Cannabis may be a friendly green herb, but that doesn’t mean that it is without negative side effects.
Just like coffee can make you jittery and cherries can upset digestion, consuming too much of anything can make you uncomfortable.
As a psychoactive plant, the negative side effects of cannabis are quite unique and can come as a surprise to new consumers.
But, what sort of unpleasant experiences can you expect from the herb if you do overindulge?
Does cannabis have negative side effects?
The short answer to this question is yes, cannabis does have some negative side effects.
However, many of these side effects come with a few caveats.
Not all cannabis is the same, and some varieties are more likely to produce undesirable side effects than others – depending on your physiology.
Dosage is another important factor when it comes to cannabis.
Negative side effects will be more severe if you take too high of a dose too quickly.
Sticking to low doses and working with a budtender to identify the right type of cannabis for you is certainly worthwhile.
If you’re interested in cannabis, here are seven negative side effects you should know about:
1. Memory loss
The active compounds in cannabis engage regions of the brain that influence memory and learning.
On one hand, this is potentially great news for those with anxiety conditions and post-traumatic stress.
However, the herb can certainly make you forgetful while you’re under the influence.
Thus far, research suggests that the negative effects on cannabis and memory are temporary.
The majority of memory effects happen while the herb is still active in the body.
Unlike other substances like alcohol or prescription anxiety medications, cannabis does not cause amnesia or prevent you from remembering what happened to you during the day.
Rather, spatial, verbal, and working memory are most profoundly affected.
Spatial memory refers to your ability to remember a position relative to a certain space. You may temporarily forget the route to a new restaurant, misplace your car keys, or accidentally leave behind your wallet.
In the long term, research in zebrafish suggests that you may be more likely to forget the details about where an event occurred, but not the details of the event itself.
If you walk to a park after consuming a little cannabis, you may later forget where the park is located.
Working memory refers to the ability for you to retain information while attempting to solve a problem.
It is well-known that psychoactive cannabis alters working memory in the short-term.
In the long term, studies have yet to conclusively determine whether or not the herb has any negative effect on working memory.
Some research suggests that working and verbal memory impairments may subside after extended periods without consuming the herb.
Preliminary research implies that younger cannabis consumers are more likely to show long-term memory differences.
Because of the herb’s short-term effects on verbal and working memory, the plant may not be a great tool to use while studying or trying to learn a foreign language.
Though, some people may argue that it helps them focus.
At this point, it is unclear what effects non-psychoactive cannabis has on long-term memory.
Some types of cannabis can cause drowsiness and lethargy.
Varieties high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabis compound that causes the famous psychoactive “high”, are the most likely to cause drowsiness.
This drowsy sensation is caused in part by the herb’s ability to influence parts of the brain that control motivation.
The plant is also famous for its sedative qualities.
Research suggests that the herb may help some fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Certain “strains” will have more profound effects on sleepiness than others.
Not only does THC cause drowsiness on its own, but aroma molecules in the plant may have sedative effects as well.
Plant fragrance compounds called terpenes are thought to amplify and/or modify the effects of stronger molecules like THC.
Specifically, a common terpene called myrcene is expected to have hypnotic, muscle relaxant, and sedative effects.
Strains that contain high amounts of this compound will provide more of a sedative and drowsy sensation that strains that contain little or no myrcene.
It’s always best to work with a budtender to help you find strains that either cause or avoid drowsiness or fatigue.
Keep in mind that the more cannabis you consume, the greater the drowsy effect will become.
3. Red eyes
Cannabis can lower blood pressure and widen blood vessels in the body.
These qualities are what cause the notorious red-eye experienced by many cannabis consumers.
Red, bloodshot eyes are a tell-tale giveaway that you’ve consumed cannabis (or have allergies).
Unfortunately, novice consumers are more likely to experience this symptom when they first try the herb.
Regular consumers who have developed a tolerance to the herb may not experience this side effect.
Though, when your dosage is too high, these effects may come back until you become tolerant to the new amount.
“The munchies” are another famous side effect of cannabis consumption.
However, the herb’s ability to increase appetite can be seen as both a good and a bad thing.
The munchies can be useful in times of stress or sickness when mustering an appetite seems like a real challenge.
Other times, cannabis might make you eat a little more than you anticipated, which can be frustrating for those hoping to have more control over their diet.
However, not all types of cannabis cause the munchies.
Cannabis varieties high in the non-psychotropic compound cannabidiol (CBD) have the opposite effect as the psychoactive stuff when it comes to appetite.
In fact, preliminary research suggests that CBD may even counteract the appetite-inducing effects of THC.
So, hoping to avoid the munchies? Opt for strains with higher percentages of CBD and lower percentages of THC.
In high doses, psychoactive cannabis can cause anxiety and paranoia in some people.
This side effect is amplified in uncomfortable environments.
Varieties high in CBD are less likely to cause this problem.
You can also try lower doses and a different environment.
6. Dry mouth
Cannabis compounds engage with cell receptors in the mouth that control saliva flow.
When you inhale the herb, this can cause your mouth to feel sticky and dry.
Unfortunately, even low doses of cannabis can cause this problem.
To get rid of “cotton mouth”, take slow sips of water or suck on a lozenge. Citrus fruits also work well to stimulate saliva flow. Alcohol, caffeine, and tea can make the problem worse.
It is possible that some people have allergies to cannabis.
This can cause common allergy symptoms like itchy, red eyes, skin rash, scratchy throat, and a stuffy nose.
If you are allergic to cannabis, it is possible that opting for tinctures and alternate preparations may ease some of the symptoms.
However, if the herb causes more irritation than benefit, it may be best to steer clear of the plant.
How to reduce side effects with cannabis
Hoping to reduce the negative side effects of cannabis? Here are a few general tips for having a better time with the herb:
- Opt for low doses.
- To find your right dose, start with very small amounts and work up slowly over several days or weeks.
- Consume cannabis in a comfortable environment.
- Opt for cannabis that contains at least some CBD.
- Stay hydrated.
- Prep healthy snacks in advance.
- Consider a saline solution for the eyes.