Parenting and Cannabis

As a parent using cannabis, it is important to know the risks and your rights to keep you and your children safe! Here are some things to consider:

Cannabis use while parenting

Using cannabis while parenting can affect how you interact with and respond to your child. It may decrease your ability to pay attention and miss your baby or child’s cues for hunger, to play, to be comforted or signs of danger. Ultimately, cannabis use can affect how you respond to your child’s needs and your ability to keep them safe (Government of Canada, 2018). If you are using cannabis, make sure there is someone else who is not using cannabis who can help take care of your child (Government of Canada, 2018).

Second-hand smoke

Smoke is harmful for all of us, especially while pregnant and for babies and young children. Second-hand cannabis smoke can lead to illness in infants and young children. It can also impact their alertness, understanding and judgement. To be safe, it is best not to smoke or vape cannabis in your home or around your baby or young children (CAMH, 2020).


Cannabis passes into breast milk through breastfeeding and it can be stored in your baby’s fat cells and brain for several weeks (Health Canada, 2018). As breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for your baby, if you are unable to stop using cannabis, try reducing your use. If you need help to reduce or stop using cannabis, talk to your health care provider (Health Canada, 2018). See other tips in the Harm Reduction and Pregnancy, Lactation and Fertility Section

Safe Storage

Cannabis can make children very sick so it is important that they do not consume cannabis. Children may think edibles such as brownies, cookies or gummies are a treat. All regulated (legal) cannabis products come in child-resistant packaging and are prohibited from having any packaging design or product shapes/colours that appeal to children (Canada, 2019). This is why it’s important to purchase legal products and take steps to keep them away from children and put away in a locked area that children cannot see or reach.

Risks to children who consume cannabis

When children accidentally eat cannabis they may look fine at first but cannabis can be very harmful to a child. The reaction to the drug may not be immediate but show effects much later. Here are some things to look for:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleepiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2018).
If you think your child ate cannabis, get medical help right away.

Call 911 immediately if your child seems ill, has difficulty breathing or if you are worried for other reasons.

Driving and using cannabis

It is important to know that driving while using cannabis is illegal. Using cannabis impairs your ability to drive a motor vehicle safely, even if you do not feel high. Using cannabis decreases your reaction time and thinking skills and makes it harder to determine distances (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2018). For more information see our section on Cannabis and Driving Laws

Talking with your children

Talking about cannabis with your kids can help prevent harms from cannabis use. Be sure to inform yourself before talking to your kids. It’s important to note that just because cannabis is legal, it does not mean it is harmless (CAMH, 2020). Legalization aims to keep cannabis away from youth and to protect public health and safety by allowing controlled cannabis access. Adults or youth who provide cannabis to minors is illegal and can result in fines and jail time (CAMH, 2020). In addition to issues with the law, it is important to talk to your children about the potential health impacts of cannabis use. Let your children know that while trying cannabis is not likely to cause serious problems, in some cases even occasional use can be harmful (CAMH, 2020). Youth who use cannabis often, long-term and at a young age, are at an increased risk for health and social problems (CAMH, 2020).

Making decisions about cannabis use as a parent

It is important to consider the impacts of cannabis use on not only yourself but consider the benefits and risks to your health, your children’s health, your relationships, your work or your finances. Just because cannabis is legal, it does not mean there are no risks involved. Inform yourself by taking a look at The Cannabis Act, which is designed to better protect the health and safety of Canadians, to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth, and to keep profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime (Government of Canada, 2019). The Cannabis Act is currently available in the following Indigenous languages:

Cannabis and Youth

Cannabis can be dangerous when used by youth for any period of time. Cannabis is addictive and can have negative impacts both mentally, and physically. Although many individuals use cannabis as a way to cope with their stress, anxiety and other mental health struggles, there are other safer ways to handle these struggles.

When you look into cannabis use in Canada among youth, from both before and after legalization, there are many reasons why youth may be interested trying cannabis products. As a young person, you may face many external pressures that might influence you to try using cannabis. Many youth see cannabis as a way to “improve or intensify mood, to be social, to cope with stress, or to fit in” (Health Canada, 2018). Before choosing to use cannabis, however, it is important to look into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Physical Health

The physical health effects of cannabis for youth include many impacts on the brain during its development that can affect mental function throughout life. There is risk of developing a dependence to cannabis as well as a higher risk for other substance use disorders (Grant and Bélanger, 2017). Youth who use cannabis regularly also have a higher risk of starting to use, and becoming addicted to tobacco cigarettes (Grant and Bélanger, 2017). In addition, studies have shown increased rates of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis as well as diminished school performance and lifetime achievement with regular cannabis use (Grant and Bélanger, 2017). These risks increase the younger a person is when they start to use cannabis.

