Cannabis Research Information

What is Cannabis?

The term cannabis refers to the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. Cannabis can be smoked, vaporized, or ingested. Cannabis contains hundreds of chemicals, including dozens of cannabinoids. The “high” that people experience when using cannabis is caused by the cannabinoid delta- 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The amount of THC in cannabis has increased substantially in recent years.

While many people have brief and mild experiences with cannabis, about one in eleven adults and about one in six teenagers who try cannabis develop cannabis use disorder. Young people who use cannabis regularly may have a particularly difficult time cutting back or quitting.

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are organic components that make up the cannabis plant, and over 100 cannabinoids have been discovered. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis. They are also the most well-known in the general community and the most researched cannabinoids. Generally, THC is thought to be the cannabinoid that gets people “high”, while CBD does not. CBD has been connected to many health claims (reducing anxiety, inflammation, and pain); however, more research is needed in these areas. In general, cannabinoids are interesting compounds with many different effects.

Is Cannabis a Medicine?

Some ingredients in cannabis, when given under close medical supervision, may have beneficial effects for a select number of serious conditions. However, recreational cannabis use in otherwise healthy young people is known to have negative effects.

Cannabis and the Brain

Adolescence is a critical period of brain development that lasts into the mid-20s. Using cannabis can adversely affect learning, memory, coordination, and judgment. Long-term use, particularly during adolescence, is associated with learning and memory problems, as well as negative mental health outcomes.

What Do We Know About Treatment?

Treatment for cannabis use disorder has been shown to help with cutting back or quitting. However, many young people who receive treatment are unsuccessful. Our team is researching promising approaches to help more young people succeed in treatment.