Alcohol and Other Drugs
Drug dependency: cannabis
Cannabis use can
worsen the effects of a brain injury and is connected to a wide
range of cognitive and emotional issues.
People smoke cannabis for a number of reasons. Some of these
include stress relief, coping with difficult feelings, boredom or
to gain acceptance within a social circle. The term
'cannabis' is used interchangeably with marijuana, pot and
Using cannabis can become the main way to deal with difficult
feelings, which prevents a person from learning new skills to
effectively cope with day to day stresses. This can eventually lead
to problems with mental health, employment and relationships.
The active chemical in cannabis gives a 'high' feeling although it
is technically also a depressant - it slows down the central
nervous system causing a relaxed feeling throughout the
General effects include:
- loss of coordination
- low blood pressure and faintness
- blurred vision
- poor judgement
- reduced attention
- changes in mood
Heavy use is associated with:
- poor memory
The effects of cannabis are associated with a number of risks -
the short-term risks include injury due to falls, risks-taking
behaviors and car accidents. Long-term risks include lung cancer,
increased susceptibility to mental or psychotic illness and
problems with employment and relationships.
Cannabis use after a
After a brain injury a person may become more sensitive to the
effects of drugs including cannabis. It is generally recommended
that people avoid drug use after a brain injury, including
Cannabis can magnify the existing effects of a brain injury
including poor memory and attention, impulsivity, poor muscle
coordination and speech difficulties.
Long-term use has lasting effects on memory and attention skills
on top of damage already sustained through Acquired Brain Injury.
These problems worsen the longer cannabis use continues.
Cannabis use can interfere with recovery and participation in
community programs following an Acquired Brain Injury.
In a person with a brain injury cannabis use is more likely to
produce adverse effects, including decline in memory, attention and
References and further information
 Hall, W., L. Degenhardt, and M. Lynskey, The health and
psychological effects of cannabis use. National Drug Strategy
Monograph Series. Vol. 44. 2001, Canberra: Commonwealth Department
of Health and Ageing.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2008 National Drug
Strategy Household Survey: first results. Drug Statistics Series
number 20. Cat. no. PHE 98, AIHW: Canberra.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2004 National Drug
Strategy Household Survey: Detailed findings. AIHW cat. no. PHE 66.
2005, AIHW: Canberra
 National Cannabis prevention and information centre 2008
"Population trends in cannabis use and first results of a study on
cannabis-related emergency department presentations" (accessed 5
 Department of Health and Aging. (2008). Cannabis and Mental
Health: Put in Context. National Drug Strategy, Monograph Series