Long Term Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana is a commonly used drug that is illegal in many parts of the country. Marijuana is often thought of as a “safe” drug, but there are some long-term problems that may arise when someone consistently uses marijuana over a long period of time — especially if they use it heavily. If you or someone you love uses marijuana, it’s important to be aware of the potential health concerns that can develop.

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How Much Marijuana is Too Much?

Fatal marijuana overdoses in adults are very uncommon, and they almost always involve a combination of substances. Although a deadly overdose is unlikely, using large amounts of marijuana can cause a variety of severe or unpleasant side effects.

Standard THC Dose

The active ingredient in marijuana that causes addiction and psychological effects is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The amount of THC in marijuana varies greatly based on the particular strain of the plant and how it was processed. Because of these inconsistencies, government agencies have defined a “standard unit” of THC to be 5 mg

This does not mean that this is the dose someone should typically use. There is no recommended dose for marijuana use, as it has the potential to cause health problems.

What Is Considered Heavy Marijuana Use?

Because marijuana is not legal at the federal level, there is no clear national consensus on how different levels of marijuana use compare with each other. However, there are some sources that define heavy marijuana use as using marijuana at least once a day. While this is by no means the commonly accepted definition, most sources would agree that someone who uses marijuana once a day or more should be considered a heavy marijuana user.

Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

Someone using marijuana recreationally is very unlikely to fatally overdose on marijuana alone. However, there have been some reports of children who fatally overdosed after accidentally ingesting large amounts of concentrated THC, an active ingredient found in marijuana.

While a fatal overdose on marijuana is uncommon, it is possible to take so much marijuana that any enjoyment from the experience is completely overshadowed by severe side effects. This is sometimes called “greening out,” and the symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Pale, sweaty skin
  • Panic or severe fear
  • Vomiting

Long-Term Effects of Marijuana

The long-term effects of marijuana typically involve neurological problems, breathing problems or persistent nausea. Neurological problems from marijuana are one the most concerning issues, as studies indicate that marijuana use may affect mental function and the ability to efficiently form new memories. 

Marijuana use can lead to breathing problems when smoked frequently. While there is currently no research showing that smoking marijuana increases the risk of lung cancer, marijuana does create inflammation in the lungs and makes it more difficult for air to move into and out of the lungs. This can be especially harmful in people who have lung disease.

Another long-term effect of marijuana is cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. This condition causes cyclical vomiting problems, and it only occurs in people who have used marijuana daily for a prolonged period of time. Every few weeks or months, this condition will cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain after a person uses marijuana. This condition can go away on its own when marijuana use is stopped.

When considering the long-term impacts of marijuana use, it is important to note that the drug’s long-term effects have not been well studied. As access to concentrated THC increases and more research becomes available, new long-term effects may be discovered.

Effects of Marijuana on the Teenage Brain

Marijuana has a variety of negative effects on the developing brain of a teenager. Marijuana has been shown to decrease IQ by about eight points when it is used by teens. This effect persists long into adulthood and does not fully reverse, even if marijuana use is stopped. Studies support the concept that marijuana, like alcohol, is especially harmful to the brain of teens.

The Cycle of Marijuana Addiction

While people often think of marijuana as less dangerous than other drugs, it is still highly addictive. Marijuana addiction tends to occur in a three-stage cycle:

  • Binge-intoxication: In this stage, marijuana is used. It creates a high and causes the euphoric effect that rewards the brain. In this stage, any cravings for marijuana are at least somewhat relieved.
  • Withdrawal-negative effect: After using marijuana, negative effects and withdrawal occur. During this stage, regret over marijuana use may occur. A person may also feel dissatisfied that the desired effect was not fully achieved.
  • Preoccupation-anticipation: During this stage, the person addicted to marijuana develops a desire to use the drug again. If they are trying to stop using marijuana, this stage will often cause internal conflict as they wrestle against the desire to use again. When marijuana is eventually used, the cycle begins again.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment Options

There are several potential treatments for marijuana addiction that have shown promise in people who have tried them. These potential treatments include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This form of therapy focuses on understanding the way you think. It works to change your thought patterns so that the behaviors they influence will also change.
  • Contingency management: This form of therapy uses rewards as a means of driving behavioral changes.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy: This form of therapy builds internal motivations to help change a person’s behaviors.

Get Help

Recovering from a marijuana addiction alone can be difficult, and most people are unsuccessful in trying to quit on their own. With the support and help of others, however, you can stop using marijuana and avoid potential long-term effects.

If you or your loved one is struggling to stop using marijuana, The Recovery Village Columbus is here to help you find the freedom you are looking for. Contact us today to learn more about treatment programs that can help you begin a healthier, marijuana-free life in recovery.

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.