Side Effects & Health Risks of Marijuana Use

Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs in the United States and approximately 16.3 million Americans experienced a marijuana use disorder in 2021.1 Aside from potentially developing an addiction to it, the use of marijuana can pose other risks to one’s overall health and wellbeing.2

In this article, we will discuss what marijuana is, potential short- and long-term effects using marijuana can have on one’s health, and where to reach out for help if you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana misuse or addiction.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana, also known as pot, Mary Jane, bud, and weed, refers to the dried flowers, stems, and leaves from the cannabis sativa plant.3 Marijuana can be smoked in pipes, water pipes, or with vaporizers, rolled into joints or blunts, and infused into butter in oil and mixed in with food (known as edibles) and beverages (such as tea).2 THC, the psychoactive component found in marijuana, binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, producing its effects.4

Effects of Marijuana

Not everyone is going to experience the same side effects of marijuana, as the effects that can develop can be impacted by several factors. Some of these factors can include:5

  • How much marijuana is consumed.
  • How frequently marijuana is consumed.
  • If marijuana is being used concurrently with other substances.
  • Ways marijuana is consumed (e.g., smoking, vaping, eating, or drinking).
  • One’s individual biology.

Short-Term Effects of Marijuana

When marijuana is smoked, the smoke infiltrates the lungs and then almost immediately hits the bloodstream, producing effects quickly.6 However, when ingested orally such as through baked goods or drinks, effects generally take 30-60 minutes to be felt and may take longer.6 Regardless of how it is ingested, marijuana can produce several short-term effects including relaxation and euphoria, some of which can include the following:6

  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired ability to think and problem solve
  • Impaired body movement
  • Altered sense of time
  • Changes in mood
  • Altered or heightened senses (e.g., seeing colors more intensely)

In instances where marijuana is used in high doses, short-term symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions may occur.7

Potential Long-Term Effects of Marijuana

There are several potential health risks associated with long-term marijuana use, some of which may persist after active use has ended. These risks can impact several areas of the body, including the brain, heart, and lungs, as well as affect one’s mental health and overall daily life.2

Effects of Cannabinoids on the Brain

Marijuana acts on brain receptors that are responsible for normal brain function and development.6 This particular substance has been proven to impact areas of the brain responsible for:8

  • Learning.
  • Memory.
  • Attention.
  • Decision-making.
  • Coordination.
  • Emotions.

As a result, the continued use of marijuana can lead to these and other significant cognitive impairments.8 Additionally, long-term use of this substance has also been linked to an increased risk of experiencing a variety of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.8 It is also possible for someone who misuses marijuana long-term to increase their chances of developing an addiction to it (especially in those who start using it at a young age).9

Respiratory Health Effects

Smoking marijuana can irritate both the throat and the lungs, as well as cause a cough to develop when being used.10 Studies show that smoking marijuana is associated with inflammation of the airways and people who smoke marijuana report higher incidents of bronchitis than those who don’t.10 Additionally, marijuana smoke includes dangerous chemicals that can increase one’s risk for developing lung disease and certain cancers.10

At this time, there is not much information available regarding vaping marijuana and the possible effects it can have on the lungs.11 However, it is believed that it is possible that vaping marijuana can cause health effects similar to those of e-cigarette use while “dabbing” (inhaling cannabis concentrates) may also lead to respiratory complications.11

Heart Health Effects

When marijuana is smoked, it can raise one’s heart rate within just a few minutes.12 In some instances, a person’s heart rate can increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute, or even double, which can be especially dangerous for people with pre-existing heart conditions.12 Experiencing a head rush or dizziness when under the influence of marijuana is also possible because of these cardiovascular effects.12

Other Potential Risks of Marijuana

There are a number of additional issues that those who are addicted to or who misuse marijuana can put themselves at risk for experiencing. Consider the following:5,7

  • Accidents and injuries – Since marijuana can affect one’s coordination and judgment, the risk of suffering an accident or injury increases when someone misuses this substance.
  • Impaired performance – Marijuana can impair one’s ability to uphold responsibilities and obligations at work, school, or home that require focus and concentration.
  • Impaired driving – Driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous, as it can lead to accidents, repercussions from those accidents, and legal consequences.
  • Psychosis – When regularly consumed at high doses, psychosis may develop. Psychosis occurs when a person’s thoughts, perceptions, and emotions are disturbed and they lose contact with external reality, often struggling to understand what is real and what is not.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

If you are one of the many people struggling with marijuana addiction or misuse, reach out to us right now. Our inpatient addiction treatment in Rhode Island offers comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment to help you end your active addiction and develop skills that will help you live a happy, substance-free life.

Our facility offers detox, inpatient, and outpatient treatment programs to meet your unique needs. By calling , you can speak to a compassionate rehab admissions navigator who can answer questions you may have about the rehab admissions process, insurance coverage for addiction treatment, payment options, and more.

Get started on your recovery today. Verify your insurance coverage right now by filling out our secure online .


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