So, you think it’s time to talk about your friend’s cannabis use.Image result for first nations teen relationship

Before you start planning the logistics of your talk (time, location), it’s a good idea to think about the types of arguments for using cannabis they might draw on, so you can discuss them from an informed perspective. There are some common arguments people use to justify their use.

“Weed is natural, so it must be good for you!”

Here is a list of natural things: sugar, spiders, vitamin D, daffodils, iron, tobacco, asbestos, and Justin Bieber.

Some of these things are better for you than others.

There are some people who believe that naturally occurring products are better for you than synthetic ones.  But while humans evolved in nature, not everything in nature is good for us to ingest (see: asbestos & daffodils).

Some things that are good for us are only good in small doses: iron is good for you in small doses, but large doses can lead to stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, and with repeated use, much more serious outcomes.

So, some natural things are good for you – but others are very bad for you. Some things that are natural are good for you, but only in small doses. You have to judge each substance on its own merits (and by its effects!) to know how dangerous it can be.

Speaking of which:

 “No one ever died from weed.”

Here’s a question: has anyone ever died from sugar?

The answer you give would depend on what limits you set. If you want only deaths that can be linked directly to eating sugar (and nothing else), the answer might actually be no. Of course, we know that’s not the case – obesity and heart disease are linked to sugar in a quite significant way!

This is the same logic that is used for weed. When this statement is made, it ignores indirect deaths such as car crashes (one French study of road crashes found 3% of deaths were attributable to cannabis) or long-term possible health consequences such as cancer or stroke. It also ignores deaths from accidents and misadventure.

Like sugar, cannabis is not known as a substance people fatally overdose on; but that doesn’t mean it has no consequences for use. There are many social, emotional and physical harms that are linked to cannabis use that might not kill you from a toxic overdose – but they certainly won’t make your life better or longer.

“I’ve used it for ages and I’m fine, or people I know who use it are fine.”

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This logic is a problem because you will only have experienced a small window of what could occur – and you’re relying on your memory. For instance, you might only remember good times with someone, like your cousin, Mike, who smoked for ages and is fine… apart from his hacking cough and poor sleep patterns.

This is why people often rely on research to find a balanced answer, as it looks at a large sample of the population and compare outcomes overall, instead of just one or two people. Doctors used to believe that cigarette smoking was good for your health. But after doing some big research studies we now know that cigarettes are infact very harmful to your health and not at all beneficial.

It’s important to consider research because cannabis affects everyone differently; some people experience very few negative effects, others might have significant physical and mental effects. This can be due to family history, environment, or even some unknown interactions.

I need it to…

Sometimes, people may feel they need to use cannabis for a particular reason. It might be to concentrate, to relax, to feel ‘normal’. This is concerning because the need to use in order to properly function can be a sign of dependence or addiction. Cannabis was once thought to not be a drug of addiction like alcohol and heroin were; research now shows that while it is not as  addictive as these two drugs, it can be both physically and psychologically addictive.

Alternatively, they might say they use it for something like anxiety or pain, referring to research showing it has been used for such medical reasons. However, the pharmaceutical preparations and the plants available to the public vary dramatically – in some instances the chemicals with all the effects are only found in tiny quantities in the plant, and need to be extracted for more effective use in pharmaceutical preparations. Even if you get lucky with the right strain, there’s no guarantee the next batch will have the same result or even the same composition. It’s unlikely that it will be very effective as a medicine, compared to something you could get from a doctor.

What can I do?

  • Talk! And when we say talk, we actually mean listen. Talking to someone about their drug use can sometimes feel like a confrontation, so it’s important you approach it carefully, patiently, with a plan and an aim to listen. During the conversation, the two most important things to remember are not to judge and not to set ultimatums – this can cause your friend to close off and not want to talk to you about this, or even other issues, again.
  • Instead, ask them questions about why they use, how they feel about their use, and if they think it has any negative effects on them, if those effects outweigh the positives – just be careful not to turn it into an interrogation.
  • Another good idea is to tell them how their use is making you feel. Focus on your concern about them, how you think cannabis has affected your relationship. If you feel you can be really honest, tell them how it’s affecting how you feel. For example, you miss having someone you can rely on and talk to, or that you feel you are being put second to their use.