When it comes to cannabis smoking, there are negative impacts on the lungs and respiratory system, which are similar to what you would develop by using tobacco products. Even though it sometimes seems like cannabis may be better for you because it is more natural, cannabis smoke contains harmful chemicals that can cause irritation and damage to the airway, and result in a range of symptoms including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, excess mucous, chest tightness, and worsening of asthma symptoms (Valleriana et al., 2021). Cannabis smoke puts your body at risk, but that is not the only area that is impacted.

Mental Health

Although there are significant physical impacts for youth and the developing brain, there are also many mental health risks. Cannabis is often presented as a way to help you with your mental health struggles like stress and anxiety, but for teens who start using cannabis early, use it regularly and continuously over time are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia (Health Canada, 2018). There are other concerns for those who use cannabis recreationally, such as reduced academic performance, reduced participation and interest in extracurricular activities, withdrawal from their usual peer groups and conflict with family (Grant et al., 2017).

Healthy Ways to Cope with Mental Health

Sometimes it seems like mental health struggles are overwhelming, and many youth find themselves searching for a solution to relieve some of the stress of the outside world. Cannabis products may relieve some stress and allow relaxation, but research has shown that excessive cannabis use can lead to more mental health problems and can actually worsen symptoms of anxiety, panic, and nervousness (Health Canada, 2018). There are many supports out there for mental health if you are in need and want to take a route that does not include self-medication.

Healthcare providers can meet with you to discuss how you are feeling and then can offer something to help you handle your struggles with mental health. If you are interested in counselling, seeing a therapist would allow you to talk about what is bothering you. Therapists offer help without judgement and improve your ability to work through difficult thoughts and emotions. If you are not ready to speak with a therapist or healthcare provider (which is normal because it’s hard to open up a lot of the time), there are many apps out there that you can simply download and use to focus on grounding yourself, meditating, tracking your moods and your sleep schedule, and so much more. If this is something that you think would help, here is a small sample of the apps out there that focus on mental health, sleep, meditation, as well as online counselling:

  • Calm: Sleep, Meditate, Relax
  • Headspace: Meditation & Sleep
  • Oak: Meditation and Breathing
  • The Mindfulness App
  • Sanvello: Anxiety and Depression
  • Happy Not Perfect: Mind Gym

Sometimes it is easier to talk to an outside source, which is where therapy or counselling can be helpful, but there are other times when speaking with a trusted adult may help you to feel more comfortable. The outlook on cannabis is always changing so having a conversation about cannabis use with a caregiver, relative or teacher may feel like a big deal, especially if you both are feeling uncomfortable and awkward with starting the conversation.

How to Talk to Youth as a Caregiver, Relative, or Teacher

As one of these trusted adults, it’s important that these conversations are not just a one off, they should be ongoing, open, and non-judgmental, since it can be difficult for many youth to feel comfortable opening-up (Valleriana et al., 2021). In order to have an open and honest conversation, trusted adults should include both the evidence-based risks and benefits of cannabis use and prioritize young people’s agency and decision-making capabilities, as well as assist youth in understanding the impacts of cannabis use (Valleriana et al., 2021). By discussing both the positive and negative sides of cannabis use, it provides more information for the youth consider when it comes time to make their decision. Presenting the positives of cannabis use are also important because it helps inform youth that cannabis is not always bad and there are many circumstance where cannabis use can be helpful. The media often stigmatizes people who use cannabis or other drugs so it’s important to teach youth to have open-minds and be considerate of others’ situations. Effective ways to promote open dialogue include asking open-ended questions and using language that is accessible and straightforward (Valleriana et al., 2021).

