The risks of cannabis use, like any other medication, are often tied to misusing and abusing the substance. Cannabis taken in any of its forms affects the body and mind. Smoking, ingesting, vaping, or applying the substance topically comes with mental and physical effects. Some effects are negative.

When a user is well-versed on cannabis and its different uses, the risks are avoidable. Though occasional use is rarely harmful, it is important to be educated by one’s medical doctor or otherwise before using marijuana as medication.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is in cannabis?

Cannabis plants produce more than 100 cannabinoids. These are active compounds that alter the body and mind. The most impactful of cannabinoids is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. The level of THC in each strain depends on how the plant was grown. Medical grade marijuana is often bred to produce high THC content.

How does cannabis work?

The drug has the most immediate effects when it is inhaled. Within seconds, THC flows from the bloodstream to the brain. Because the body produces its own substances similar to cannabinoids, the brain has many receptors to process them. THC latches onto these cannabinoid receptors, making an impact on memory, coordination, and movement. This is what produces a high. When taken in other forms, the THC in cannabis may produce these effects slower or at lower levels.

What are the physical effects?

The physical effects of marijuana below occur at varying degrees based on strain. They may also not occur at all. These symptoms typically last up to 4 hours.

  • Increase in heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Red eyes and dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite
  • Slow reaction time

What are the effects on mind and mood?

The effects of marijuana on mind and mood below occur at varying degrees based on strain. Like physical effects, sometime they do not occur at all. These symptoms typically disappear over a few hours.

  • Distorted sense of time
  • Introspective thought
  • Changes in anxiety levels
  • Increased paranoia
  • Depression
  • Short-term forgetfulness

What are the long-term effects of cannabis use?

There is currently no definitive proof that cannabis use poses long-term risks. However, mental health problems such as paranoia and schizophrenia are the greatest concerns in regular, long-term users.

Dependency on cannabis is also possible. Studies suggest that 1 in 10 regular cannabis users become dependent on the drug. When withdrawing from marijuana use, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and an irregular appetite can occur.

Is it possible to overdose on cannabis?

Scientists estimate that the lethal dose of THC is 15-70g. It is nearly impossible to consume that much cannabis in one sitting.

How can I avoid the risks of cannabis use?

In conclusion, regular visits to a physician who will cater one’s prescription according to needs is the best way to monitor cannabis consumption. Furthermore, educating oneself on the different compositions of cannabis is also helpful in selecting the right strains for particular users.

For information on the major cannabis classifications, see our blog post The Differences Between Indica and Sativa Cannabis Strains.

For the benefits of cannabis use, see our blog post 5 Benefits of Cannabis for Health and Recreation.

A list of medical symptoms treated with cannabis can be found on our blog post 8 Health Conditions Treated with Medical Marijuana.