Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Centre

"Turning Lives Around"

Drug Information

Mull, Pot, Weed, Leaf, Gunga, Marijuana


Cannabis is difficult to classify pharmacologically because it has a variety of effects. It is primarily a depressant drug, however, it can have hallucinogenic and some stimulant properties.

Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. This chemical affects a person’s mood and perception. Marijuana, hashish and hashish oil come from the cannabis plant.

Cannabis is made from the dried leaves and flowers of the plant. Its colour ranges from greyish-green to greenish-brown. The texture of cannabis can be fine, like dried herbs, or coarse, like tea. It is usually smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints or water pipes called bongs.

Hashish (hash) is the dried, compressed resin extract from the flowering tops of the female plant. Hashish ranges in colour from light brown to nearly black. It is more potent than marijuana. Hashish is usually smoked through a pipe or cooked in foods and eaten.

Hashish oil is a thick and oily liquid extract from the cannabis plant. It is reddish brown
in colour. The THC is very concentrated and a small amount will produce marked effects. Hashish oil is usually added to joints or cooked in foods and eaten.

Where Cannabis Comes From:

Cannabis is the short name for the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. It is thought to have originated in Asia and reached Europe more than a thousand years ago.

How Cannabis is Used:

Cannabis is usually smoked. The THC is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the lungs. The intoxicating or high effect is felt when the THC reaches the brain. This can happen within a few minutes and may last for up to five hours.
When cannabis is eaten, the absorption of THC is much slower, taking up to three hours to enter the bloodstream. When it is eaten, the amount of food in the stomach, characteristics of the user (e.g. weight, gender and other drugs used) will determine how quickly a person feels the effects.

Health Effects of Using Cannabis:

The effects of cannabis and the risks will vary from person to person depending on the characteristics of the:

Individual (user) - Mood, physical size, physical and mental health, gender, previous experience with cannabis, expectations of the drug and personality.

Drug - The amount used, the content of THC and whether it is smoked or eaten.

Setting (environment) - Whether the person is using with friends, on his/her own, in a social setting or at home, at work or before driving.

Short-term effects

Loss of concentration

Impaired balance

Slower reflexes

Increased appetite

Increased heart-rate

Feeling of well-being

Loss of inhibitions


Long-term effects


Lung cancer


Interference with sexual drive and hormone production

Change in motivation

Decreased concentration

Decreased memory and learning abilities

Schizophrenia and manic depression (bipolar disorder) in those who have a vulnerability to the condition.


There have been no confirmed deaths directly from cannabis overdose. Over a long period of time regular use of cannabis can lead to a number of serious negative health consequences. Combining other drugs, such as alcohol, with cannabis can be very dangerous, particularly if driving or operating machinery.

Cannabis and Other Drugs:

Using cannabis with other drugs increases risks. If cannabis is used in conjunction with other depressant drugs the depressant action generally increases. When cannabis is combined with alcohol it can frequently lead to behaviour which causes injuries. For example, because cannabis interferes with a person’s motor and coordination skills, vision and perceptions of time and space, the ability to drive safely and complete tasks that require concentration can be impaired. This impairment increases substantially when cannabis is used with alcohol.

Cannabis and Mental Health Problems:

The frequent or even occasional use of cannabis can cause anxiety, depression, paranoia and psychosis in those people who have a vulnerability to mental health problems.

Cannabis and the Brain:

Frequent use of cannabis can affect the brain by decreasing the user’s ability to concentrate and remember things and can also impact on learning ability.

Cannabis and Respiratory Problems:

Frequent use of cannabis can increase the risk of cancer and respiratory disorders such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

Watershed acknowledges the traditional custodians of country and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.

Watershed holds accreditation with the Australian Council on Health Care Standards (ACHS).

Formerly: Wollongong Crisis Centre

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