How Youth Can Talk to Their Peers

Although talking to trusted adults is important when it comes to learning about cannabis, another important group of people who will have an impact on your thinking are your peers and those in your social circles. There have been studies that show that having youth as facilitators can also be part of an approach centers youth experiences in development and delivery, and can enrich open dialogue (Valleriana et al., 2021). Cannabis is one of those topics that you may feel more comfortable talking about with someone that is closer in age to you. Peers hold a similar place in the social groups so they often hold greater relatability than adults do because they share a common understanding of social status, peer culture, and youth norms (Valleriana et al., 2021). Although there are many great things about chatting with your peers about cannabis, there can also be added peer pressure, for example, if some are using cannabis and others are not using, it can lead to individuals feeling like they have to experiment with cannabis to fit in. It’s normal not to know everything about cannabis; and sometimes your peers may seem like they are more knowledgeable about cannabis than you, but they may not be. Having confidence is about doing the things that are healthy for you and not just following what others do, as they may not be right for you.

Christina N Grant, Richard E Bélanger, Cannabis and Canada’s children and youth, Paediatrics & Child Health, Volume 22, Issue 2, 1 May 2017, Pages 98–102,

Health Canada. (2018, October 4). Government of Canada. Is cannabis safe to use? Facts for youth aged 13-17 years.

Valleriana, Enna, Nazlee Maghsoudi, Stephanie Lake, Marlena Nguyen-Dand, Michelle St, Pierre, Jill Robinson, Dessy Pavlova, and Lindsay Lo. (n.d. 2021). Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Sensible Cannabis Education: A Toolkit for Educating Youth. Version 1.1. Get Sensible Youth and Cannabis Toolkit English-Version-1.1-April-2021.pdf (

Watson, T. M., & Erickson, P. G. (2018). Cannabis legalization in Canada: how might ‘strict’ regulation impact youth? Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 26(1), 1–5.

Cannabis and Pregnancy, Lactation and Fertility

Cannabis is a natural plant that is legal in Canada for adult use. Therefore, many Canadians believe that cannabis is harmless and does not affect pregnancy, lactation, or the developing baby. In reality, the legal status of a substance does not mean there are no risks. Researchers are still figuring out the effects of cannabis use during pregnancy on babies, children, and youth. There is no known safe amount of cannabis use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, nor do we understand the risks associated with consuming different amounts or when it is consumed in relation to the pregnancy. Therefore, until we know more about the effects of cannabis on fetuses, babies, and pregnancies, experts advise people who are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or are lactating to avoid it in all its forms (GoC, 2018). Furthermore, The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends using alternative therapies that are proven safe during pregnancy and lactation instead of medical cannabis (SOGC, 2017).

Why it is difficult to get the same answer

Many of the studies exploring cannabis during pregnancy and lactation have been done on animals due to ethical concerns of using human subjects. Those that use humans are very limited and have difficulty providing consistent and accurate information about the amount, type and timing of cannabis consumed during pregnancy and lactation. It is also difficult to determine the effects of other things on pregnancy, lactation, and the developing baby such as exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and other factors. While research is limited and sometimes inconsistent, it is important to note that evidence currently suggests that consuming cannabis while pregnant and lactating is not risk free and expert advice is to avoid using cannabis during this time.

Fertility, Conception and Cannabis Use

There is some evidence that using cannabis may affect fertility and may make getting pregnant more difficult (GoC, 2018). Long-term use of cannabis may affect the menstrual cycle and the hormones your body produces during reproduction. Similarly, cannabis has been linked to lower sperm count, sperm’s decreased ability to swim, and poorer sperm quality (GoC, 2018). Therefore, people who are thinking about or trying to get pregnant should avoid consuming cannabis.

Cannabis Use and Pregnancy

Some researchers have found that cannabis use may have some negative effects on pregnancy (Public Health Ontario, 2018; GoC, 2018). Cannabinoids, specifically THC, cross the placenta and reach the developing fetus.

There is concern that this leads to short and long-term health effects, preterm labour or stillbirth. It is important to understand that cannabinoids are stored in fat in our bodies and get slowly released from fat storage to the bloodstream. This release can continue for up to 30 days (Porath-Waller, 2015, Public Health Ontario, 2018). Therefore, even if you have stopped consuming cannabis, it can take up to a month for the cannabinoids to leave your system and they may still be passed to the fetus or nursing baby.

