Anxiety is our body’s response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or worry about something that might happen in the future.

Anxiety disorders are mental illnesses that can make daily life very challenging. Some examples include generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

BIPOC is the acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.

Bipolar affective disorder is a type of mood disorder that involves experiencing significant highs and lows, known as mania and depression.

Cannabis is a plant that has been used for thousands of years for medical, social and spiritual reasons. Cannabis contains chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Cannabis has a range of effects, depending on the type, amount, and person using the drug.

Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in cannabis that interact with our endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating and balancing many processes in the body. The two most common cannabinoids are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). THC is the cannabinoid commonly known for the “high” that it produces, while CBD is known for its therapeutic benefits.

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid known to moderate processes in the body. It does not produce a “high” feeling.

Central nervous system refers to the brain and spinal cord. The brain controls most of our bodily functions, such as awareness, movement, sensations, thoughts, speech and memory.

Cultivar refers to a cultivated variety of the cannabis plant. Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa are cultivars.

Depressant drugs slow down the central nervous system. Alcohol and opioids, such as morphine and oxycodone, are depressants.

Depression is a mood disorder that can make daily life difficult. It is characterised by low mood, lack of enjoyment, and limited energy. Depression is more than just feeling sad. Chronic pain and other illnesses can induce depression.

There are different types and degrees of severity and symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt and low self-esteem
  • Irritability and fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Feeling the need to cry or crying easily
  • Thought of suicide
  • Loss of touch with reality, including experiencing hallucination or delusions.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, around 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth aged 12 to 19 have experienced a major depressive episode in their life. There are many ways to treat depression. Treatment is successful in 80% of people.

Dissociation is a mental process in which a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. Dissociative disorders include dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalisation disorder and dissociative identity disorder.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter known as the reward chemical. It plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It helps us focus, complete tasks and strive for our goals.

Drug Prohibition refers to policies that restrict access to and criminalize the sale and possession of certain mood‐​altering substances, such as cannabis, cocaine, and heroin. Intoxicants have been used in most societies throughout history, and for most of history, such use has been governed by social custom, rather than legal penalty. In the 20th century, however, Western nations adopted a series of increasingly restrictive policies on the use and sale of certain drugs. For more information on the history and impact of Canada’s Drug policies, please visit Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

Endocannabinoid refers to naturally occurring chemicals that keep our internal functions running smoothly. The two key endocannabinoids in our body are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). “Endo” means inner, and “cannabinoid” refers to chemicals in the cannabis plant. “Ananda” is the Sanskrit word for bliss.

Endocannabinoid system (ECS) refers to regulation of our sleep, mood, appetite and memory, among other things that help us feel balanced. The ECS was identified in the early 1990s by researchers exploring THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant. Some activities that boost the ECS include:

  • practicing yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises
  • hanging out and have fun with friends
  • getting a massage or acupuncture

Endorphins are painkillers produced in the body when we are dancing, exercising, laughing and using essential oils (because some terpenes in essential oils are therapeutic).

Generalised anxiety disorder refers to a mental illness characterized by excessive worrying that interferes with daily life. Symptoms may include overthinking plans and solutions to worst-case scenarios, perceiving situations as threatening even when they aren’t, difficulties making decisions, and inability to relax. Some people with this disorder may experience fatigue, nervousness, sweating, nausea and many other symptoms. Treatment options include anti-anxiety medications and cognitive behaviour therapy (talk therapy).

Hallucinogens are drugs that make us see, hear and feel things differently than we normally would, and sometimes see things that aren’t real. Some examples are LSD and psilocybin.

Harm reduction is a spectrum. On one end is the idea that the only way to avoid harm is to not use cannabis or other drugs. On the other end is the idea that drug use is complex and the right thing to do is help people use as safely as possible no matter their age, gender, nationality, economic status, etc. Many people fit somewhere in between these two extremes. A growing number of people are seeing that reducing harm from substance use starts with addressing underlying issues in our society that make health difficult to achieve and maintain. These include poverty, racism and other forms of inequality and injustice.

Homeostasis literally means balance. It comes from the Greek words “same” and “steady.” The human body maintains steady levels of temperature and blood content (e.g., water, salt, sugar, protein, fat, calcium, oxygen).

LGBTQ2S+ is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Two-Spirit and additional sexual orientations and gender identities.

Mental health means balance. It’s a state of being that involves feeling like you have a purpose and the ability to manage life’s ups and downs while enjoying the ride. Our mental health can change over time, depending on our physical health and other factors. These include where we live and who we spend time with, opportunities and disappointments at school or work, exciting or traumatic events in our community, and so on.

Mental illness is a general term for conditions with symptoms that affect our thinking, perceptions, mood or behaviour. Mental illness can make it difficult for a person to function at home, school or work. Many people manage their mental illnesses with medication, counselling and self-care practices.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that involves navigating unwanted thoughts or impulses and repetitive, time-consuming rituals. OCD is treatable with medications and therapies aimed at examining our stress responses.

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter nicknamed the “love drug.” Our bodies release oxytocin when we cuddle with a pet or hug a loved one. Giving and receiving compliments also releases that warm “love” feeling.

Panic attack refers to intense fear or discomfort lasting up to 10 minutes. Symptoms can include an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, nausea, inability to move, and fears of dying.

