From pleasant and comfortable to undesired and uncomfortable, the effects of cannabis consumption can range widely depending on many factors. The same cannabis product can affect you differently than it affects someone else, and the effects you experience can vary from one day to the next.
Finding out about the potential effects of cannabis can help you reduce the risks of consumption and avoid negative effects. Let’s explore the short-term and long-term effects of cannabis and look at ways to reduce the risks to your health and enjoyment.
Short-term effects of cannabis consumption
Depending on your consumption method, the short-term effects of cannabis can be felt within seconds to hours of consuming. Enjoyable or not, these effects are temporary and many resolve themselves with time.
The short-term effects of cannabis can include:
- joy, calm and relaxation
- a heightened sensory experience (such as sense of smell or taste)
- feeling “high” or euphoric
- fatigue or sleepiness
- impaired memory or concentration
- anxiety, fear or panic
- increased appetite
- impaired motor skills
- decreased blood pressure
- increased heart rate (particularly for people with heart conditions or high blood pressure)
- paranoia or psychotic episodes (a less common effect that’s associated with consuming large doses of THC)
Ways to avoid negative effects
Experiencing unwanted effects is always possible when consuming cannabis, particularly if you’ve consumed too much. Here are some ways to avoid or minimize these effects.
- Choose cannabis with low THC content. Keep in mind that strains that contain higher amounts of THC are more likely to produce stronger psychoactive effects, which may increase the risk of negative reactions. Consider CBD-dominant strains or products if you’re sensitive to the psychoactive effects of THC.
- Take small amounts slowly, especially when consuming edible products. Begin with a low dose, such as 2.5 mg THC, and gradually increase it if needed. This approach is particularly important when consuming edibles, as they can take up to two hours to produce effects.
- Avoid mixing cannabis with alcohol or other drugs. Combining cannabis with alcohol increases your level of impairment and elevates your risk of accidental injury. Combining cannabis with other psychoactive substances, especially sedative drugs, increases the effects of the drugs.
- Consider your physical and mental health history. Heart conditions, pregnancy and other physical conditions may play into your decisions to consume cannabis. If you have a personal or family history of mental health issues, abstaining from cannabis consumption may be right for you.
- Label homemade edibles clearly, and store all cannabis products safely out of reach of children and pets.
- Take shallow puffs instead of inhaling deeply or holding cannabis smoke or vapour in your lungs. It’s a myth that deep inhalations increase the effects of cannabis: About 95% of the THC is absorbed into your system within seconds of inhaling. Taking shallow puffs should decrease the amount of toxins your lungs take in.
- Avoid frequent daily or near-daily consumption. Cannabis dependence, as well as negative cognitive and health effects are more likely to occur in frequent consumers.
Get more tips for responsible consumption to help manage your experience and avoid negative effects.
How long do the effects of cannabis last?
The duration of effects can vary depending on several factors, including the method of consumption, the potency of the product, your tolerance and how much of the product you consumed. Keep in mind that different products will affect everyone differently and these are only guidelines.
TIMING OF EFFECTS
Cannabinoids travel into the lungs and are absorbed into the bloodstream.
|Effects generally peak after about 30 minutes and last up to six hours.
Cannabinoids travel into the digestive system and are metabolized by the liver and absorbed into the bloodstream.
|Effects generally peak around four hours after ingestion, with full effects felt within 30 minutes to two hours of consumption. Some effects may be felt for up to 24 hours.
Cannabinoids are absorbed through the mucous membranes in your mouth (under the tongue or in the cheek) and travel into your bloodstream.
|Effects generally peak after about two hours and can last up to 24 hours.
Cannabinoids travel into your epidermal system, not your bloodstream.
|No matter the time frame, you’re unlikely to experience psychoactive effects associated with other forms of cannabis that contain THC. You may feel tingling or muscle relaxation on the site of application.
Long-term effects of cannabis consumption
Consumption of cannabis and cannabinoids in any format can have long-term effects, and smoking cannabis presents additional risks to your physical and respiratory health. Most of the long-term effects of cannabis impact daily or near-daily consumers who have used cannabis over a long period.
The long-term effects can include:
- impaired memory and concentration
- mental health disorders
- cannabis use disorder or problematic use patterns
- impacts on brain development in people under 25
- lung infections
- chronic (long-term) cough
- damaged blood vessels
- cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome
If you are experiencing symptoms of any of the above and think they may be related to your cannabis consumption, talk to your healthcare provider.
Do different strains cause different effects?
Yes, the unique cannabinoid levels and terpene content of each strain, or cultivar, will impact your consumption experience, but the effects will vary from person to person.
Sativa or Indica?
Until the 1980s, it was believed that the species of cannabis — sativa or indica — was solely responsible for the effect produced by cannabis. Sativa effects were typically thought to produce a more energetic experience, while indica effects were said to be more sedating. However, that information may be outdated. There are hundreds of hybrids and new strains on the market, coupled with new ideas about active components, such as terpenes, and the effects of their combinations.
While many cannabis producers are trying to cultivate new strains to reliably produce certain desired effects, the science of making a product with consistent effects for every person is not yet well enough understood. Much more research will be needed before this is possible. For this reason, no one can accurately predict the experience you will have.
Many Licensed Producers will communicate the intended or reported effect(s) of their products. Often, the information they provide is crowd-sourced, which means it has been reported by consumers who have used the product. Again, it is important to know that this information is often not gathered or tested scientifically, and that every individual reacts to cannabis differently.
How will I know how cannabis will affect me?
Humans and cannabis plants share similar chemical compounds called cannabinoids (in people, they’re known as endocannabinoids). We produce them naturally through our endocannabinoid system, which is thought to control how we feel, move and react. We also have cannabinoid receptor sites all over our bodies, which the endocannabinoids bind to. The plant’s cannabinoids also interact with these receptors and alter the way they function.
Because the number of receptors and their locations vary from person to person, our reactions to THC and CBD differ as well. So even if two people consume the exact same strain of cannabis, their reactions and the effects could be very different. The effects of cannabis also depend on factors such as the consumption method and frequency of use, and your genetics, age, sex, personality, current mood and existing mental health conditions.
Though the effects of cannabis on individual people are unique, the steps you can take to reduce harm are fairly universal. High THC potency, as well as the method and frequency of consumption can all play a role in producing negative effects in both the short and long term. Pay special attention to THC content and how cannabis consumption may interact with your pre-existing mental and physical health conditions.