Some studies have found that smoking cannabis during pregnancy may increase carbon monoxide in the blood of both the pregnant person and developing fetus. This decreases the amount of oxygen the fetus receives and may lead to negative health outcomes (National Academies of Sciences, 2017). Learn about non-smoking methods of consuming cannabis.

As cannabis can decrease blood pressure, this can lead to dizziness and fainting, which can cause injury to both the pregnant person and fetus (GoC, 2018). Other studies have found that the more cannabis the pregnant person uses, the more likely pregnancy complications can occur (Porath-Waller, 2015). However, more research is needed to confirm whether these effects are due to cannabis rather than other risk factors.

Cannabis Use and Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding/Nursing/Lactating

Similar to how cannabinoids may pass to the baby in the fetus, there is a chance that cannabinoids may pass to the nursing baby through human milk. Since cannabinoids are stored in body fat, our body can store cannabinoids in human milk for up to six weeks. Therefore, pumping and dumping the milk after consuming cannabis may not be effective in preventing your baby from being exposed. Some studies have shown that there can be eight times more THC in human milk compared to the lactating person’s blood (GoC, 2018). Another found that the baby ingests about 2.5% of the THC in the lactating person’s dose (Porath-Waller, 2015). The THC that the baby potentially absorbs can be stored in their fat cells and brain for weeks. Furthermore, cannabis consumption can affect the success of lactation as it affects the hormone that tells your body to make milk (prolactin). Additionally, babies who are exposed to cannabis may be drowsy and have poor suckling. Therefore, experts recommend not consuming cannabis while lactating.

Potential Effects of Cannabis on Infants and Children

Although more research is needed, multiple studies have suggested that exposure to cannabis during pregnancy or in early childhood may affect your child (GoC, 2018; Public Health Ontario, 2018). These impacts may be more noticeable as your child grows older and may last throughout their life. Some of these effects include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased muscle tone
  • Poor suckling
  • Irritability and decreased ability to self soothe
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Reduced memory function
  • Difficulty paying attention and multitasking
  • Poorer reasoning and problem-solving skills
  • Increased hyperactive behavior
  • More impulsive and aggressive
  • Lower IQ and academic achievement
Adolescence and Adulthood:
  • Continued impulsivity, attention difficulty, poor memory, decision making and problem-solving skills
  • Increased risk of depression and/or anxiety
  • Reduced school performance
  • May be more likely to misuse substances

Harm Reduction: What if I can’t stop using Cannabis?

Experts recommend that anyone who is thinking about getting pregnant, currently pregnant, or lactating stop cannabis use. However, sometimes it is difficult or impossible to stop using it. Here are some things you can do to minimize the harms of cannabis while pregnant or lactating:

  • If you can’t stop using cannabis while pregnant or lactating, try switching to cannabis products with less THC and consuming cannabis less often (CMNRP, 2019). The amount of cannabis your fetus or baby is exposed to depends on how often you use it and the amount of THC in the product. Evidence suggests that THC has the most negative health impacts. Learn about the differences between THC and CBD
  • Try getting your cannabis products from regulated stores. Regulated products must be labeled and meet strict quality and safety standards. They are unlikely to have additives, mold, pesticides, or fungicides (CMNRP, 2019).
  • Although all forms of cannabis (smoking, vaping, edibles, topical etc.) may impact your fetus or baby, try to avoid smoking. Learn about non-smoking methods of consuming cannabis!
  • If you’re smoking cannabis, try doing it away from your infant to avoid second-hand smoke; wash your hands and change your clothes before contacting your baby to avoid third-hand smoke and reduce their exposure to cannabis (CMNRP, 2019).
  • Avoid using cannabis with alcohol, tobacco, prescription and over the counter medication. When combined, there can be an increased risk of harmful effects to the baby as well as safety concerns due to parental intoxication (CMNRP, 2019).
  • Speak to your healthcare provider about alternatives to cannabis or harm reduction to safely guide you through your conception, pregnancy and lactation journey.

Porath-Waller AJ. Clearing the smoke on cannabis. maternal cannabis use during pregnancy – an update. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse; 2015

GoC, 2018:

Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Canada, SOGC

National Academies of Sciences (2017). Prenatal, Perinatal, and Neonatal Exposure to Cannabis. In The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. National Academies Press (US).

Public Health Ontario. (2018). Evidence Brief: Health Effects of Cannabis Exposure in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding.

