Using medical marijuana has something of a bad reputation, mostly because people associate some bad side effects with the usage of cannabis. Most of this is however based on wrong or misinterpreted information, and when used responsibly medical marijuana can be a very safe and excellent pain treatment. We give you an overview of the side effects of using medical marijuana, where we consider both the possible addictive properties and the psychoactive response of marijuana.
Marijuana and addiction
A commonly asked question is: can I get addicted to medical marijuana? The short answer is no. Cannabis does not contain any addictive substances to which you can get physically addicted. There are also no physical withdrawal effects when you have not used marijuana for a while, such as you do see with opioid abuse or alcoholism. However, that does not mean that using medical marijuana is completely risk free! Like any other activity or experience it is possible to get ‘physiologically’ addicted. Studies have found that users of marijuana can start to get depended on the use of marijuana, to the extent that they might function worse when not using it, both mentally and physically. Another common symptom of addiction would be missing out on things that previously were a standard part of your routine, or engaging in certain behaviors in order to get marijuana. This shows that using medical marijuana does have some risks attached to it and that medical marijuana, like any other medicine or drug, should be used with caution and under medical supervision.
A gateway drug?
Even though marijuana is not physically addictive, an often-heard counterargument against marijuana is that it is a ‘gateway drug’. What is most commonly meant is that by using marijuana you are more likely to then switch to harder drug use, which have an actual addictive effect. There is however little to no data to support this and most studies in fact point to other factors, such as criminalization and prohibition, as the primary indications for later hard drugs usage. Other studies also show that in states where medical marijuana has been legalized there is a significant drop in opioid overdose morality, cutting this rate by almost 25 percent. All this shows that medical marijuana, especially when used responsibly, is not a gateway drug at all and might in fact be the opposite of that.
What you feel when using medical marijuana
Using medical marijuana has physical effects on your body and your mind, which mainly stem from the THC in the cannabis plant. This is the substance that is responsible for the ‘high’ most people associate with using marijuana. Luckily it is possible to find strains of marijuana that are low in THC and still high in CBD, the substance responsible for many of the pain-relieving properties of medical marijuana. THC can have many side effects, which vary from person to person and heavily depend on the ingestion method. Common side effects include:
- Increasing heart rate
- Change of appetite
- Change in digestion
- Disorientation and other alteration of your sense
- Slower reaction times and body movements
- ‘Cottonmouth’: a dry mouth.
These effects can range from very weak to intense and may last for hours or just minutes. In order to properly get used to them we would recommend starting with small amounts of cannabis and slowly increasing the dosage. This allows you to get accommodated and to determine the right dosage that treats your medical problems. And if you decide that this is not what you are after you can always choose a cannabis strain that is low in THC, so these effects are barely noticeable anymore. For others the euphoric effects of medical marijuana might be desirable, so choose what you like best!