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Gunja can weaken our brain and our spirit

Smoking gunja can harm our growing brain - it can make it harder to stay close with our mob and affect our moods and emotions. 

Reduce your riskof harm

The more gunja you use, the more likely you

will be harmed.

How does gunja harm our growing brain?

Our brain is still growing until age 25, strengthening the areas we’ll need when we get older. 

But gunja can impact this growth.

Memory and learning

Using gunja can make it hard to learn and remember things. Gunja makes it harder to focus, pay attention, be organised and make decisions, which can impact your school or work.

Mood and emotions

Gunja weakens our inner spirit and affects our social and emotional wellbeing. Gunja can make you feel very anxious, scared, depressed or paranoid. This is our body’s way of showing that gunja is harmful and can cause problems.

Using gunja before our brain has finished growing can make it harder to keep a strong spirit and a strong mind. 

Short term effects

What is gunja?

Gunja can:

Gunja is an illegal drug containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which affects the way you think, feel and behave. 

  • Change your mood. It may make you feel very relaxed and sleepy or even laugh a lot.
  • Make you get 'the munchies' and become very hungry.
  • Make breathing become harder, your eyes get red, heart go faster and mouth get dry.
  • Make you paranoid and you may think people are after you. Some people may see or hear things that aren't there. This can last a few hours or more.

It also affects your body. Depending on how much is used and the method of use, effects can be felt for up to 6 to 12 hours.

Gunja comes in different forms and can be smoked, eaten or vaporised. Other names include cannabis, weed, pot, hash, dope, bud, joint.

Did you know?

Young people who start using gunja at an early age are more likely to:

Drop out of high school

Become dependent on


Use other drugs

Experience mental health issues, self-harm and suicide

Tips to reduce your risk of harm

The most effective way to reduce the risk of harm is to not use gunja. If you do choose to use gunja, it’s important to know ways to reduce the risk of being harmed.

It’s best to delay using gunja for as long as possible while the brain is still growing.

Try a small amount first

Take breaks from using

Use less or no tobacco

Always try a small amount first to see the effects before using more, as every product will be different.

Using gunja more often and in large amounts, can affect your physical and mental health. Take breaks from using when you can.

Mixing tobacco with gunja increases the risk of nicotine dependence and cancers caused by smoking. Try to reduce or not use tobacco in your mix.

Avoid alcohol or other drugs

Don’t use cannabis and drive

Look out for your mates

Mixing alcohol and other drugs with gunja can cause increased and unwanted effects. Try to use gunja without other drugs or use less of each if you use together.

Gunja affects your driving ability, attention and reaction time. It's against the law to drive with gunja in your system. Gunja can still be detected when the effects wear off. 

If your friend becomes sad or paranoid, try to keep them calm. Never leave them alone and get help if necessary.

Try to avoid deep inhales

Try to use lower THC

Avoid synthetics

Try to avoid deep inhales or holding your breath when smoking. You will still experience the effects but will reduce some of the toxins in your lungs.

High THC can increase the risk of experiencing mental health issues and dependence. Try to use gunja with lower THC and take breaks from using when you can.

Synthetic cannabinoids do not have the same effects as gunja. They are strong psychoactive drugs which can cause health and mental health harms, including death.

Gunja and harm later in life

The younger our mob start using gunja, the more harm it causes their inner spirit and social and emotional wellbeing later in life. Long term gunja use can:

  • Cause you to stop looking after yourself.
  • Put pressure on families. It can cost you a lot of money.
  • Make it more likely to get in trouble with the law because gunja is illegal and sometimes you do things you wouldn't normally do when you're stoned.
  • Cause you to have relationship problems.
  • Cause breathing and respiratory problems like chest infections or other health problems like cancers.
  • Make you feel like you have to use gunja all the time and can't live without it.

Sometimes if you have been using for a long time or using a lot, you can get some uncomfortable feelings including anxiety and nausea, when you cut down or cut gunja out – these are called withdrawals. If necessary, get some help from a trusted family member or health worker.

For more information

About the health effects and risks of gunja, 

visit the Strong Spirit Strong Mind website.

Acknowledgement of Country


We wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.

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