Champlain Maternal Newborn Regional Program (CMNRP). (2019). Lactation and Cannabis Use: A Harm Reduction Approach.

Cannabis and Seniors

Harm Reduction: What if I can’t stop using Cannabis?

It is no coincidence that the baby boomer generation, who grew up with more exposure to recreational cannabis use, are now the fastest growing group of cannabis users in Canada (Stathokostas, 2020). This history combined with the recent legalization of cannabis and the growing recognition of its medicinal uses can explain the increase in cannabis use among older adults (Stathokostas, 2020).

The population of older adults who are using cannabis is extremely diverse, as are the reasons for their cannabis use. Older adults who use cannabis often fall into one of three categories: 1) individuals who have used cannabis throughout their life; 2) individuals who used in their early life and are now using again and; 3) people who only start using later in life (Stathokostas, 2020). So regardless of when you started, you are not alone! While the majority of older adults use cannabis for medical reasons, the number of older adults who are using cannabis for recreational purposes is growing. Whatever the reason for using, older adults are also more likely to acquire cannabis legally. Since recreational cannabis use became legal in 2018 in Canada, it is readily available and does not require a prescription. In addition to having easily accessible cannabis for recreational reasons, it is much safer to access cannabis legally. There are two ways to access cannabis safely and legally: 1) through a prescription and; 2) through a government-approved vendor (this may be a government-run retail store or a private dispensary in-person or online). If purchasing in-store you should look for a sign that the store is approved by the federal government. Find out where to buy regulated cannabis products in your province/territory

Additionally, legal cannabis products with more than 0.3% THC have an excise stamp on the package with each province and territory having a different colour stamp (Active Aging Canada, 2021).

Safe Consumption

Either way you acquire it, purchasing legally ensures that you know what is in your cannabis. Knowing what is in your cannabis including the concentration of THC helps you to consume safely. The Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (CCSMH, 2020) recommends the following tips for safe use:

  • Buy from a regulated source!
  • Even if using recreationally, you should discuss your cannabis use with a healthcare provider.
  • Make sure you read the label carefully and pay close attention to the THC concentration.
  • Start with a low THC content (ideally less than 10%) and increase slowly!
  • Start with a low amount and give yourself some time to feel the effects (it could happen quickly or slowly)!

There are many ways to use cannabis but the most common preparation of cannabis for older adults includes: 1) smoking; 2) topical (on your skin); and 3) edibles (Stathokostas, 2020). Have fun exploring what’s out there and find the methods that work best for you!

Health Benefits

Regardless of the method you choose and your motivator (medicinal or recreational reasons), there is growing recognition that cannabis use may include the following health benefits:

  • Improved quality of life;
  • Pain relief;
  • Increasing your appetite and weight gain;
  • Reducing nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy;
  • Reducing muscle spasms due to multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury;
  • Encouraging sleep; and
  • Helping with depression and anxiety (Active Aging Canada, 2021; CCSA, 2020; CCMSH, 2020).

Keep in mind that while there is growing evidence on the health benefits of cannabis, we still have a lot to learn. The best way to have fun and stay safe while using cannabis is to speak with your healthcare provider.

Cannabis and Aging

It is important to consider that our body and mind functions slow down as we age and some of these changes impact how cannabis (THC and CBD) are processed in the body. For example:

  • Lower kidney function can affect how cannabis clears out of the body.
  • Smoking or vaping cannabis can make symptoms of poor lung health or disease worse.
  • A slower digestive system and reduced liver functioning can affect how the body processes and removes cannabis from the body.
  • Muscles, bones, and sensory functions (vision, hearing and smell) can increase the risk of falls or injuries. This risk is higher when using THC because it is impairing (Ottawa Public Health, 2021).

Additionally, smoking cannabis can increase your heart rate and affect your blood pressure. Therefore, for those with a heart condition, this increases your chances of having a cardiac event such as arrhythmia, angina, heart attack or stroke. Cannabis can also lead to fainting and increase risk of falls due to its effect on blood pressure (Ottawa Public Health, 2021).

