What is the Long-Term Impact of Cannabis on Youth?


THUNDER BAY – LIVING – Since the legalization of Cannabis in Canada, there have not been a lot of studies released yet showing if there are any long-term impacts from the legislative change.

Canada and many other countries are dealing with a mental health crisis. One of the solutions some seek is cannabis.

The long-term impact of THC and cannabis on an individual’s mental health can vary significantly depending on a number of factors such as the frequency and duration of use, the age at which use began, and individual vulnerabilities. Here are the key points regarding the impact of THC and cannabis on mental health:

  1. Depression and Anxiety:
    • Long-term cannabis use, especially when begun at a young age or used frequently over time, has been associated with an increased risk of developing major depressive disorder​1​.
    • The relationship between cannabis use and anxiety is less clear but anxiety and panic attacks have been reported as common negative effects by individuals using cannabis​1​.
  2. Psychotic Illnesses:
    • Cannabis use has been linked to an increased risk for psychiatric disorders such as psychosis (schizophrenia), particularly among individuals with a personal or family history of mental health issues​2​​1​.
    • For individuals with existing psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, cannabis use can worsen psychotic symptoms, cause more delusions or hallucinations, lead to higher hospitalization rates for psychosis, make treatment less effective, and complicate recovery from psychotic episodes​1​.
  3. Cognitive Impairment:
    • Some long-term cannabis users may experience “brain fog”, lowered motivation, difficulty with learning, and attention problems. However, these symptoms are typically reversible, but products with higher THC content may increase the risk of developing these cognitive symptoms​3​.
    • Studies have also shown that long-term cannabis use could lead to a decline in IQ, especially when use begins at a young age​4​​5​.
  4. Dependency and Other Mental Health Issues:
    • Dependency on cannabis can lead to mental health issues which may not be caused by the cannabis itself but by the resulting life circumstances such as disengagement from school, employment struggles, or relationship breakdowns, which are often linked to mental health conditions like depression or anxiety​1​.
  5. Variation in THC and CBD Content:
    • The different compounds in cannabis, namely THC and CBD, can have different effects on mental health. THC, the psychoactive component, is usually associated with the negative side effects of cannabis use. On the other hand, CBD does not have psychoactive effects and is being researched for its potential therapeutic effects on conditions like depression, anxiety, or psychosis​1​.
  6. Individual Differences and Environmental Factors:
    • The impact of THC and cannabis on mental health can be influenced by the individual’s size, weight, physical and mental health, the environment they are in, their personality, and the type and amount of cannabis used​1​.

The complexity of the relationship between cannabis use and mental health underscores the importance of a nuanced understanding, especially considering individual and environmental factors. Individuals concerned about cannabis use and its impact on their mental health are advised to consult with healthcare professionals.

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