Short and Long-Term Side Effects of Marijuana Use

Short and Long-Term Side Effects of Marijuana Use

The Impact of Substance Use Disorder

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With its growing legalization and destigmatization, marijuana use is continuing to grow all over the country.

Despite being regarded as a safe drug, the short- and long-term effects can have a serious impact on your health and well-being – especially for adolescents.

Short-Term Effects of Marijuana

Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as delta-9 THC, is the psychoactive substance in cannabis sativa. When inhaled, THC moves from the lungs directly into the bloodstream and to the brain, acting quickly. Ingested through edibles or other forms, cannabis takes about 30 minutes or an hour to take effect.

People feel relaxed and euphoric with marijuana, but its effects can vary widely.[1] Some people experience anxiety, panic, suspicion, and general fear. This is more common with doses that are more potent than expected or with new or infrequent users.

Marijuana may also cause:

  • Mood changes
  • Altered sensory perception
  • Impaired body movement
  • Impaired memory and cognitive function
  • Changes in perception of time
  • Increased heart rate
  • Bloodshot eyes

Higher doses of marijuana may cause psychosis and symptoms like delusions or hallucinations, but this is more common after chronic marijuana use or highly potent marijuana doses.

Long-Term Effects of Marijuana

Though most people think of the immediate – or acute – effects of marijuana use, there are possible long-term adverse effects to be aware of, especially in adolescents with developing brains.
The long-term effects of marijuana use include the following:[2]

Marijuana can be addictive
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Addiction

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Marijuana can be addictive

Marijuana can be addictive, especially when it’s used during adolescence. There’s also an increased risk of concurrent substance abuse or addiction to other substances, including nicotine, alcohol, or “harder” drugs like heroin.

marijuana can irritate the respiratory tract
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Respiratory Difficulties

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marijuana can irritate the respiratory tract

When smoked, marijuana can irritate the respiratory tract, including the lungs and throat. Frequent use or long-term use increases the risk of complications like cough, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung illnesses.

Marijuana use & Brain Development Problems
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Brain Development Problems

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Marijuana use & Brain Development Problems

Some research suggests that regular marijuana use during adolescence, which is when the brain is still developing, can lead to impaired impulse control, learning, and memory. The most significant differences occur when marijuana is used heavily before the age of 18.

There is still a risk of cognitive impairment and memory problems in people who use marijuana heavily after 18, however.

possible link between marijuana use and mental disorders
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Psychiatric Disorders

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possible link between marijuana use and mental disorders

Some studies indicate a possible link between marijuana use and mental disorders like depression and anxiety, as well as psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, in people who have a genetic predisposition. In those who already have schizophrenia, marijuana use may worsen the symptoms.

cannabis has a negative impact on athletic performance by impairing timing
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Poor Athletic Performance

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cannabis has a negative impact on athletic performance by impairing timing

Research suggests that the use of cannabis harms athletic performance by impairing timing, movement, and hand-eye coordination. This is an important consideration for adolescents or young adults relying on participating in school sports for scholarships or other opportunities.

Using marijuana while pregnant increases the risks of issues
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Pregnancy-Related Risks

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Using marijuana while pregnant increases the risks of issues

Using marijuana while pregnant increases the risks of issues for the developing fetus, including issues with problem-solving, attention, and memory. Moderate amounts of THC can pass from breast milk to the nursing baby as well, possibly impacting brain development.

Possible link between adolescent marijuana use and testicular cancers
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Testicular Cancer

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Possible link between adolescent marijuana use and testicular cancers

A few studies show a possible link between adolescent marijuana use and aggressive testicular cancers.

Marijuana can impair judgment
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Indirect Effects

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Marijuana can impair judgment

Marijuana can impair judgment and reduce reaction time, which can be dangerous behind the wheel of a vehicle, working with hazardous machinery, or in other potentially dangerous situations that can lead to an accident, injury, or death.

high-potency marijuana
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Other Possible Risks

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high-potency marijuana

Marijuana has been used for thousands of years, but the research hasn’t caught up to the current use or range of different options on the market, including high-potency marijuana. Simply put, we’re not sure what unknown risks marijuana may have on the body and brain.[3]

Marijuana Addiction

Like other substances, marijuana can be addictive with regular or heavy use. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines the criteria for a substance use disorder (SUD), which includes the following symptoms:[4]

  • Using marijuana in larger quantities or more frequently than intended than originally planned
  • Trying and being unable to quit using marijuana
  • Spending a lot of time using, obtaining, or recovering from marijuana use
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite issues at work, home, or school
  • Craving marijuana
  • Using marijuana despite problems with work, school, or family
  • Giving up other activities to pursue marijuana use
  • Using marijuana in dangerous situations
  • Developing a tolerance, meaning requiring more marijuana to reach the same high
  • Continuing marijuana use despite adverse physical effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping marijuana use
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Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Whether you’re already experiencing the negative effects of marijuana use or you want to stop before that happens, you can get help for yourself or a loved one for marijuana use disorder.

Marijuana withdrawal doesn’t come with the same risks as alcohol or opioids, but it can still be unpleasant and a hindrance to sobriety. In addition, many people who use marijuana also use other substances or suffer from co-occurring disorders that require treatment.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for marijuana addiction treatment, but it may include:

Using marijuana while pregnant increases the risks of issues
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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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Using marijuana while pregnant increases the risks of issues

CBT is a therapeutic intervention that’s used to treat marijuana use disorder, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. It’s one of the most effective means of treatment because it focuses on identifying unhelpful patterns of thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with desirable patterns.

Marijuana Rehab Motivational Interviewing Therapy
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Motivational Interviewing

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Marijuana Rehab Motivational Interviewing Therapy

Motivational interviewing, also known as motivational enhancement therapy (MET), is a counseling technique that resolves uncertainties about making changes in life and developing sound solutions to address them. This process gives the person more agency in devising their solutions to personal challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

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There are no reported cases of anyone dying from using marijuana on its own, but high doses can lead to extreme side effects like anxiety and paranoia. Though rare, psychosis or psychotic symptoms like hallucinations or delusions can occur.

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Is It Bad to Smoke Weed Every Day?

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Smoking marijuana, especially every day, may increase the risk of respiratory tract irritation, particularly to the lungs and throat. The other long-term risks of marijuana may increase with heavy use as well.

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Can You Smoke Too Much Weed?

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While marijuana use has become more commonplace and socially acceptable, there is such a thing as marijuana abuse or misuse. Aside from causing physical effects like lung irritation and an increased heart rate, smoking too much weed could increase the risk of mental health problems, dependency, and withdrawal symptoms.

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What Happens When You Smoke Too Much Weed?

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Consuming too much weed, either over time or at once, can cause or exacerbate effects like nausea, anxiety, or paranoia. With potent doses, smoking too much at once can increase the risk of marijuana psychosis.[6]

Sources
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[01]

Volkow, N. D., Baler, R. D., Compton, W. M., & Weiss, S. R. (2014). Adverse health effects of marijuana use. New England Journal of Medicine/the New England Journal of Medicine, 370(23), 2219–2227. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827335/ on 2024, June 6.

[02]

Know the risks of marijuana. SAMHSA. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/marijuana on 2023, June 19.

[03]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, January 11). Cannabis (marijuana) Drugfacts. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cannabis-marijuana on 2023, June 19.

[04]

Cannabis use disorder – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.-a). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538131/ on 2023, June 19.

[05]

Clinical management of cannabis withdrawal – wiley online library. (n.d.-b). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.15743 on 2023, June 19.

[06]

Hall, W., & Degenhardt, L. (2008). Cannabis use and the risk of developing a psychotic disorder. World Psychiatry/World Psychiatry, 7(2), 68–71. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2424288/ on 2024, June 6.

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