Cannabis and Mental Health

While some older adults may use cannabis to cope with loneliness, isolation, depression or loss that many experience as they age, using cannabis to cope could increase mental health problems (Ottawa Public Health, 2021). Using cannabis regularly can lead to cannabis use disorder or dependence which makes cutting back or stopping use difficult. If you have a family history of mental illnesses such as psychosis or schizophrenia, using cannabis can increase your chances of also experiencing these illnesses. Consuming too much THC at one time can lead to temporary psychosis, symptoms may include: paranoia, delusions and hallucinations (Ottawa Public Health, 2021).

Cannabis and Other Medications

Cannabis can affect how other prescriptions and over-the-counter medications work. If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, it is important to talk to your health care provider or pharmacist to understand better, how cannabis use may interact with your other medications (Active Aging Canada, 2021; Ontario Public Health, 2021). They will need to know what cannabis products you are using and how much you are taking; this is why it is important to use legal products with accurate information on the label (Active Aging Canada, 2021).

Cannabis and Brain Health

Cannabis affects the same parts or your brain that show age-related changes (Active Aging Canada, 2021), and it impacts how we think, feel and act. This may include feeling high, having difficulty concentrating, slower reaction time and twisted perception. These changes can be felt between 6 to 12 hours, depending on the amount of THC and how it was consumed. These changes increase the risk of injuries and make it unsafe to drive (Ontario Public Health, 2021). Learn more about Cannabis and Driving Laws.

While we do know that ongoing use of THC can cause problems with how your brain functions, including mental abilities such as memory, concentration, thinking and decision making (Ontario Public Health, 2021), we are still not sure if cannabis increases age-related mental decline (Active Aging Canada, 2021).

Cannabis and You

Due to the health risks, older adults with the following conditions should consider avoiding cannabis:

  • Heart conditions or unstable blood pressure
  • Cognitive impairments or issues with balance
  • History of mental illness or substance use disorders

While there is a potential for unwanted side effects as described above, not everyone experiences side effects. If you are using cannabis recreationally, it’s important to figure out what works best for you. Choosing a product with THC and CBD can help to decrease your chances of unwanted side effects. Like anything in life, you need to determine if the benefits of cannabis use outweigh the negatives (Active Aging Canada, 2021)!

Active Aging Canada. Be Wise – Cannabis and Older Adults. (2021).

 Liza Stathokostas. (2020). Active Aging Canada.

Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (2020). What Older Adults Need to Know About Cannabis.

(2020). A Guide to Cannabis Use for Older Adults. Canadian Center for Substance Use and Addictions.

Cannabis Use with Other Substances

Cannabis is considered a much safer drug compared to other substances like alcohol, meth, cocaine, and opiates. While this is true, combining it with other substances can have negative consequences that can be undesirable and even dangerous.

Alcohol and Cannabis

Cannabis and alcohol are commonly consumed together. Combining cannabis and alcohol together can be more harmful than either substance alone (Public Health Ontario, 2018). For example, the effects of cannabis and alcohol can add up and result in nausea, anxiety, paranoia, sweating, panic attacks, short-term memory loss, loss of motor skills and even hallucinations (Public Health Ontario, 2018). Cannabis can also suppress your gag reflex, which may interfere with your ability to vomit when you have consumed too much alcohol making you more vulnerable to alcohol poisoning. This is especially troubling because when someone uses cannabis and alcohol at the same time, it often leads to increased alcohol intake. (Public Health Ontario, 2018). Alcohol poisoning is a life-threatening condition that requires hospitalization.

Tobacco and Cannabis

Similar to cannabis and alcohol, cannabis and tobacco are also commonly consumed together (McClure et al., 2019). Given the known health risks of smoking tobacco including cancer, heart disease, lung disease and addiction, combining cannabis and tobacco is concerning. People who smoke cannabis tend to inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs longer, which exposes their lungs to harmful chemicals longer (McClure et al., 2019). They are also more likely to have higher levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, which significantly interferes with ability for your blood to carry oxygen. Finally, a recent study concluded that people who use cannabis and tobacco together had significantly higher rates of cannabis addiction compared to those who used cannabis alone or tobacco alone (Tucker et al., 2019).

