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Cannabis, also known by its many other names such as weed, marijuana, pot or dope, refers to the flower, stems, and leaves of the cannabis plant. These components contain a multitude of cannabinoids including THC and CBD. Cannabis is used as a recreational and/or medical psychoactive drug.
No, just because cannabis is legal for medical and/or recreational use in many states does not mean it is safe. There are many complex reasons for legalization including political motivations, medical research opportunities, and criminal justice reform.
Using cannabis at any age can lead to negative health consequences:
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive, or mind-altering, component of cannabis along with other cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) does not cause a “high” like THC and is not a psychoactive.
Ongoing research is exploring possible medical uses for CBD, including lowering anxiety, aiding sleep, and reducing pain caused by inflammation. CBD can be derived from hemp, which is defined as any part of a cannabis sativa plant with no more than 0.3% of THC, or non-hemp plants. In 2018, the U.S. Congress passed and signed into law the Agriculture Improvement Act. This law removed hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act, effectively legalizing CBD if it comes from hemp.
Cannabis is usually smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (known as "joints") or in special water-pipes ("bongs"). It can be vaped using electronic vaporizing devices (i.e., e-cigarettes or vape pens) or other vaporizers. Compounds (or cannabinoids) in marijuana can also be extracted to make oils and concentrates that can be vaped or inhaled. Smoking oils, concentrates, and extracts from the marijuana plant, known as “dabbing,” is on the rise. Health and safety risks exist for each of the different ways of using cannabis.
Marijuana edibles are food items made with cannabis or cannabis oils. The amount of THC can vary greatly in edibles. This makes it harder to control how much THC is consumed. The amount of THC in homemade marijuana edibles can vary even more. Many users can be caught off-guard by the stronger potency and long-lasting effects of edibles.
As the market changes due to retail legalization across the Unites States, new products and methods for consumption come to the market all the time. This fast-paced market makes it hard for health and safety regulations to be put into place, because it is difficult to keep up with new trends. Regulation of cannabis products are in place to protect and educate consumers.
In the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (Illinois House Bill 1438), it states the legal age to purchase or possess cannabis is 21.
Legalization–Laws or policies which make the possession and use of cannabis legal under state law.
Decriminalization– Laws or policies which reduce the penalties for possession and use of small amounts of cannabis from criminal sanctions to fines or civil penalties.
Medical Cannabis– State laws which allow an individual to defend him or herself against criminal charges of cannabis possession if the defendant can prove a medical need for cannabis under state law.
The cannabis plant has compounds that may help symptoms for some health problems. Scientists are still learning the ways that marijuana may help or harm people. In addition, no federal standards have been implemented for the quality and safety of cannabis products sold in state-based medical marijuana dispensaries. These products are not approved by the FDA.
Research on the medical use of cannabis is still in early stages, and much remains unknown about the plant and how it interacts with the body. Currently, the FDA has approved one plant-based cannabis drug (Epidiolex), which contains purified cannabidiol (CBD) from the cannabis plant. The drug is approved for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy (Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome) as well as seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex, a rare genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to form in many parts of the body.
The FDA has also approved two medicines (dronabinol [brand names: Marinol and Syndros] and nabilone [brand name: Cesamet]) made from a synthetic or lab-made chemical that mimics tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These medicines are used to treat nausea in patients with cancer who are having chemotherapy treatment and to increase appetite in individuals with AIDS who do not feel like eating (wasting syndrome).
Marijuana use actually has been shown to negatively impact someone's mental health if they have a predisposition to mental health issues, particularly in those who are young and use a lot at once and/or regularly, or if they are genetically prone to other mental health concerns. There is a "causal role" that marijuana can play with some users and mental health trouble.
Additionally, with the types of effects that marijuana has, particularly it's impacts on motivation, it can reduce the interest a young person has with their hobbies, schooling, relationships, and more. Simply put, it can negatively impact the areas of someone's life that help improve their mental health.
Learn more about cannabis and it's impact on mental health from the sources below, or visit the Events section of our website to watch a Webinar hosted by Aaron Weiner, PHD who discussed the impacts of cannabis use on mental health:
Watch Webinar: Events and Webinars (webflow.io)
Any smoke, including cannabis smoke, irritates the lungs. People who smoke cannabis products frequently can have the same breathing problems as those who smoke tobacco. These problems include daily cough and phlegm, more frequent lung illness, and a higher risk of lung infections. Researchers so far haven't found a higher risk for lung cancer in people who smoke cannabis.
