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Cannabis and your kids

Updated

Legal or not, your kids will probably try marijuana. Canadian teens are among the highest rate of cannabis use in the developed world: Marijuana is as much a part of Canada’s youth culture as hockey or Drake.

Canada’s youth are also using pot far more potent than in previous generations: The pot smoked at Woodstock in 1969 contained about 1 per cent of the psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol. It was mere shrubbery compared to today’s street-grade marijuana, which typically has THC concentrations of at least 10 per cent, but may contain upwards of 30 per cent, according to Health Canada.

But do we know how the drug will affect our most prolific users? For tweens and teens, whose brains are in a crucial stage of development, is there such thing as a harmless pot habit?

As scientists tease out those answers, experts say the most important thing is to be honest with your kids about what’s known – and not known – about pot and its effects. But first, arm yourself with the best information available.

Here is a good place to start.

Questions about cannabis? Ask them here

Nine harm-reduction points to make with your teen about marijuana

01 There is a lot scientists don’t know. But researchers believe that starting before age 15 and using heavily through your teenage years is associated with the highest risk of harm. The government is legalizing marijuana not because it is completely safe but to regulate it and, ideally, make the street version of the drug less available to young people.

02 If you are going to use, take breaks. Cannabis may not be as addictive as other drugs, but the risk of addiction is still higher for teenagers. Taking a break is also good for your developing brain (and your lungs) and a way to see how marijuana might be negatively affecting your life and your relationships.

03 Just like alcohol, there are different potencies of pot. Again it’s not certain, but the science suggests that higher levels of THC, the mind-altering chemical in the drug, may cause more damage to a young brain. The highest level of THC – as high as 80 per cent –is found in butane hash oil extractions, called shatter, wax or budder.

04 Be careful with edibles, which are the main cause of emergency-room visits for cannabis. All the THC in that pot brownie will be absorbed into your body. And the effect takes longer, so people may take too much before they realize it.

05 Marijuana may not cause schizophrenia but scientists believe it is a potential trigger for teens with risk factors, such as family history. If you have a severe reaction to cannabis – hallucinations, for instance, or frightening paranoia – that may be a warning sign.

06 Some scientists will say that alcohol is worse than cannabis. But the harms of each drug are different. Using any drug when you’re young is more risky than when you’re an adult. Using them together appears to increase those risks.

07 Don’t drive if you have used marijuana, especially if you have been drinking, too. Some people may say they drive better stoned, but research suggests otherwise – when people are high they react more slowly and think less clearly. Researchers who analyzed the existing data found a higher risk of car accidents when people drove while stoned.

08 Be skeptical of any headline that suggests a study has found the answer. Science gets misused on both sides, and legalization has also given cannabis companies a vested interest in overselling the drug’s positive effects.

09 Studies usually group a lot of people together to produce average findings. How each individual reacts to marijuana may be very different. But one thing is true for everyone: Your brain is developing until about age 25. Just like getting good sleep and eating well, avoiding alcohol and marijuana as much and for as long as possible helps ensure you’ll get the best one you can.

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