Cannabis and Cocaine

Mixing cocaine and cannabis is never a good idea, the effects of using them together can range from unpleasant to life threatening. For example, consuming cannabis and cocaine together can lead to increased levels of paranoia, anxiety, and cocaine withdrawal symptoms (Vertava Health, 2021). Cocaine and cannabis also both have impacts on your heart, like a fast heartbeat, heart attacks, blood clots and even strokes. When consumed together, these impacts can be magnified (Vertava Health, 2021). Cannabis can decrease the stimulant effect of cocaine, which may lead to an increased consumption of cocaine to achieve the same effect; this can increase the risk of cocaine addiction and even an overdose (Vertava Health, 2021). Therefore, these two drugs should never be mixed as it is dangerous and life threatening.

Cannabis and Opioids

Recent studies show that combining cannabis and opioids can be helpful for people suffering from chronic pain when monitored closely by a medical professional. They found that when combined, people suffering from chronic pain had pain relief with lower doses of opioids and their pain tolerance improved. This decreased the risk and likelihood of opioid addiction and overdose (Cooper et al., 2018). That said, because cannabis and opioids are both depressants, when not done correctly, this combination can suppress the central nervous system to life threatening levels and can result in decreased brain function, low blood pressure, sedation, coma, and even death (Rogers et al., 2019). Furthermore, using opioid and cannabis at the same time increases symptoms of anxiety, depression, and substance use problems (Rogers, 2019). Therefore, these drugs should never be combined recreationally and should only be done under the strict supervision of a medical professional. Learn about medical cannabis.

Cannabis and Prescription Medication

It is often thought that because cannabis is a natural plant, it is safe to use with prescribed medications. This is not true. Cannabinoids are active chemicals and can affect the way prescription drugs work in your body (Antoniou et al., 2020). For example, cannabis can increase or decrease the level of a drug in our system; it can add to the effects of a drug or mask it (Antoniou et al., 2020). On the other hand, certain prescription drugs can also increase or decrease the effects of cannabis itself (Antoniou et al., 2020). Therefore, before using cannabis, make sure you speak to a medical professional to make sure it doesn’t interact with your medication and potentially put your life at risk. Learn about medical use of cannabis and how to get a medical cannabis document.

Cannabis and Prescription Medication

A common statement used when referring to the harms of cannabis is that it is a gateway drug. A gateway drug is a substance that leads to the use of more dangerous “hard” drugs like cocaine, heroin, opioids etc. Animal studies have shown that exposure to cannabis was more likely to lead to addiction-like behaviours (Panlilio et al., 2013) and usually alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis use occurred before other drug use (Secades-Villa et al., 2015). However, it is important to note that the majority of people who use cannabis don’t go on to use more dangerous drugs (Public Health Ontario, 2019). The exact cause of drug use and addiction is complicated, involving genetics, social environment, and other factors. Many experts argue that the risk factors that make it more likely for you to consume cannabis also increase the likelihood of using other substances and therefore, it makes sense that cannabis is commonly used with other drugs. Therefore, it is hard to decipher whether cannabis triggers the use of other drugs or its concurrent use with other substances is due to a complicated combination of genetics and environment.

Public Health Ontario. (2018). Evidence Brief: Risk Factors for Simultaneous Use of Alcohol and Cannabis.

McClure, E. A., Tomko, R. L., Salazar, C. A., Akbar, S. A., Squeglia, L. M., Herrmann, E., Carpenter, M. J., Peters, E. N. (2019). Tobacco and cannabis co-use: Drug substitution, quit interest, and cessation preferences. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 27(3), 265–275.

Tucker, J. S., Pedersen, E. R., Seelam, R., Dunbar, M. S., Shih, R. A., & D’Amico, E. J. (2019). Types of cannabis and tobacco/nicotine co-use and associated outcomes in young adulthood. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors: Journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors, 33(4), 401–411.

Vertava Health. (2021). The Dangers Of Mixing Marijuana And Cocaine.

Cooper, Z. D., Bedi, G., Ramesh, D., Balter, R., Comer, S. D., & Haney, M. (2018). Impact of co-administration of oxycodone and smoked cannabis on analgesia and abuse liability. Neuropsychopharmacology: Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(10), 2046–2055.

Rogers, A. H., Bakhshaie, J., Buckner, J. D., Orr, M. F., Paulus, D. J., Ditre, J. W., & Zvolensky, M. J. (2019). Opioid and Cannabis Co-Use among Adults With Chronic Pain: Relations to Substance Misuse, Mental Health, and Pain Experience. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 13(4), 287–294.

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