About cannabis

12% of New Zealanders got high on weed in the past 12 months.

Cannabis Seedling

What is cannabis?

Cannabis (also called pot, marijuana, weed, dope, grass, mull, chronic, dak, hash, smoke, buds, skunk, cabbage, ganja, or reefer) is the most commonly used illegal drug in New Zealand. Cannabis comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant and is used both for recreational and medicinal purposes. As a recreational drug, it can be used in dried plant, resin, or oil form. The potency of cannabis depends on it's concentration of THC, which is higher in resin and hash oil than in the dried plant. Cannabis is widely available in New Zealand, and about 14 percent of people use it regularly. After alcohol, cannabis is also the drug that New Zealanders most often ask for help with.

If using cannabis saps you of motivation, makes you forgetful, becomes necessary in order to sleep, and prevents you eating properly and looking after yourself, you might end up feeling bad.

What cannabis feels like

Smoking cannabis usually has an immediate effect, but it may take an hour or more to feel the effects if eaten. Cannabis can make you feel relaxed, giggly, and hungry, or hallucinate or have a dry mouth. Using more cannabis can result in negative effects including blurred vision, bloodshot eyes, feeling sluggish, difficulty concentrating, slower reflexes, increased heart rate and lower blood pressure, and feelings of paranoia and anxiety.

How to use cannabis more safely

All drug use brings a risk of harm. The best way to stay safe is to plan. Know your limits and how cannabis affects you.

Eating cannabis in food or drink form is the least harmful way of using it. Try waiting for two hours before eating more so that you do not become more intoxicated than you intended to.

Smoking anything is harmful for your lungs and heart. Vaporisers are safer because they heat rather than burn cannabis so you can achieve the same effect as smoking, without the strain of deep inhaling or the harm of inhaling smoke. Vaporisers are also less harmful than smoking bongs or filtered joints.

Mixing any drugs together increases the risk of harm. Using cannabis with alcohol increases the likelihood of experiencing negative effects.

The health risks of cannabis

You cannot have a fatal overdose from cannabis use. However, if you have too much in one session it can lead to a very unpleasant experience.

Cannabis use can be habit forming resulting in negative long term effects on mental and physical health. Heavy cannabis may contribute to mental illnesses like depression and has been known to trigger psychosis, especially in young people. More commonly, long term use can lead to low motivation, paranoia, short-term memory loss, reddened eyes and a dry mouth, decreased concentration, and addiction. It can interfere with the most important parts of your life, including relationships and work.

Smoking cannabis may cause irreparable damage to your lungs, and increases the risk of disease in the airways.

What about synthetic cannabinoids? 

Like regular cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids are also illegal in New Zealand. This group of drugs imitate cannabis but the effects can be unpredictable and more addictive. The chemical is usually sprayed onto plant material to resemble natural cannabis, or is sometimes available as a liquid. Due to the number of possible chemicals used and unreliable production methods, effects can range from underwhelming to lethal, especially when mixed with other substances. About twenty people died in New Zealand from a synthetic substance overdose in 2017. 

Users have reported toxic symptoms, extreme reactions and serious psychological problems from using synthetic cannabinoids. These include: high blood, pressure, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, heart palpitations, severe anxiety and paranoia, fear of dying, hallucinations, tremors and seizures, violent behaviour, and suicidal thoughts. These toxic symptoms can last several days and others have experienced long term mental health issues. Tolerance can develop quickly which means you will need more and more to get the same effect.

What does cannabis addiction look like?

Someone probably has an addiction if they experience three or more of the following criteria over a year:
  • Needing more cannabis to get the same high (tolerance).
  • Experiencing withdrawal after stopping. Symptoms can include restlessness, irritability, sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, nervousness, anxiety, sweating, or an upset stomach.
  • Using more cannabis than was intended.
  • Not being able to stop or cut down cannabis use.
  • An increase in the amount of time spent getting, using, and recovering from cannabis use.
  • Choosing cannabis use over other important activities.
  • Continuing to use cannabis despite knowing it is causing problems.
  • Going to unusual lengths to get more cannabis, such as stealing or selling drugs to get cash.

Is pot use a problem for you?

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