Your Health

For some people, cannabis is a way to treat or manage a health condition. But like any treatment, it may have harmful effects.

 

What are the effects?

Whether it’s smoked, eaten, vaped, or dabbed, cannabis can have effects on your health. While we understand adults choose to use cannabis for positive reasons, we’re here to share a few of the not so good effects. These effects can be magnified with chronic and persistent use.

Potential health effects

Memory

Research shows that heavy cannabis use can impact your memory. Those effects can continue for weeks after you’ve quit. So just remember, the more you use, the greater the risk.

Learn more about how cannabis can affect your memory from the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.

Mood and mental health

Because it interacts with your brain chemistry, regular cannabis use may make you feel depressed, anxious, or paranoid. You also could feel unmotivated or lose interest in what you’re doing.

Dependence and addiction

As an addictive substance, quitting cannabis can be hard. Heavy users may experience cannabis withdrawal in the form of irritability, anxiety, or sleepiness.

If you need help quitting, contact the Washington Recovery Help Line at 1-866-789-1511.

Side effects

While cannabis can be natural, it’s not free from harm. Too much cannabis can lead to side effects—like impaired judgment and coordination, panic attacks, hallucinations, paranoia, and psychotic episodes.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)

Chronic, or persistent, cannabis users may be at risk of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). CHS is an illness that causes recurring vomiting. For people experiencing CHS, frequent hot bathing may help. But researchers have found that CHS tends to continue until people completely abstain from cannabis.

What if I mix it with other substances?

While people do combine alcohol and tobacco with cannabis, researchers are still trying to completely understand how mixing substances can affect the mind and body.

What we know

Mixing cannabis with alcohol—known as “crossfading”—may increase both risks and side effects. We’re talking about things like nausea, vomiting, panic attacks, increased anxiety, and paranoia.

If you become too intoxicated by alcohol and cannabis at the same time, you may have less control of yourself and less awareness of your surroundings. This could impair the decisions you make.

Want more information? Check out the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.

Mixing alcohol and cannabis >
Mixing tobacco and cannabis >

What if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

When it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding, no two women have the same experience. And, while we do need more research on the impacts of cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, here are some things we know now. (Translated copies of the breastfeeding flyer are available here.) Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid use.

The basics

Pregnancy discomforts

Finding ways to manage pregnancy discomforts—like morning sickness, stress, and nausea—can be hard. That’s why, if you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s great to talk to your primary care provider for safer alternatives than cannabis.

THC transfers

THC, the chemical in cannabis that makes you feel “high,” can pass to babies during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Exposing babies to THC can lead to problems with feeding, learning, and paying attention.

 

Secondhand smoke

Studies show that secondhand cannabis smoke may contain some of the same harmful cancer-causing chemicals as cigarette smoke, and the American Academy of Pediatrics warns of the potential harmful effects to infants. To protect your children from secondhand smoke, try only smoking when and where others aren’t around. After you’re done, wash your hands and change clothes to avoid lingering smoke. And always lock cannabis away where teens and small children can’t get to it.

Ready to react

Cannabis can impair your judgment, alertness, and reaction time—skills vital to driving safely and tending to your child’s needs.

Not “just natural”

While cannabis can be natural, it’s not free from harm. There are health risks around cannabis for both you and your baby. And although it’s a plant, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Avoid cannabis for you & your baby

Have you seen a new sign in retail stores? As of June 1, 2019, cannabis retailers must display a sign advising women to avoid cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding. The warning sign reminds women and their partners that avoiding cannabis while pregnant and breastfeeding is the safest and healthiest option for their baby.

The sign was developed by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) with the input of other public health, healthcare, and prevention partners. The sign is a response to 2018 changes to LCB Packaging and Labeling rules. The sign went through the standard LCB rule making process, including a written comment period and public hearing, before being adopted as a rule.

You can learn more from the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.

Marijuana’s impact on pregnant women and their children >

Cannabis, reproduction, and pregnancy >

Need help quitting? Contact the Washington Recovery Help Line at 1-866-789-1511.