In 2019, a national outbreak of lung injury associated with vaping occurred. Data from patient reports and product testing showed tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing vaping products that also contained vitamin E acetate were linked to most cases. This outbreak resulted in over 2,800 emergency department visits and 68 confirmed deaths.
While a fatal overdose caused solely by cannabis is unlikely, cannabis use is not harmless. The signs of using too much cannabis in one's system are similar to the typical effects of using but more severe. These signs may include: extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations, increased blood pressure, severe nausea or vomiting In some cases, these effects can lead to unintentional injury, such as a motor vehicle crash, fall, or poisoning. Overconsumption of cannabis can happen especially when using cannabis-infused products like edibles and beverages, since it can take up to 2 hours to feel the effects from the drug.
Additionally, cannabis may be laced with other substances, either known or unknown to the consumer. Using cannabis in combination with other substances may result in greater impairment than when using cannabis alone and may increase the risk of overdose.
The main component in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive, or mood altering, effects is a cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol, or "THC" for short. In combination with other cannabinoids, the amount of THC in cannabis determines the strength of the effect of the drug. The level of THC in cannabis is not always the same. It can vary depending on the strain or variety of the plant, the way in which the plant is grown, the part of the plant that is used, and the way the plant is prepared for use and stored.
The flowering tops, or "buds" of the female cannabis plant have the highest concentrations of THC, followed by the leaves. Much lower THC levels are found in the stalks and seeds of the cannabis plant. The amount of THC in cannabis has been increasing steadily over the past few decades. For a person who's new to cannabis use, this may mean exposure to higher THC levels with a greater chance of a harmful reaction. Higher THC levels may explain the rise in emergency room visits involving cannabis use. Edibles take longer to digest and produce a high. Therefore, people may consume more to feel the effects faster, leading to dangerous results.
Cannabis use is unsafe for anyone if you are behind the wheel. In general, teen drivers are less experienced and more likely to react poorly in risky situations than older drivers. They are more likely to drive recklessly, speeding and allowing less distance between vehicles. When you pair that inexperience with cannabis use, the results can be dangerous. Research shows that cannabis affects safe-driving skills, like judgment, coordination, and reaction time. Cannabis makes it hard to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. As with any psychoactive drug, impaired driving can cause deadly vehicle crashes.
There is a misperception that one cannot become addicted to cannabis use. Cannabis use can lead to the development of problem use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Estimates of the number of people addicted to cannabis are controversial, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use often use dependence as a proxy for addiction even though it is possible to be dependent without being addicted. Those studies suggest that 9% of people who use cannabis will become dependent on it, rising to about 17% in those who start using in their teens.
Cannabis use disorder becomes addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of their life. Cannabis use disorders are often associated with dependence—in which a person feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. People who use cannabis frequently often report irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks. Cannabis dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.
It is a leafy plant grown around the world containing many chemicals, but nicotine is the one that can lead to addiction. Other chemicals produced such as tar, carbon monoxide, acetaldehyde, and nitrosamines, can cause harm to the body as well.
Tobacco products contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical found naturally in tobacco plants. Nicotine addiction has two components, which are physical and psychological.
Physical impact: Nicotine travels to the brain where it binds to nicotine receptors and eventually leads to a release of dopamine in the pleasure pathways of the brain. Once this happens, the smoker beings experiencing feelings of pleasure and calmness.
Psychological impact: The addiction develops based on the connection between tobacco and the activities a person engages in while using tobacco.
Vaping is the act of inhaling a vaporized liquid from an electronic device. The aerosol vapor that is released commonly contains nicotine, flavoring, cannabis products (such as THC or CBD), and other chemicals.
Learn more about Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, such as vapes, MODs, or vaporizers, and ways to talk to young people about them using the resources below:
Though some may claim vaping is less dangerous than traditional cigarettes, that doesn’t mean safe. Vaping devices have their own risks. To create flavors, vape manufacturers mix chemicals that are harmful when inhaled. The chemicals can damage the heart, lungs, and immune system. Additionally, the heating elements within these devices can introduce dangerous chemicals to the user.
