Medicinal marijuana is a topic that stirs up much debate, but it’s been well proven that taking the drug has several health benefits such as helping anxiety, managing nausea, treating glaucoma, seizures and more. That said, everyone reacts differently to marijuana and there can be unexpected side effects. Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D., a professor of public health at New Mexico State University says, “The side effects of marijuana depend on dose, frequency, and duration of consumption. Given the legalization across states, for social or experimental use, people may not face any side effects.” He adds, “However, people may get addicted and see side effects with greater usage or long-term habitual abuse in higher doses. These side effects can have a range of manifestations.” Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Dr. Khubchandani says, “People on certain types of medications (eg psychiatric and others) should remain cautious as marijuana can increase or decrease the effect of certain prescription medication leading to treatment failure or extreme side effects. Similarly, mixing other types of drugs, alcohol, and smoking tobacco with marijuana can cause short term or long term side effects. For example, smoking tobacco and marijuana increases the risk of exposure to chemicals (eg carbon monoxide) and tar that can cause cancers.”
According to Dr. Khubchandani, “While marijuana has been used for chronic pain and certain psychiatric conditions, studies suggest a risk for depressive or manic symptoms and psychosis depending on dose and type of marijuana. As marijuana chemicals affect the brain neurotransmitters and chemicals, they can alter the function of our brain. Individuals need to be cautious if they have a psychiatric condition and should not experiment with marijuana as it can worsen symptoms of the illness.”
“Long term marijuana smoking may cause breathing difficulties or increase the risk of COPD, Asthma, and bronchitis or pneumonia,” says Dr. Khubchandani. “The chemicals in marijuana smoke irritate the lung tissue and cause inflammation of the airways. These effects can be seen without simultaneously smoking tobacco, but are definitely worsened if people smoke both cannabis or tobacco.”
Dr. Khubchandani states, “A variety of studies have suggested that marijuana can impact many parts of our food pipe and pathways ranging from effects like nausea, vomiting, inflammation of the pancreas, liver toxicity. These effects can manifest as acute poisoning, immediate side effects, or long term insult to these organs. While symptoms like nausea, vomiting, dry mouth are indicators of toxic effects of heavy or chronic abuse, the underlying causes can be very serious (eg liver failure, pancreatic dysfunction). Cannabis chemicals impact the brain and organs such as the liver (eg metabolism of cannabis chemical) and these effects are systemic.”
Dr. Khubchandani explains, “Several studies have now suggested that heavy and chronic use of marijuana may influence our thinking ability and the power of our brain to encode, recall, and recognize information that can worsen with progressively higher doses and increasing years of marijuana use along with the aging process. Brain imaging studies suggest alterations in brain structures (eg shrinking of certain key areas of brain) with marijuana abuse. Apart from thinking and memories, marijuana can in the short term lead to hallucinations, confusion, drowsiness, and disorientation.”
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more