Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use
Today’s article is a compilation in order to provide information about a responsible Cannabis use. Many countries are moving towards the regulation of medicinal and recreational marijuana, like Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, the Netherlands and the United States. These are just a few examples of this movement towards the legalization of the consumption and controlled sale of Cannabis flowers and its derivatives.
Marijuana legalization is considered by many experts one of the best options for dealing with the misuse of this substance, as well as an approach to the responsible consumption of Cannabis. On the other hand, the normalization of cannabis could also put an end to the black market, one of the biggest burdens on the unregulated consumption of this substance.
This could favour control the quality, dosage and presence of psychoactive cannabinoids in marijuana. Similarly, cannabis regularization activists also argue that legalization can minimize social harms while eliminating the costs of prohibition that money can be used for prevention, education, health and social programmes.
As many countries move towards legalization, it is important that people are advised on responsible Cannabis use. Both health care providers and policymakers need to consider the public health implications of Cannabis and work to implement risk reduction policies that promote health and wellness, as well as respect informed public decision-making.
Problems that arise when Cannabis is not used responsibly
Cannabis is the most widely consumed non-regulated recreational substance worldwide, with use among the younger population being particularly significant. This testifies to the prevalence of this substance and the need to learn how to use it properly.
In order to establish guidelines for the responsible Cannabis use, it is very important to provide as much information as possible about the risks that uncontrolled Cannabis use can produce in people. This is best done on the basis of scientific evidence:
When Cannabis is smoked, there is scientific evidence that it can cause respiratory symptoms such as episodes of chronic bronchitis or shortness of breath. Although the main cause of these problems in the population is still tobacco, Cannabis smoke contains tar and other carcinogens.
Vaping appears to be a less harmful method of Cannabis consumption, as it does not produce combustion. The rate of respiratory symptoms in users of recreational marijuana vaping was 40% lower than users of smoked Cannabis, according to this Beckley Fundation study.
However, it is still too early to say that the use of vapes does not cause respiratory problems, as the medium and long-term effects of Cannabis use through this method are unknown, and although vaping seems a hopeful solution, it is necessary to wait and see what science has to say on this issue.
Prolonged use of Cannabis can lead to addiction and significant impairment or discomfort, as stated in one study, which reports that approximately 9% of people who use marijuana eventually develop some form of dependence.
The same study reports that the average level of dependence that can develop for nicotine is 68%, 23% for alcohol and 21% for cocaine. While it is true that marijuana is not at the top of the list of substances likely to generate dependence, it is true that it has the potential to generate dependence and lead to inappropriate use. It is therefore essential to prevent this and to promote the responsible use of Cannabis.
Some research has addressed the links between marijuana use and mental health problems. Although more work needs to be done, there is evidence linking continued Cannabis use with anxiety and depression.
Another research points to a link between Cannabis use and the early onset of problems such as psychosis. In fact, it is reported that people can increase their risk of psychosis by up to 40% compared to non-users.
The study addresses that marijuana use at a young age is highly inadvisable because early marijuana use is associated with an even greater risk, with a 50% to 200% greater chance of psychosis than non-users of marijuana.
One possible answer to this problem is that high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, may put users at greater risk than lower concentrations that produce more bearable sensations.
There is evidence of increased rates of memory impairment and increased rates of cannabis-induced paranoia and psychosis following the use of Cannabis products with a high presence of active cannabinoids such as THC. Of particular concern are products containing clandestine synthetic cannabinoids.
The evidence concludes that although the association between Cannabis use and certain mental illnesses exists, causality is not yet fully understood.
How to reduce risk and make responsible Cannabis consumption
Some of the most important tips for risk reduction and responsible Cannabis use will now be introduced. Abstinence is the best way to avoid health risks altogether, but those who use can hope to reduce these risks by adopting the following recommendations.
1. Delaying use until adulthood
As discussed above, Cannabis use in the younger population can have negative effects on their cognitive development. Moreover, since the risk of dependence is higher when use starts at a younger age, cannabis use disorder and the health harms associated with it are more severe.
Therefore, by delaying use until early adulthood, health harms can be reduced or avoided, a way of responsible Cannabis use.
2. Decrease the frequency of use
Since the risk of harm increases with the rate of use, frequent, daily or near-daily use should be avoided. To this end, spacing out consumption to specific times can be an appropriate way to encourage responsible Cannabis use.
3. Stop use when it is difficult to control
Users who use non-medical Cannabis very frequently may be engaging in irresponsible use. As soon as they experience some difficulty in controlling their Cannabis use, they should stop and ask for professional help if necessary.
4. Minimise respiratory complications
A good way to minimise the harmful effects of Cannabis on health is to avoid smoking Cannabis with tobacco, as it contains more carcinogenic substances and can lead to more long-term respiratory complications. Therefore, many researchers agree that it is preferable to refrain from inhaling smoke deeply and to hold one’s breath, as well as to consider using a vaporiser and try to minimise the carcinogenic substances derived from combustion as much as possible.
5. Do not consume in high quantities
Consume high amounts of THC. As we have seen, this can be more harmful than if consumed in small amounts. It is therefore advisable not to consume large quantities of Cannabis with a high THC concentration or excessive consumption of this psychoactive cannabinoid.
6. Avoid combining Cannabis with other psychoactive substances
Mixing Cannabis with alcohol or medication can exponentially increase memory impairment or the occurrence of episodes of depression or anxiety. Experts also agree that combining Cannabis with alcohol can lead to anxiety, nausea, vomiting or fainting.
7. Never drive under the influence of THC
Do not drive with people who have consumed THC. The effect of inhaled Cannabis can peak within 30 minutes of consumption and its effects gradually wear off. The cognitive impairment produced by THC can last from 3 to 6 hours, depending on the individual. It is necessary to wait longer than this before getting behind the wheel, especially if the products consumed contain a high concentration of THC. Impairment may be more pronounced if THC has been combined with other substances.
8. Moderation in sharing
Responsible Cannabis consumption is based on minimizing lip contact with other consumers. Sharing has always been closely linked to the culture of Cannabis use, but care needs to be taken to reduce the risk of transmitting infections such as meningitis; or in this day and age, infectious viruses such as Covid-19.
9. Vulnerable groups
High-risk groups such as pregnant women or people with a personal or family history of psychosis should avoid Cannabis use altogether.