Learn more about the risks of vaping using the resources below:
When nicotine enters the body, it initially causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which stimulates the body but it can cause increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, faster breathing.
Smoking Tobacco: Cancers, lung problems, heart disease, cataracts, aging skin and teeth
Secondhand Smoke: Cancer, lung problems, heart disease, health problems for children
Smokeless Tobacco: Cancers, heart disease, mouth problems
Learn more about the impacts using the sources below:
Nicotine increases levels of dopamine. Dopamine is released when you experience things such as good food, favorite activity, or spending time with people we care about. When you use tobacco products, the release of dopamine causes similar “feel-good” effects. It wears off quickly, causing people who smoke to smoke more. When smokeless tobacco is used, nicotine is absorbed through the mouth tissues directly into the blood.
According to the CDC, cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. Read more about this here.
Vape juice or e-liquid is the liquid that is vaporized into an aerosol cloud. Vape juice most commonly contains three ingredients: propylene glycol and/or glycerin, chemicals for flavoring and nicotine.
99% of vape products contain nicotine.
The amount of nicotine in brands like Juul, Puff Bar, and Moho can be equal to one whole pack of cigarettes.
In 2020, 34.5% of high school seniors have used nicotine vaping followed by 30.7% of 10th graders and 16.6% of 8th graders. Specifically cigarettes, 24% of 12 graders have smoked cigarettes in their lifetime, followed by 13.9% of 10th graders, and 11.5% of 8th graders.
While it is possible for vapes not to contain nicotine or THC, most do.
In fact, 100% of puff bar and Juul products - teens’ top choices - contain nicotine. Studies have shown that most vaping products labeled “nicotine-free’ actually contain nicotine.
Popular terms for vaping devices include e-cigarettes, e-cigs, smokeless cigarettes, Juul, Puff Bar, vaporizers, vape, vape pens, mods, tanks, "cigalikes", e-hookah, and hookah pens. There are new products coming out all the time, some resembling everyday items like highlighters, USBs, and more.
When you quit smoking, you immediately gain health benefits. Social support and medications are proven to help people quit. When used in combination, it is even more effective.
Counseling options are available, including group and one-on-one programs as well as online and telephone support. Each will help with the psychological addiction to nicotine.
Quit smoking medication can be nicotine replacement therapy (patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler, nasal spray) or non-nicotine medications (Bupropion, Varenicline). These help reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Everyone is different; some people experience severe withdrawal symptoms and some people experience few if any symptoms.
Symptoms include cough, headache, nausea, fatigue, trouble sleeping, sore throat, dry mouth , irritability. It is crucial to practice good self-care when you quit smoking.
Although they may not experience nicotine addiction the same way as people who smoke regularly, the health risks are still the same. Each puff contains dangerous substances.
Smoking costs the United States billions of dollars each year.
Total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year.
More than $225 billion in direct medical care for adults.
More than $156 billion in lost productivity due to premature death and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Learn more about the costs associated with smoking using the sources below:
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters a person's perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.
When teens drink, alcohol affects their brains in the short-term, and repeated drinking can also have an impact on the brain down the road, especially as it grows and develops.
Short-Term Consequences of Intoxication (being “drunk”):
An intoxicated person has a harder time making good decisions. They also have impaired motor coordination.
A person is less aware that his/her behavior may be inappropriate or unsafe.
A person has a greater risk of being injured from falls or vehicle crashes.
A person may be more likely to engage in unsafe behavior, including drinking and driving, unsafe sexual behavior (like unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior.
A person is less likely to recognize potential danger.
Long-Term Consequences as the Teen Brain Develops:
Research suggests that drinking during the teen years could interfere with normal brain development and change the brain in ways that:
Have negative effects on information processing and learning.
Increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder later in life.
Click here for an interactive look at how alcohol affects the brain and the body.
Teens might engage in drinking alcohol or using other drugs for a variety of reasons. As teens get older, it is natural for them to increase their independence, seek new challenges and engage in both healthy and unhealthy risk taking. Some teens engage in underage drinking to experiment and try new things, they feel pressured by their peers to drink and want to fit in, they want to feel older/more mature, they want to feel good or relax, or they drink to cope with stress, anxiety or other mental health issues.
