Respect THC – cannabis

What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a herbal substance with two main active ingredients, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is the chemical that gets you high. THC changes the amounts of pleasure in the brain but can also provoke a ‘fight or flight’ response leading to anxiety.

CBD works on the pain and mood management areas of the brain. It can balance out some of the harsher sides of THC. This doesn’t make it completely safe.

Is cannabis getting stronger?

The THC to CBD ratio has changed in cannabis resin. It used to be 1:1 now it is 3:1. Three times more THC than CBD. This means that it can have a bigger impact on people’s mental health.

Physical effects include:

Bloodshot eyes, relaxed and expanded airways, an increased heart rate and a drop in blood pressure.

Using cannabis can cause nausea and vomiting, especially in those who are not used to it.

Cannabis can impair your response times, making it unsafe to drive, ride a push bike or operate any machinery. This is why the police and many workplaces now test for cannabis.

Short term mental health effects include:

“High”, With lower THC levels feeling more relaxed. Colours seem more intense. There is increased enjoyment of music, a feeling of happiness and/or sleepiness.

Cannabis with higher THC content can produce anxiety. Your mood and circumstance can mean that you could also experience confusion, hallucination and/or paranoia.

Some users can have severe negative symptoms such as hearing voices, seeing things that aren’t there or having strange unsettling thoughts or beliefs. You may need immediate help if you are experiencing this.

Long term mental health effects include:

  • Irreversible effects on the brain’s ability to process information and memory
  • Reduced motivation – harder to get out of the house, get to work, etc.
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Sleep-disorders, over time cannabis can disturb sleep patterns

    A 2019 study in the journal Lancet Psychiatry found the chances of having a psychotic disorder were 40% greater among those who used the drug more than once a week compared with those who rarely, if ever, used it.

If you have had symptoms of mental health issues, using any mind-altering substance increases your risk of a related negative experience in the short and long term.

Is cannabis addictive?

Yes, it is. For years it was thought that cannabis had little to no potential to be addictive, however, recent research suggests it is.

You can develop a tolerance (needing more to get the same effect)

You can also experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms

Addiction or dependency doesn’t happen suddenly – a behaviour becomes a habit forming and the physical need then develops over time

Source: “Cannabis and mental health” Royal College of Psychiatrists

When should I consider changing my cannabis use?

  • If you are starting to feel anxious or irritable when you know you will not be able to use cannabis.
  • If you are relying on cannabis to relax or sleep several times a week
  • If you think about having a smoke whenever you are in a certain place, and/or thinking about when that next smoke will be
  • If you are noticing a pattern or a feeling of enjoyment from the ritual of smoking – rolling or preparing your cannabis, then this can be a sign that you are developing a habit.
  • If people are expressing concern about your mood or how cannabis is affecting other areas of your life (work, relationships, finances).

Tips for reducing or keeping in control

  • Take a break. Taking a few days, weeks or a month off will help towards keeping a habit from forming.
  • Leave your days free from cannabis. You’ll get more stuff done and want less cannabis in the evenings.
  • Set limits on the amount you use. Setting a limit on how much you use might help keep your use under control. It also means you might get other stuff done.

Tips for stopping

  • If you want to stop – set a stop date, tell someone you trust that this is your plan and ask them to help you.
  • Be prepared – long-term use of cannabis can mean when you stop you might have some withdrawal symptoms.
  • The irritability, anxiety and problems with sleeping usually appear 10 hours after the last joint, and peak at around one week after the last use of the drug.
  • Tobacco mixed with cannabis can make it harder to stop. Get support to stop smoking if you think this will be a problem.
  • Recognise that lapsing isn’t failing. If you do lapse learn from it – why did you lapse and what can you do differently next time. Keep trying – it doesn’t always happen first time.

Getting Help

Forward Leeds can provide confidential, non-judgemental advice and support to help you make changes to your cannabis use.

You can call on 0113 887 2477 or email

For help in stopping smoking – One You –

Download our  #RespectTHC posters by clicking on the images below:

We have a downloadable booklet that is a guide to cannabis, starting with the facts.

Working through the booklet lets you take a look at you and your own cannabis use.

There is a section on what to do next if you are looking to change something as a result

Download a low-resolution copy of our Cannabis Workbook.

For a printed copy contact Forward Leeds and we will post one out to you.