Paranoia is the irrational feeling that people are ‘out to get you.’ Paranoia may be a symptom of other conditions. These include paranoid personality disorder, delusional (paranoid) disorder and schizophrenia. Medications and support are available.

Peer mentoring is a way of helping another person by giving them a chance to talk. It could be about something they are struggling with at home, school, work, or with a partner. Or it might be something that is in their way, such as a drug use problem, food issues or money challenges. Peer mentoring means ‘being there’ and listening to the person as they work through their problems and find solutions. It doesn’t mean knowing the answers or giving advice. The goal is to make the person feel acknowledged, understood and less alone.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a response to a traumatic event, such as a serious accident or illness, abuse, assault, war, torture, or natural disaster.

Psychoactive substances are mind-altering drugs that affect our central nervous system. Stimulant drugs, such as coffee and cocaine, speed up our breathing and heart rate so we feel alert. Depressant drugs, such as alcohol and opioids, slow down our breathing and heart rate so we feel relaxed. Hallucinogens make us see, hear or feel things that aren’t real. Some drugs, such as cannabis, don’t fit neatly into a category. They have a range of effects, depending on the person and the type and amount of the drug they’re using.

Psychosis is a disconnection from our shared reality. People in psychosis may experience  hallucinations, delusions or confused thinking and speech. Common symptoms include hearing voices or believing others are trying to harm you. Psychosis can be a one-time experience or linked to mental conditions, such as substance-induced psychosis or schizophrenia. Medication and other support can help to reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Factors that contribute to psychosis are

  • Genetics (having certain genes can predispose you to psychotic disorders)
  • Sleep (prolonged lack of sleep can trigger psychosis),
  • Substance use (some substances such as cannabis can trigger psychosis, particularly at high doses)
  • Brain changes (trauma can affect the developing brain)
  • Stress

Psychotic disorders are mental illnesses involving repeated episodes of psychosis. These include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, and brief psychotic disorder. Using cannabis or other drugs can trigger psychotic disorders in some people with a genetic disposition toward psychosis.

Recovery is a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful and contributing life, even with the limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effect of mental illness.

Resilience is the ability to survive tough times and thrive on the other side. For example, some people who survived racism, abuse and injustice during the War of Drugs are now running legal cannabis businesses that offer jobs and support to poor communities who suffered the most.

Schizoaffective disorder is a rare mental illness that involves symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects the way we understand and interact with the world. Symptoms vary but may include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, social withdrawal, lack of motivation and impaired thinking and memory. People with schizophrenia have a high risk of suicide. Schizophrenia affects 1% of the Canadian population. It usually appears in men in their late teens or early 20s, and in women in their late 20s or early thirties. Schizophrenia is not a split personality. There are many treatments available to help people with schizophrenia.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter known for stabilizing our mood. We produce it naturally when we’re meditating, walking in nature, socializing and spending time in the sun.

Social determinants of health are non-medical factors that influence our health. These include our living conditions, the learning and work opportunities available to us, and social norms. People who live in poorer areas tend to have poorer health. The key factors that influence our health are:

  • Income and social protection
  • Education
  • Unemployment and job insecurity
  • Working life conditions
  • Food insecurity
  • Housing, basic amenities and the environment
  • Early childhood development
  • Social inclusion and non-discrimination
  • Structural conflict
  • Access to affordable health services of decent quality

Stimulant drugs speed us up and make us feel more alert. Caffeine, nicotine and cocaine are stimulant drugs.

Strain is used to describe a genetic variant of a bacteria, fungus, or virus. Many people use it to talk about cannabis. But since cannabis is a plant or product, it’s better to use the term cultivar, meaning cultivated variety.

Stress is our body’s response to a threat or worry. About 14% of Canadian youth report experiencing stress on most days. Common stressors involve school, work, relationships, media overload, lack of sleep and the physical space around such as a messy bedroom or loud traffic. Stress can manifest into physical symptoms: sweating, a racing heart, or tense muscles. Over time these symptoms can turn into long-term issues, such as difficulties sleeping or eating, severe headaches, impaired memory and concentration. and depression.

Stress responses are the different ways we cope with danger, worry and discomfort. Common responses are ‘flight,’ ‘fight,’ ‘freeze’ and ‘fawn.’ In flight mode, we may feel anxious and escape into our work or hobbies. In fight mode we may become explosive or controlling. In freeze mode we may have a hard time making decisions and feel stuck or numb. In fawn mode we may lose our identity and boundaries.

Substance-induced psychosis is when cannabis or other drugs cause psychotic symptoms. Once the drug wears off, the symptoms go away, though some people may require medical treatment. A diagnosis of substance-induced psychosis is based on how long symptoms last and the intensity of the symptoms.

Substance use disorder refers to a serious mental illness based on heavy drug use. People who use too much of a drug for too long may develop dependence. This means they need to use the drug in order to function. We know we have a drug problem when we continue to use a drug even though it’s harming our health and relationships. Sometimes people with drug problems need help to make changes and prevent problems from getting worse.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. THC was discovered in 1969 by a team of scientists led by Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli organic chemist and professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. In the 1990’s, Mechoulam and his team discovered the system in the body that produces inner cannabinoids and processes the THC we ingest. The team called it the endocannabinoid system.

Terpenes are chemical compounds found in cannabis and other plants. Terpenes are responsible for the way cannabis smells and tastes. They may even be partially responsible for its effects.