Also, from a very young age, kids see advertising messages showing beautiful people enjoying life — and alcohol. And because many parents and other adults use alcohol socially — having beer or wine with dinner, for example — alcohol seems harmless to many teens.
Most teenagers do not drink alcohol, even though it is the most widely used substance among teens. According to the 2019 New Trier High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data, 57% of New Trier students have NOT engaged in alcohol use in the past 30 days. This is however less than their national counterparts in which 71% of high school students nationwide have NOT engaged in alcohol use in the past 30 days.
Yes, a person can be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. Teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are 6.5 times more likely to experience an alcohol use disorder later life compared to those who don’t start drinking until the age of
21. (SAMHSA, 2017 NSDUH).
An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by the impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational or health consequences. AUD is considered a brain disorder and can be mild, moderate or severe. Only a healthcare provider or mental health professional can diagnose someone with an AUD.
There are a variety of risk factors for a person to develop an AUD. Those risk factors include:
Drinking at an early age
Genetics and family history of substance use disorders.
Mental health conditions and a history of trauma. Certain mental health disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are at an even more increased risk of having an AUD as well.
The good news is that AUDs are treatable with a variety of evidenced-based treatment options and people do recover.
(Stanford University: https://super.stanford.edu/alcohol-drug-info/buzz-buzz/what-bac)
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) refers to the percent of alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) in a person's blood stream. A BAC of .10% means that an individual's blood supply contains one part alcohol for every 1000 parts blood.
In Illinois, a person (21 years and older) is legally intoxicated if they have a BAC of .08% or higher.
Illinois has a zero tolerance law which means a person under 21 years of age is legally intoxicated with any BAC above 0%.
BAC for an individual can vary based on many factors. Those factors include: Number of standard drinks, amount of time in which drinks are consumed, body weight, water composition, enzyme production and levels, sex assigned at birth and corresponding hormone levels, medications and food
As BAC increases in the body’s system, impairment increases.
The amount of liquid in your glass, can, or bottle does not necessarily match up to how much alcohol is actually in your drink. Different types of beer, wine, or malt liquor can have very different amounts of alcohol content.
That’s why it’s important to know how much alcohol your drink contains. In the United States, one "standard" drink (or one alcoholic drink equivalent) contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:
Because of several physiological reasons, a woman will feel the effects of alcohol more than a man, even if they are the same size. There is also increasing evidence that women are more susceptible to alcohol's damaging effects than are men. Below are explanations of why men and women process alcohol differently.
Ability to dilute alcohol:
Women have less body water (52% for the average woman v. 61% for the average man). This means that a man's body will automatically dilute the alcohol more than a woman's body, even if the two people weigh the same amount.
Ability to metabolize alcohol:
Women have less dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol, than men. So a woman's body will break down alcohol more slowly than a man's.
Premenstrual hormonal changes cause intoxication to set in faster during the days right before a woman gets her period. Birth control pills or other medication with estrogen will slow down the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body.
Women are more susceptible to long-term alcohol-induced damage.
Women who are heavy drinkers are at greater risk of liver disease, damage to the pancreas and high blood pressure than male heavy drinkers. Proportionately more alcoholic women die from cirrhosis than do alcoholic men.
Legally, Illinois has a zero-tolerance law in which a driver under age 21 caught with any trace of alcohol in his/her system will lose his/her driving privileges. A first offense will result in a 3 month suspension in driving privileges and a second offense will result in a 1-year suspension. The penalties can be increased if the underage person refuses or fails to complete a BAC test.
Driving with any amount of alcohol in your system can impair driving. Initially, alcohol can cause a decline in visual functions and the ability to perform two or more tasks at the same time. As the BAC levels increase in the body’s system, reduced coordination, reduced ability to track objects, difficulty steering and a delayed response to emergency driving situations occurs. Once BAC reaches .08%, concentration declines, short-term memory loss occurs, the ability to control speed declines, there is impaired perception and reduced information processing capabilities. If BAC continues to rise, there is the reduced ability to maintain lane position, brake appropriately and substantial impairment in vehicle control and attention to driving.
Learn more about the stats, laws, and risks of driving while under the influence of Alcohol using the sources below:
Alcohol-related blackouts are gaps in a person’s memory for events that occurred while they were intoxicated. These gaps happen when a person drinks enough alcohol to temporarily block the transfer of memories from short-term to long-term storage—known as memory consolidation—in a brain area called the hippocampus.
