Home > Mental health and growing up factsheet. Cannabis and mental health: information for young people.

Royal College of Psychiatrists. (2012) Mental health and growing up factsheet. Cannabis and mental health: information for young people. London: Royal College of Psychiatrists.

URL: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/parents-an...

About this leaflet
This is one in a series of leaflets for parents, teachers and young people entitled Mental Health and Growing Up. These leaflets aim to provide practical, up-to-date information about mental health problems (emotional, behavioural and psychiatric disorders) that can affect children and young people. This leaflet gives you some basic facts about cannabis and also how it might affect your mental health.

Lots of young people want to know about drugs. Often, people around you are taking them, and you may wonder how it will make you feel. You may even feel under pressure to use drugs in order to fit in, or be ‘cool’. You may have heard that cannabis is no worse than cigarettes, or that it is harmless.

What is cannabis?
The cannabis plant is a member of the nettle family that has grown wild throughout the world for centuries. People have used it for lots of reasons, other than the popular relaxing effect.
It comes in two main forms:
 resin, which is a brown black lump also known as bhang, ganja or hashish
 herbal cannabis, which is made up of the dried leaves and flowering tops, and is known as grass, marijuana, spliff, weed, etc.
Skunk cannabis is made from a cannabis plant that has more active chemicals in it (THC), and the effect on your brain is stronger. Because ‘street’ cannabis varies so much in strength, you will not be able to tell exactly how it will make you feel at any particular time.

What does it do to you?
When you smoke cannabis, the active compounds reach your brain quickly through your bloodstream. It then binds/sticks to a special receptor in your brain. This causes your nerve cells to release different chemicals, and causes the effects that you feel. These effects can be enjoyable or unpleasant.

Often the bad effects take longer to appear than the pleasant ones.
 Good/pleasant effects: You may feel relaxed and talkative, and colours or music may seem more intense.
 Unpleasant effects: Feeling sick/panicky, feeling paranoid or hearing voices, feeling depressed and unmotivated.
Unfortunately, some people can find cannabis addictive and so have trouble stopping use even when they are not enjoying it.

The effects on your mental health
Using cannabis triggers mental health problems in people who seemed to be well before, or it can worsen any mental health problems you already have.

Research has shown that people who are already at risk of developing mental health problems are more likely to start showing symptoms of mental illness if they use cannabis regularly. For example if someone in your family has depression or schizophrenia, you are at higher risk of getting these illness when you use cannabis.

The younger you are when you start using it, the more you may be at risk. This is because your brain is still developing and can be more easily damaged by the active chemicals in cannabis.
If you stop using cannabis once you have started to show symptoms of mental illness, such as depression, paranoia or hearing voices, these symptoms may go away. However, not everyone will get better just by stopping smoking.

If you go on using cannabis, the symptoms can get worse. It can also make any treatment that your doctor might prescribe for you, work less well. Your illness may come back more quickly, and more often if you continue to use cannabis once you get well again.

Some people with mental health problems find that using cannabis makes them feel a bit better for a while. Unfortunately this does not last, and it does nothing to treat the illness. In fact, it may delay you from getting help you need and the illness may get worse in the longer term.

[For the full factsheet, click on the link above]

Item Type:FactSheet
Publisher:Royal College of Psychiatrists
Corporate Creators:Royal College of Psychiatrists
Place of Publication:London
Accession Number:HRB (Electronic Only)
Subjects:G Health and disease > State of health > Mental health
T Demographic characteristics > Adolescent / youth (teenager / young person)
J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Care by type of problem > Mental health care
B Substances > Cannabis / Marijuana
G Health and disease > Substance related disorder > Substance related mental disorder
A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Effects and consequences

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