Marijuana is often regarded as a type of “miracle drug” that provides relief for many conditions. It’s often sought after for its ability to reduce anxiety levels or physical pain. However, despite its many advantageous properties, there are side effects of using marijuana that are not widely known or discussed. Although it’s federally illegal, it, was used by 18% of Americans in 2019, according to the CDC. Consider the risks of these potential marijuana side effects before engaging in cannabis use.
What Is a Side Effect?
A side effect is a secondary symptom or result of using a medication or illegal drug. This secondary effect is usually undesirable and results in problems that are unrelated to the original reason the person is taking or using the drug. Marijuana use is widespread in the United States despite being illegal in some states. Potential side effects of the drug aren’t commonly known but can cause physical and mental complications.
Marijuana Side Effects in Young People
Teenagers may gain access to marijuana through their peers and use the drug without understanding the repercussions. Talk to your teenager about the potential side effects of drug use, specifically marijuana. The CDC reports that the effects of marijuana on the teen brain can harm its development. Teenagers who engage in marijuana use may experience side effects such as:
- Difficulty problem-solving
- Poor memory or difficulty learning
- Decreased academic performance
- Lack of coordination
- Shorter attention span
These side effects can also be indicators to parents that their teen is engaging in drug use. If you notice these signs or side effects, talk to your teenager about the risks of marijuana and drug addiction, impaired driving and the associated increased risk of mental health issues.
Is Marijuana Use Linked to Mental Health Problems?
Yes, marijuana is linked to an increased risk of developing or worsening mental health problems. While this is prevalent in teenagers whose brains aren’t fully developed until age 25, the risk is present for all users. Despite its reputation as a drug that calms the mind and reduces anxiety, marijuana can cause a variety of mental health problems in users.
Marijuana and Depression
A 2021 study on the link between marijuana and depression suggests cannabis use can result in the onset of depression. This is most prevalent in adolescent males and females who are well into adulthood.
Marijuana and Social Anxiety
While some people may use cannabis as a means to relax the mind and reduce anxiety, it can actually have the inverse effect. Marijuana use is associated with social anxiety. According to a 2022 meta analysis, there’s a connection between frequent cannabis use in young adults (ages 18-30) and increased risk of social anxiety. Individuals who already experience social anxiety have an increased risk of developing a dependency on marijuana use to combat their anxiety.
Marijuana and Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a condition that affects around 20 million people globally. A 2020 systemic review found a close relationship between cannabis use and schizophrenia. The review concluded that the THC in cannabis can result in earlier diagnosis of schizophrenia/psychosis in individuals who are predisposed or at risk.
Marijuana and Memory Loss
Long-term use of marijuana or use during teenage years when the brain is still developing can result in memory loss or poor memory. This is due to the fact that the THC in marijuana alters how the brain’s hippocampus processes information. People naturally lose neurons in the hippocampus as they age, making it harder to learn new skills and retain new information. Based on studies of THC in animals, using marijuana can accelerate this process in younger people.
Physical Side Effects of Marijuana Use
There are many side effects of marijuana, and while short-term physical effects (like lack of coordination) are widely known, users may not be aware of these long-term ramifications.
There’s a common misconception that smoking marijuana is not as bad for the body as smoking tobacco. However, the CDC warns that smoking marijuana can harm lung tissue, damage small blood vessels and result in scarred tissue. When inhaling marijuana by smoking, users are breathing in many of the same carcinogens as in regular cigarettes.
CHS is cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, a condition caused by long-term cannabis use. The effects of the syndrome are a condition unto themselves and are more than mere weed side effects. Individuals with CHS may frequently land in the emergency room due to ongoing nausea, dehydration and vomiting.
Cardiovascular and Heart Damage
Marijuana may be seen as a relaxant drug, but the CDC warns Americans that cannabis increases your heart rate and blood pressure after use. This means there’s an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and vascular disease. Smoking marijuana puts your vascular system at risk of exposure to many of the same chemicals as smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Many users may not realize that a weed side effect is its impact on the body’s production of the hormone testosterone. Studies have looked specifically at how marijuana use impacts testosterone production in males ages 18-29, with a 2017 study concluding that this age group of men experiences a significant change in testosterone level in relation to how recently they used cannabis.
Can You Be Addicted to Marijuana?
Cannabis use disorder (CUD), also called marijuana use disorder, is a diagnosis indicating problematic cannabis use. Although people don’t become addicted to marijuana, the prevalence of CUD in America indicates there’s a risk of substance abuse without the presence of addiction. According to the CDC, around 3 out of every 10 people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder.
People who exhibit two or more of these traits within a 12-month period may have CUD:
- Continuing to use marijuana despite negative effects (physical or mental)
- Continuing to use marijuana when it causes conflict in your relationships
- Craving marijuana
- Inability to reduce marijuana use
- Experiencing withdrawal-like symptoms when not using marijuana
- Lack of interest in hobbies that were previously fulfilling
- Decreased academic or workplace performance due to marijuana use
- Driving and using marijuana
Seek Help If You Can’t Quit
If you’re unable to reduce or stop your cannabis use, you may be experiencing CUD. Professional treatment is available, whether you require inpatient care, a medical detox or talk therapy. At FHE Health, our team of counselors is ready to take your call. Contact us today at (844) 299-0618 for help.