With all the hype of legalized cannabis, it’s easy to get swept up in all the discussions of potential benefits. Like virtually every substance (pharma, over-the-counter, recreational, or medical), cannabis carries some risks (although fewer than alcohol or tobacco). And, for those who are uninitiated (or new to this incredible plant), it pays to be well-informed.
Different People, Different Strains, VERY Different Effects
The most important point to keep in mind is that everyone’s biochemistry is unique, so cannabis affects everyone a little differently.
There is no panacea here; it’s about what works (or doesn’t) for you.
A second important consideration is what strain you are smoking. There is a huge range in chemical composition between different strains, so be mindful of your choices and talk to one of our qualified budtenders to find what is right for you.
So with that disclaimer, here are the most common side effects of cannabis use:
While this common side effect is relatively benign, if you’re caught somewhere without water, and your tongue is glued to the top of your mouth, this effect can be a nuisance! THC can shut off the glands that create saliva and leave you feeling parched. This effect is highly strain-dependent, and you can avoid it (or at least minimize it) with proper hydration before ingestion.
Anxiety and Paranoia
A complex topic when it comes to cannabis use, research shows evidence in both directions: Some people feel much less anxiety. Others feel much more.
It’s best to think of it like a bell-curve: here’s a sweet spot of relaxation and contentment. Cannabis can help you get there, or it can push you way too far and make it worse. Generally speaking, extremely high levels of THC exacerbate anxiety levels the most, so if you are prone to anxiety, choose a high CBD strain like Harlequin. Or, at least make sure you seek out strains with a decent ratio of THC:CBD (20:1 or less).
Research shows cannabis can negatively impact your working memory, especially in timed verbal recall tasks. These impairments, however, are temporary and disappear after stopping use.
It is also important to note that while it may impair some forms of cognition, it enhances others, like creativity (or creative association). Furthermore, the slower reaction times observed in the studies showing “cognitive impairment” can be seen as a part of cannabis’ effect of slowing down time – a desirable effect for many users. This article from Wired has an excellent discussion of this complex issue.
Take home lesson: don’t use cannabis if you have to perform complex tasks like taking a test or driving.
Cannabis lowers your blood pressure. And accordingly, low blood pressure can make you feel a little dizzy when you stand up from a seated position. It’s also a part of the high, so relax, enjoy, and don’t exert yourself too much.
Some studies suggest long-term cannabis can cause some lung damage (although far less than cigarettes). This is mostly a consequence of smoking rather than anything particular to cannabis itself. If you are frequently inhaling burning plant matter, your lungs will produce mucus to protect themselves from the irritation.
Fortunately, we live in an age of options, and there are plenty of less damaging means of using cannabis like vaporizers, concentrates, edibles, and transdermal patches.
Mitigate Your Risk
There are no free lunches in this world. Virtually everything has consequences of one sort or another, whether it’s alcohol or fried chicken or cannabis. By being aware and choosing wisely, you can mitigate your risks to create a pleasurable and memorable marijuana experience.
Be responsible. Stay safe. And, of course: Enjoy!