Health Matters with Dra. Denise – Cannabis: The Low-Down on Getting High (part 1)

Health Matters with Dra. Denise – Cannabis:  The Low-Down on Getting High (part 1)

Kumusta kayo! Let’s talk about cannabis, aka damo, joots, chongki, maryjane, tiririt, greta, pito pito, doobie, etc. Why so many Filipino terms? Well, according to Wikipedia, it is the second most used drug in the Philippines, after shabu (methamphetamine). Although some say “everyone uses cannabis”, Manitoba surveys have shown that approximately 55 % of people have tried cannabis at some point in their lifetime. However, in 2017, 80% of Manitobans reported that they had not used it in that year.

As many may know, on October 17, Canada became the second country in the world (after Uruguay) to legalize recreational marijuana, likely triggering our nation’s biggest public policy challenge in decades. It is helpful to look at the issue through a health lens, rather than a justice one: while cannabis has risks, legalization will most likely lower these risks and not make things worse. In other jurisdictions, for instance, legalization has not been shown to increase cannabis use. And regulating the drug supply makes legal cannabis outlets and their products much safer than the black market.

Health outcomes can be improved by making it easier for those dependent on cannabis to get help. Also, legalization can alleviate the major negative health impacts of having a criminal record associated with cannabis.

Cannabis refers to the buds or flowers of the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants. The cannabis plant contains hundreds of chemicals. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical that makes people feel high; it can cause feelings of well-being, relaxation and increased appetite, but also paranoia, anxiety, and depression. CBD (Cannabidiol) has medicinal qualities to help manage pain, nausea, inflammation and anxiety, but doesn’t make people feel high. Different products have different amounts of THC or CBD. The ratio of CBD-to-THC concentrations can affect how the product will make a person feel.

Cannabis is most often smoked (yosi, reefer, pipe or bong), but can also be vaporized using either the dried flowers of the plant or concentrates (currently prohibited for sale). When smoking or vaporizing cannabis, the effects appear quickly, will be fully felt within five minutes, and can last for up to six hours. There is no scientific evidence to support the common belief that holding the smoke in your lungs makes the effects better. Instead, holding the smoke in your lungs potentially increases any damage to your lungs.

Edibles are foods that are cooked with the active ingredients in cannabis dissolved into fats and oils. When consuming cannabis edibles (eg. tsongkilate, etc), the effects take more time to appear – between one half to 2 hours–and can come on quite suddenly. Unlike smoked/vaporized cannabis, the effects of edibles can gradually intensify hours after they start and may not come on all at once. It can take up to 12 hours or even longer before the effects of edibles wear off.

The more you consume (or the more THC in the product), the stronger the effects. The effects also depend on mood prior to using it, the setting, and the variety of product used.

Short-term Effects
Cannabis can:
·increase the risk of a heart attack in the first hour after smoking cannabis
·trigger a short-term psychotic episode (paranoia, hallucinations), or an anxiety attack if taken in high doses
·impair your ability to drive a vehicle or operate machinery
·make it harder to remember things or make decisions.

About Dr. Denise Koh
Dr. Denise Koh is Manitoba’s Chief Occupational Medical Officer and Medical Officer of Health in Environmental Health and Emergency Preparedness. She is a Public Health specialist with additional training and experience in Family Medicine and Occupational Medicine. Follow her writing at: