Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
The term “side effects” has negative connotations, but there are two sides, pun intended, to the story of the effects of marijuana use. Cannabis has both positive therapeutic and adverse side effects, which depend on numerous factors, including concentrations of cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Gain insight into the complete picture of cannabis and learn about the many positive side effects of the plant and the potential drawbacks.
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Positive Side Effects
Medical cannabis, when used properly, can return balance to the body and help achieve total health without the need (or less need) for harmful prescription pills. Scientific research is just beginning to uncover the many potential benefits of medical cannabis, from chronic pain relief to cancer prevention. Here are some of the positive side effects of cannabis use that you may experience.
Whether you have minor back pain or are dealing with a severe condition like multiple sclerosis (MS), cannabis may help ease your pain. Studies show that pain relief is among the most common reasons for using cannabis.
The entourage effect of therapeutic cannabinoids and terpenes working together can contribute to a mood boost, among many other positive effects. Consuming cannabis may make you feel euphoric, creative, or carefree.
Raising Energy Levels
While some varieties are known for their energizing effects, the plant as a whole can make you feel more vital. Some people report feeling more energetic after using cannabis than after drinking a strong cup of coffee to start the day. Those seeking such effects should look at varieties high in terpenes like limonene, pinene, and terpinolene, and a combination of cannabinoids that includes higher THC, THCV, CBG, and CBD.
Balancing Your System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) oversees many of your essential life functions, including reproduction and immunity. Consuming cannabis may help keep your ECS in balance as cannabinoids bind to corresponding receptors in your body.
Fighting Tumors and Cancer
Some research has shown that cannabis may have the ability to shrink tumors and even kill cancerous cells. Even people with certain advanced forms of terminal brain cancer may benefit from cannabis.
Research continues to develop on the potential positive effects of cannabis, and medical marijuana is approved in many states for over two dozen qualifying conditions.
Negative Side Effects
If dosed appropriately, cannabis shouldn’t have too many adverse side effects. But as cannabis is medicine, and all medicine comes with possible side effects, these are some issues to be aware of:
Generally not a severe side effect, dry mouth can nonetheless feel unpleasant. Stay hydrated with water and decaffeinated tea to counteract dry or cottonmouth. It is also essential to brush your teeth twice a day (or as recommended by your dentist), floss, eat healthily, and avoid consuming anything with too much processed sugar to reduce the effects regularly a dry mouth can have – namely, the buildup of plaque due to the lack of saliva.
Overeating or Undereating
THC can prompt hunger, while low doses of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) can suppress appetite. These effects can be positive or negative, depending on your condition and needs.
Fatigue and Sleepiness
You may feel the need to sleep after using cannabis and be unable to complete your daily functions. This can make cannabis ideal for treating sleeplessness and insomnia but not necessarily great for those who need to stay awake or use cannabis throughout the day. Take note of your environment and the time of day you use cannabis if fatigue is a concern. Choosing products lower in THC and higher in CBD may also prove helpful for those needing daytime relief.
Vomiting and Nausea
Even though cannabis can treat nausea and vomiting, using too much THC can have the opposite effect occasionally. Moderate doses of CBG may also cancel out the anti-nausea effects of moderate doses of CBD.
Anxiety and Paranoia
As with nausea and vomiting, too much THC can prompt anxiety and paranoia. Low doses of THC can beat anxiety, and CBD can help balance out and reduce paranoia to some extent.
Short-term Memory Loss
Like many other side effects, short-term memory loss is associated with high doses of THC. It represents a particular concern for younger cannabis users under age 25 who have developing brains. You can mitigate this side effect by using CBD and terpene pinene.
Tolerance can be both positive and negative. Using increasing amounts of THC and other cannabinoids can prove to be unhelpful and occasionally expensive. On the other hand, developing tolerance can be helpful for those who need to use high doses of THC therapeutically without so many adverse side effects. Some people change the cannabinoids and terpenes they use when they get too tolerant to one particular strain or product.
Cravings, Addiction, and Withdrawal
Cannabis is not highly addictive for most people, but some people may tend toward abuse and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop. If medical cannabis is being used compulsively and producing more negative effects than positive effects, you may need to stop using the plant or modify which cannabinoids you are using.
Irritability and Mood Changes
Many people chill out and relax on cannabis, and their troubles can seem less severe or easier to overcome. Some people, however, can get irritable or suffer from a negative mental state if they use high amounts of THC too regularly or if they use the wrong cannabinoid profile.
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)
CHS is a rare condition where regular, long-term consumption of high THC cannabis can build up and cause nausea and vomiting after ingesting cannabis, the opposite of its usual effects. CHS looks similar to the symptoms of cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS), which cannabis can be used to treat in some cases.
This list does not include every possible side effect that a person can experience. Headaches and cough (smoking marijuana) are other potential adverse side effects. In addition, some people should avoid cannabis entirely, such as pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Speak with a medical professional if any side effect you experience persists or becomes more than mild.
How to Determine If the Benefits Outweigh the Risk
The best way to determine if the benefits of using marijuana outweigh the risks is to listen to your own body. If you have repeatedly experienced adverse side effects from using cannabis, then your body is telling you something is wrong. This factor may be as simple as tweaking your dose of medical marijuana and adjusting the CBD:THC ratio. For this reason, getting a medical cannabis recommendation from your doctor is essential.
If a change in dosage under medical supervision still yields unfavorable results, consider some other possible culprits. First, ensure that you consume fresh, high-quality cannabis from a licensed dispensary. Next, ensure that you have stored your cannabis correctly to prevent mold and other pathogens from forming. Finally, experiment with different consumption methods; for example, see if cannabis topicals might work better for you than weed edibles.
If all else fails, take a break from using marijuana. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for every person, and some people may fare better with another type of medicine.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is smoking weed harmful to health in any way?
Like smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana may have adverse effects on your health. But these effects are not likely due to the cannabis plant itself. Instead, the delivery method of smoking (or vaping) can expose your lungs to harmful chemicals, including carcinogens that may cause cancer.
If you don’t smoke it, are there any negative side effects to using marijuana?
Other consumption methods may be preferable to smoking marijuana, but there is no guarantee that you’ll only experience positive effects. After consuming edibles, negative side effects can occur (especially those high in THC). Furthermore, heavy daily use of marijuana can lead to long-term issues for some people. The bottom line, though, is that consumption methods other than smoking are likely to produce better health outcomes.
Why do I only get the negative effects of marijuana?
You may need to have your dosage fine-tuned, you may have a marijuana allergy, or the issue may be something else entirely. Contact your doctor to discuss why you are experiencing negative side effects from using marijuana.
Getting your customized prescription with a medical marijuana card is the first step to reducing the risk of negative cannabis side effects. The doctors at Leafwell are qualified to help you through the application process in your state. Reach out today to get started online in our virtual clinic.