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Marijuana Side Effects: Is Weed Bad For You?

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Most everyone is aware of the fact that there are side effects of smoking weed—if not from personal experience using pot or being around those who do, then at least from movies and television. However, these side effects of marijuana are often thought of as harmless or funny. Now, with the spread of medical cannabis laws, the effects of marijuana might even be thought of as good. Are there harmful effects of weed use? In short, yes—but let’s take an in-depth look at marijuana side effects below.
No matter the reason pot is being consumed, and no matter how it is ingested, pot will cause symptoms. These marijuana effects range from mild to severe and can vary depending on the strain of cannabis consumed and the product consumed (i.e., pills, oils, bud, or liquid marijuana drink). Before someone decides to use or not, they must weigh the marijuana pros and cons. These can be divided into short-term and long-term side effects.

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Table of Contents

Short-Term Side Effects of Marijuana

  • Changes to the senses
  • Struggles with understanding the passage of time
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hungerman with munchies looking at the cake
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Difficulty with cognitive processes
  • Paranoia
  • Impaired memory
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Blood vessel damage from smoke

Additionally, if cannabis is consumed in high doses, the following weed side effects may occur:

Long-Term Side Effects of Marijuana

  • Addiction—most likely in those who start their use young and those who smoke weed every day
  • Altered brain development in young users—particularly with the connectivity of synapses
  • Lung disease and disorders, when cannabis is smoked
  • Cancer, (there is a link between cannabis and cancer when the pot is smoked)
  • Lowered immune system
  • Reduction in long-term memory
  • Decreased testosterone
  • Irregular periods
  • Lowered fertility
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • An altered reward system in the brain, making further drug abuse more likely

Marijuana and Pregnancy

As is the case with any drug, legal or not, when a pregnant woman consumes weed, there is the potential for dire consequences for the fetus. Limited studies have found that children born to mothers who consumed cannabis while pregnant may have a higher risk of developing mental and learning disorders. At birth, these babies tend to weigh less and can display a failure to thrive. As such, pot consumption is contraindicated for pregnancy and marijuana and breastfeeding is also not recommended. Healthcare providers may look for signs of marijuana use in pregnant women and offer assistance if needed.

The Risks of Street Cannabis

man buying weed on the street from a dealerThe side effects of smoking weed listed above can occur with the consumption of any type of pot from any source. However, there are increased risks when the pot is purchased from dealers rather than authorized dispensaries in states where it is legal. The negative effects of weed when consumed illegally expand to include any other drugs handled in the same space, as there is a high risk of intentional and unintentional cross-contamination.
The drug may also contain things such as pesticides, heavy metals, and mold. Ultimately, medical marijuana strains are safer, if not completely safe.

Variables That Impact Side Effect Emergence

How marijuana affects your body will vary. Not everyone who uses cannabis will experience the same side effects. There are many variables at play that determine exactly how the effects of weed will emerge in each person. Some of the most important to consider are:

  • The age of the user—the younger the user, the worse the long-term side effects
  • The strain of cannabis consumed—some are stronger and more psychoactive than others
  • The manner in which the weed was cultivated—different techniques produce different results
  • The method of ingestion—edibles have a faster and more lasting onset than smoking, and marijuana dabs are extremely potent
  • The presence of THC—not all cannabis products have THC, which is the psychoactive element in cannabis
  • The source of the product—authorized dispensaries tend to offer products with very specific side effects, while street purchases are uncontrolled
  • The tolerance of the individual—some people experience effects faster and stronger than others
  • The frequency of use—the more often pot is used, the more likely it is that long-term side effects will develop

How to Avoid Marijuana Side Effects

Because not all side effects of weed are positive, many users worry about how to avoid the negative effects of marijuana. Ultimately, there is no fool-proof approach to preventing pot side effects. However, there are some strategies that users might employ. These include:

  • Look into products that contain no THC, which are suited to medical use low-THC medical marijuana oil
  • Eliminate use if underaged
  • Avoid smoking pot to eliminate lung damage
  • When using new strains or products, start slow
  • Exercise lightly when side effects start to feel stronger than desired
  • Stay hydrated when consuming cannabis
  • Use the drug less often to reduce the likelihood of marijuana long-term effects
  • Time cannabis use so that the effects have a more positive impact—for example, use before bed to make the fatigue less of a problem
  • Never use cannabis or cannabis products from street sellers

Getting Help With Weed Adverse Reactions

Ultimately, if the side effects of pot use are unable to be managed, the best option is to stop the use of the drug completely. In fact, unless someone is directed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, eliminating use is recommended for both medical and legal reasons (keep in mind that marijuana classification at the federal level means it is illegal in the U.S.). Is weed bad for you? Not in every case, but the dangers of marijuana are great enough to avoid the drug and seek help in managing weed withdrawal symptoms.
Substance abuse therapy programs offer options to those using pot. These programs are both inpatient and outpatient. Rehab for drug abuse is available in every state in the U.S., so there is always an option nearby. Do not be afraid to seek help.
Are you or a loved one struggling with marijuana addiction or worried about the effects of smoking weed? Allow our addiction specialists to help. Call us at (888)-459-5511.

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Hope Without Commitment

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Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN

About Author

Peter Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.


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