Horrible Side Effects of Marijuana That People Never Talk About

The recent boom of the marijuana industry has led to incredible job creation as well as new treatments for terrible chronic diseases. With the legalization of marijuana on the rise, it’s important the public be informed of every positive and negative aspect of using the drug. While it can be useful to treat things like anxiety and even help reduce the side effects of cancer treatments, it can also be the cause of things like irregular heartbeats. Everyone is different and some people may experience numerous side effects while others experience none at all. These are the potential side effects of marijuana use, including two common side effects that can, unfortunately, turn fatal (No. 9 and No. 11).

1. Schizophrenia

Man pouring marijuana from a canister into his hand at a dispensary.

Marijuana can increase your chances of developing schizophrenia. | David McNew/Getty Images

  • Marijuana can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, depression, and social anxiety.

Various studies on the effects of marijuana have been done through the years, but NBC recently reported that one potential risk of the drug is a serious one — mental illness. Marijuana can increase one’s risk of developing schizophrenia. This illness causes delusions, hallucinations, and unclear thinking, and greatly affects one’s ability to function properly. The drug can also increase depression and social anxiety, according to the same study. Those who use marijuana heavily are also more likely to be suicidal.

Next: Marijuana users are 26% more likely to suffer one terrifying medical event.

2. Heart and stroke risk

cannibis joint and herb, marijuana

Marijuana can have health benefits, but people with heart problems need to be extra careful | iStock/Getty Images

  • Those who use marijuana were 26 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who do not use marijuana.

While it’s easy to picture a marijuana user mellowing out as they wish, marijuana can increase your heart rate by 20% to 100% shortly after smoking, and the effect can last up to 3 hours, according to Live Science and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This may raise the risk of heart attack.

“A 2017 study by the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia found that those who used marijuana were 26 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who did not use marijuana,” explains Live Science. “Those studied were also 10 percent more likely to have developed heart failure.”

Next: Is marijuana really a safer alternative to cigarettes?

3. Respiratory problems

smoking a joint

Marijuana smoke can irritate your lungs. | Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

  • Regular marijuana use can cause a prolonged cough, airway inflammation, and wheezing.

There is no conclusive evidence that marijuana causes lung cancer, but it does create a series of respiratory problems for frequent users, such as a prolonged cough, airway inflammation, and wheezing. According to the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, marijuana smoke contains harmful chemicals that are in similar range to those in tobacco smoke. Since marijuana requires a deeper inhalation than cigarettes, it leaves about five times the carbon monoxide concentration and three times the tar in the respiratory tract compared to cigarettes.

Next: Male users are at serious risk of two major side effects.

4. Low testosterone levels

Man smoking marijuana at a festival

Marijuana can lower your testosterone levels. | Mark Piscotty/Getty Images

  • Chronic marijuana use could lower testosterone and potentially lead to gynecomastia.

Some studies have shown that chronic cannabis use can result in lower testosterone levels, and even a lower sperm count. Doctors have agreed that it’s very plausible that chronic marijuana use can lower testosterone. However, researchers cannot draw a completely factual conclusion until they complete several more studies. Low levels can also result in something called gynecomastia, which is increased breast tissue caused by a hormone imbalance between testosterone and estrogen levels in men.

Next: Your stomach might turn at the thought of doing this.

5. Loss of appetite while sober

a man refusing to eat a hamburger

This hamburger is missing something | iStock.com

  • Some frequent users lose their appetite when sober.

Everyone knows marijuana can trigger a case of the munchies, but some users complain they find their appetite disappears when they aren’t using the drug.

“I find that I don’t have much of an appetite any more unless I am stoned,” wrote Reddit user oz24. “[T]hinking about eating sober gave me nausea. [Probably] the worst part of all the side effects,” echoed user newmilwaukee.

Scientists who study the relationship between marijuana and appetite have discovered that a component of the drug appears to activate hormones that produce hunger, but it’s not clear what effect that might have on a person’s desire to eat when they aren’t high. A separate study found that people who smoked weed at least three times per week were skinnier than people who didn’t use marijuana, but why that was the case wasn’t clear.

Next: This debilitating side effect could appear by middle age.

6. Memory loss

Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse

Your mind may not be so sharp after a few smoke sessions. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • Those who practice long-term daily marijuana use can see memory loss by middle age.

In 2016, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study confirming that those who practiced long-term, daily marijuana use had poorer verbal memory in their middle age compared to those who didn’t smoke. The study considered “long term” to mean five years or more. The researchers examined 3,400 people’s habits over a 25-year period. Everyone in the group took a cognitive skills test at the end of the study period, which determined the results.

Next: A terrifying side effect that could mean you’ve had too much.

7. Hallucinations

Young girl addicted to drugs with hallucinations

Hallucinations could be a sign you’ve overindulged. | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

  • Temporary hallucinations could indicate a marijuana overdose.

