available from some treatment services.

Find out more about withdrawal.

Complementary therapies

These include treatments such as massage and relaxation therapies, which can be useful to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. Some herbal or natural remedies can also help, but you should first seek advice from your doctor or treatment service because withdrawing from alcohol and some drugs can be life-threatening.

Peer support 

These programs are provided both for people who use AOD, and their family members or support person. They are usually established by people who have had personal experience with AOD, and are often based on the Twelve-step Program model. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two examples of these.

See more about treatment at druginfo.adf.org.au

Pharmacotherapy

Substitution pharmacotherapy is the use of medication to replace a harmful drug. This is given as a legal, measured, prescribed dose of a drug, and helps take away cravings so that you can work on other issues that will help you to recover.

Pharmacotherapy is only available for withdrawal from some drugs. For example, buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone are used in the treatment of opioid dependence.

Your doctor or treatment service can give you more information about what is available to help you.

Withdrawal & Rehab

Giving up cannabis after using it for a long time is challenging. The body will need to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms may last for a week but sleep may be affected for longer. Symptoms include:

  • Generalised anxiety
  • Irritability and aggressive behaviour
  • Reduced appetite and upset stomach
  • Restless sleep and nightmares
Important notice

Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way. Individuals wanting medical advice about Cannabis should consult a health professional.