While cannabis use is often seen as relatively harmless and even beneficial to one’s health in various ways, the regular and heavy use of any psychoactive substance can potentially put an individual at risk. While research on the matter has been limited due to the marijuana’s history as an illegal substance and finding solid science to identify the potential long-term side effects of regular use of cannabis is nearly impossible at this time, anecdotal evidence of the potential side effects of chronic cannabis use dates back hundreds of years.
Even though marijuana does not create an actual physical dependence like substances such as cocaine, amphetamines, or heroin, it can potentially lead the user to seek stronger doses in greater frequency, which are both traits of an addiction disorder. Researchers have named this type of addiction to weed as “Cannabis Use Disorder” or CUD for short. Similar to what occurs when someone stops taking any substance that can lead to addiction, there are some unpleasant side effects that can result from not using weed after prolonged heavy use. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms can often include irritability, increased anxiety, depression, and insomnia among others. While these symptoms are not necessarily life threatening, they can still make a regular weed smoker’s life miserable for a while if and when they do decide to quit.
There are also some that argue that long-term cannabis use can cause neurological changes leading to neurocognitive disadvantages, problems with memory, as well as other types of neural functioning abnormalities. However, the lack of proper research in this area leaves many wondering if this is actually true and to what extent. Others have associated using weed with the increased risk of developing schizophrenia and other types of psychoses. They claim that people that use too much weed could potentially suffer from a psychotic break where the individual experiences an unwanted disconnect with reality. Again, the lack of data makes uncertain if it is the marijuana that causes the psychotic episodes or if it merely triggering an already existing condition in the individual.
Heavy cannabis users can also suffer from increased anxiety. Large doses of THC from regular marijuana use or even from one session can sometimes trigger a sense of uneasiness and paranoia in an individual. This is especially important for individuals that are already dealing with anxiety issues and have turned to weed as a form of treatment for their conditions. Smoking weed on a regular basis may also cause respiratory issues in some enthusiasts. This of course makes sense considering one is often inhaling unfiltered smoke from burning part of a plant, but again, lack of studies on the subject prevent us from knowing just how harmful marijuana smoke could potentially be to our lungs.
However we are very hopeful that with the successful cannabis legalization efforts that are spreading around the United States, Canada, and other countries around the globe resources can be allocated so that proper research can be done on the long-term effects of its use.