Darlene and Frances Charlie attend a workshop in late April on the health hazards of marijuana use and e-cigarettes in Ty-Histanis. (Nora Martin photo)
With marijuana now legalized, Teechukl Mental Health addictions counselor Natalie Ocean facilitated group discussions about the effects of usage at Ty-Histanis and Opitsaht on April 23 and 24.
She explained that there are two types of marijuana: sativa and indica. Sativa, which most people prefer, can be like a stimulant and usually causes an increase in energy and a feeling of euphoria, while indica is a depressant and causes mellowness and sleepiness.
Marijuana has many street names such, as weed, joint, pot, 4:20, reefer and cannabis etc.
Over the years growers have found ways to strengthen the potency of marijuana. Studies have shown usage can pose health problems which can lead to psychotic episodes, characterized by paranoia, delusions and hallucinations.
Short-term health effects could lead to unpleasant, unwanted or negative effects on your brain and body. Effects on the brain can include confusion, sleepiness, anxiety, fear and panic. Over time marijuana can affect one’s memory, concentration and intelligence, while the effects on the body can include damaged blood vessels, decreased blood pressure and increased heart rate that could lead to heart attack. Long-term use of marijuana causes moodiness and crankiness.
The workshop cautioned that mental health effects, if started at an early age, can lead to psychosis and schizophrenia.
Mixing marijuana with alcohol or prescription medication is a huge cause for worry, as some of the workshop’s participants recalled dealing with family members who required medical attention.
The workshop pointed out that while some believe it is safe to smoke marijuana when pregnant, this is not true. Smoking marijuana during pregnancy can affect the fetus and lead to health problems. The toxins in marijuana are passed through the blood and can be found in breast milk. Regular use of marijuana can lead to lower birth weight and developmental effects in children and teens, including a decreased memory function and ability to pay attention, as well as hyperactivity.
Marijuana usage can be dangerous if used while operating machinery, and can cause boating or car accidents as it impairs cognition.
E-cigarettes, or vaping, was also discussed during the workshop as a cause for concern as young children are getting together to smoke the vapour devices.
The long-term effects of vaping are unknown, but the practice can become addictive and e-cigarettes have been known to contain formaldehyde. Vaping can also lead to what is termed “Popcorn Lungs,” which is caused by too high of a temperature when smoking e-cigarettes.
During the session Ocean also offered Naloxone training. Kits are available at the Ty-Histanis Health Center, and Naloxone notices will be posted at certain homes in case of overdose or Fentanyl use.
Marijuana use can cause serious harm to one’s health, social life, work or schooling. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to marijuana or other drugs there is help available. Teechuktl Mental Health supports the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of Nuu-chah-nulth individuals and families, and can be reached at 1-888-624-3939.