Too much marijuana can make you hallucinate. This is different from schizophrenia because the effects are not permanent and it happens most often when the potency is stronger than the smoker expected. With a hallucination, the marijuana user might perceive something that is not actually present. Temporary delusions are also possible during a high.

Next: Don’t believe everything you hear

8. Addiction

Man smoking marijuana cigarette

Marijuana can become addictive. | iStock.com/Pe3check

  • One in 11 young adults who smoke weed will develop an addiction.

Many people praise marijuana for its non-addictive qualities. However, physicians would strongly disagree with such a statement. “There’s no question at all that marijuana is addictive,” Dr. Sharon Levy, the director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Boston Globe. Right now, only one in 11 young adults who smoke weed will develop an addiction. However, with more potent products beginning to enter the market, the addiction rates will increase.

Next: This side effect can last longer than most people think.

9. Slowed reaction time

A closeup view of marijuana

Driving while high is not a good idea. | Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

  • Marijuana use can impair visual perception and motor speed for up to 28 days. 

Driving while high may seem like an obvious no, but impaired reaction time can last much longer than the high. “Visual perception and motor speed may be impaired not only while you smoke, but for up to 28 days afterward,” Marina Goldman, an addiction expert from University of Pennsylvania’s Addiction Treatment Center, told Philadelphia magazine. Slowed reaction time means that an oncoming vehicle can pose a greater danger; there could be a delay in perception time and appropriate reaction time.

Next: Science says the relationship between marijuana use and this mental condition isn’t a myth. 

10. Paranoia

marijuana plants

Marijuana plants | ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

  • People are more likely to experience paranoid thoughts after ingesting THC.

Tales of pot-induced paranoia aren’t unusual and science says the relationship between marijuana use and paranoia isn’t a myth. A 121-person study conducted at the University of Oxford found that people were more likely to experience paranoid thoughts after ingesting THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, than those who took a placebo. The drug also triggered negative thoughts about the self and lowered mood.

“There’s certainly evidence that if you use cannabis — particularly when you’re young — and you use it a lot, that this can put you at risk for later problems,” professor Daniel Freeman, who led the study, told WebMD.

Next: No risk of overdosing can lead to a different fatal side effect.

11. Potentially fatal choices

Take it slow with marijuana use, especially edibles| Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

  • Marijuana has never caused a fatal overdose but does lead to potentially deadly choices.

While marijuana isn’t the only substance to enable bad decision making, it highlights the importance of self-control and responsibility.

Medical experts and the Drug Enforcement Agency agree that marijuana has never caused a fatal, toxic overdose. However, there have been a few reports of excessive marijuana use leading to other fatal decisions, as was the case in March 2014 when a 19-year-old college student jumped off of a balcony after ingesting five times the recommended amount of marijuana.

Next: Smoking weed may not make you as ‘chill’ as you’d think

12. Mood swings

Angry driver shouting

Angry driver shouting | Chris Ryan/iStock/Getty Images

  • Having different personalities while high and sober could hinder relationship building.

It is extremely common for marijuana users to act drastically different when they are high than when they are sober. These mood swings can make it more difficult to develop interpersonal relationships because of a lack of balanced behavior. The drug can also cause de-personalization, which can make it harder to develop a relationship with someone

Next: This next potential side effect may make your heart skip a beat.

13. Decreased heart health

Sick woman with heart attack,

A woman grabs her chest. | SIphotography/iStock/Getty Images

  • Marijuana use can increase your risk of developing an irregular heartbeat, which can increase the risk of stroke or cardiac arrest.

Marijuana can have a few different effects on your overall heart health. Dr. Shereif Rezkalla, a cardiologist who studies marijuana, says “clinical evidence also suggests the potential for serious cardiovascular risks,” Live Science reports.  These risks include developing irregular heartbeats, which can increase the risk of stroke or cardiac arrest, according to Everyday Health.

In addition to the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat, CNN reported smoking pot regularly can weaken the heart muscles, especially in younger men according to a 2016 study. The heart condition is known as stress cardiomyopathy and it causes your heart muscles to weaken temporarily, which prevents the heart from properly pumping. The lead investigator of the study found marijuana usage has been linked to at least two cases of this syndrome.

Next: There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

14. Exposure to dangerous potencies

View of marijuana cupcakes for sale

Marijuana in edible form is very potent. | Alejandro Pagni/Getty Images

  • Marijuana has been increasing in potency — an edible tends to have a potency 10 times higher than a joint.

Today, marijuana products are much stronger than they used to be. Edible products tend to have a potency that is up to 10 times higher than that of a traditional joint, according to Steven Wright, a pain and addiction medicine specialist in Denver. Wright told USA Today that since edibles’ effects take up to an hour to set in — unlike joints, which reach the brain in just seconds — people end up consuming far more than they intended, which can cause more harm than the drug in its traditional form.

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