An alcohol overdose occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down. Alcohol overdose can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
Symptoms of alcohol overdose include:
The only way for the effects of alcohol to decrease in the body’s system is for the body to metabolize the alcohol in the liver. Enzymes in the liver break down the alcohol at approximately a rate of one ounce of liquor (1 standard drink) in one hour.
If a person consumes more than 1 standard drink per hour, their system becomes saturated, and the additional alcohol will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized. This is why pounding shots or playing drinking games can result in high blood alcohol concentrations that last for several hours.
Parents and teachers can play a big role in shaping young people’s attitudes toward drinking. Parents in particular can have either a positive or negative influence.
Parents can help their children avoid alcohol problems by:
Talking about the dangers of drinking
Drinking responsibly, if they choose to drink
Serving as positive role models in general
Not making alcohol available
Getting to know their children’s friends
Having regular conversations about life in general
Connecting with other parents about sending clear messages about the importance of youth not drinking alcohol
Supervising all parties to make sure there is no alcohol
Encouraging kids to participate in healthy and fun activities that do not involve alcohol
Research shows that children of actively involved parents are less likely to drink alcohol.
On the other hand, research shows that a child with a parent who binge drinks is much more likely to binge drink than a child whose parents do not binge drink.
906 Davis St., Evanston, IL 60201 iii. 847-492-1778
Multiple locations throughout Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa iii. 866-330-8729
Compass Behavioral Health
60 Revere Dr., Northbrook, IL 60062 iii. 844-552-0242
Multiple locations throughout Illinois iii. 877-352-9992
Al-Anon members are people who are worried about someone with a drinking problem.
A place just for teens affected by someone else’s alcoholism.
Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects. Medically opioids are primarily used for pain relief.
Opioid or prescription drug misuse is considered to be:
1) Using or relying on prescription medication to assist in daily functional activities that may include school or work.
2) Using prescription medication that was not prescribed or recommended to you by your doctor.
Our brains respond to opioid substances with the reward center. Opioids, including prescribed pain medications or over-the-counter medications, act similarly to endorphins in our body. As a result of misusing these substances, this can create a dependent relationship and lead to addiction.
Teens are most likely to engage in the misuse of prescription medications. Research shows that behind cannabis, the most common substances teens misuse are prescription pain relief medication.
The most common pain relief medications are:
Opioid substance misuse can be prevented by:
1) Taking prescription medication as prescribed by a medical professional.
2) Keep your medication for yourself. Do not share medication with friends or family.
3) Properly dispose of medication when the medication is no longer needed.
Many forms of treatment are available for treatment of opioid misuse or addiction. Treatment is dependent on the nature of the misuse or addiction. Common forms of treatment may include: alcohol and other drug abuse counseling (AODA) and/or prescribed medication.
Talk to your teen about opioid, prescription drugs, and OTC medicine misuse. You may even want to share facts about the impacts substances can have on your brain and body.
You should store prescription medication in the original container or bottle that the medicine came in. Store the medicine container or bottle in a secure place that is not easily accessible for small children. A high cabinet, out of reach from children or animals, with a lock on is ideal. Prescription medication lock boxes are great for homes without a high cabinet. Learn more about storage and disposal here.
Used or old prescription medications can be dropped off at local police departments or other community locations. Some pharmacies, such as select Walgreens and CVS locations, may allow drop-offs. There are many local programs that communities have put into place, such a drop boxes or even community events used to collect old and unused prescriptions.
To find local drug drop-off locations near you, please visit the links below:
Pharmaceutical_Dropoff.pdf (mwrd.org) (Drop-off Locations in the Chicagoland Area)
Teen Medicine Misuse:
http://www.preventmedabuse.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Fact-Sheet-Teen-Medicine-Misus e-NMAAM.png (Is there a way to share just the PDF and the source?)
Opioid and Prescription Drug Presentations:
https://www.operationprevention.com/opioid-and-prescription-drugs#hs (Middle school and HS)
https://generationrx.org/toolkits/teen/ (available for youth, adolescents, and young adults)
Crisis Support hotlines offer free and confidential crisis hotlines to support you and your loved ones.
We have answers to your more frequently asked questions about helping.
Learn more about Cannabis, Nicotine, Alcohol, and Opioids impact on your body and mind.