Cannabis is a complex plant, and individual experiences can differ greatly. Nobody wants to have an uncomfortable experience, and cannabis education can be key to reducing the possible long- and short-term effects of cannabis consumption. Whether you’ll experience effects — positive or otherwise — depends on how often you consume cannabis, how much you use, what kinds of products you use and their THC potency, on top of other individual factors.
Below we discuss a variety of effects cannabis can have. These are mainly the effects of consuming the cannabinoid known as THC, although other cannabinoids, like non-intoxicating CBD, can also have effects. Some researchers suggest that many cannabinoids interact with one another to produce an overall effect, referred to as the “entourage effect.”
What are the short-term effects?
The short-term health effects of cannabis use can include:
- feeling relaxed
- a heightened sensory experience (smell, taste, etc.)
- feeling “high” or euphoric
- feeling confused
- fatigue or sleepiness
- trouble with memory or concentration
- anxiety, fear, restlessness or panic
- loss of inhibition or motivation
- increased appetite
- decreased blood pressure
- increased heart rate (particularly for people with heart conditions or high blood pressure)
Although less common, and most often affecting frequent consumers or those who consume large amounts of THC, cannabis use can lead to paranoia or psychotic episodes, which is why it’s always important to consider your family history and individual risk profile before consuming cannabis. Put another way, if you or your family have a history of mental health conditions, abstaining may be a good option for you. If you are younger than 25, you may also want to consider delaying use. If you do choose to use cannabis, consider using it less often or choosing low-THC products.
While many pregnant people consider consuming cannabis for nausea, it's important to understand what we know (and what we don’t) about cannabis and pregnancy. Consuming cannabis is not recommended while pregnant, and it also carries risks while trying to conceive and/or breastfeeding.
According to Health Canada:
- Cannabis can decrease blood pressure, which can cause dizziness or fainting in pregnant people.
- Those who consume cannabis while pregnant slightly increase their risk of anaemia.
- Cannabis consumption may also increase fatigue, forgetfulness, anxiety or paranoia.
You can find out more about the potential effects of cannabis on pregnancy and breastfeeding here
What are the long-term effects?
Most of the long-term effects of cannabis impact daily or near-daily consumers who have used cannabis for a long time. The effects can include:
- long-term impact on memory and concentration
- risk of developing cannabis use disorder or problematic use patterns that interfere with work, school or family and friends
If smoking, long-term impacts can include:
- lung infections
- chronic (long-term) cough
- increased mucus buildup in the chest
- potential impacts on the brain for adults and youth
- damaged blood vessels
Consider your individual factors
The effects you may experience with cannabis consumption are also related to individual factors, such as your age, sex, previous cannabis use, frequency of use, types of products used and THC potency, and a family history of mental health issues. These are all critical to understanding the potential outcomes and experiences you may have with cannabis consumption.
While research is still uncovering some of these short- and long-term impacts, there is evidence to support two identifiable risk factors: starting consumption early in adolescence (before age 14) and frequent and heavy use, specifically with high-potency THC products over a long period of time.