Anyone who has considered smoking marijuana for either recreational or medical purposes is likely aware of the potential for pleasurable effects, starting with the drug’s characteristic “high” and enhanced relaxation and sensory perceptions. But users and potential users are also likely to wonder about the less desirable, potentially harmful side effects of weed. Reports from researchers as well as from users are conflicting, however, regarding marijuana’s side effects — and the answers differ when looking at short-term side effects versus long-term ones.

Short Term Side Effects Of Weed

The short-term, temporary side effects of smoking weed include not just physical but also emotional and psychological effects. As far as physical side effects, while smoking weed, users commonly report experiencing dry mouth, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and a tingling or numb sensation in the lips, hands or feet. Users also experience impaired physical coordination, including increased reaction time. All of these effects are temporary, subsiding once the high wears off.

Hallucinations are the most common short-term psychological side effect of weed, lasting only while the user is under the influence of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that causes the drug’s characteristic high). Other psychological side effects of weed include feelings of anxiety, depression or paranoia, and even panic attacks. As with marijuana’s short-term physical side effects, these effects are generally temporary, wearing off along with the drug’s high.


Long Term Side Effects Of Weed

Reports of long-term or lasting side effects of weed are less clear-cut. Some habitual long-term users who smoke weed develop a chronic cough or chronic bronchitis, while male marijuana users can experience lowered fertility over time due to reduced sperm counts. Other long-term side effects of weed include a slight reduction in memory, lowered IQs in users who begin marijuana use at a young age (in the teen or preteen years), and the potential for addiction.

Some Side Effects Depend on How Marijuana is Used

Another aspect to consider regarding the side effects of weed is the method of marijuana use. Both short- and long-term side effects can differ when marijuana is smoked versus ingested or vaporized — a method that involves using an inhalation device that turns the active ingredients found in cannabis into a mist, or vapor, to be inhaled by the user.

Vaporizing weed is considered by many to be a safer alternative to smoking marijuana, since vaporizing delivers the cannabinoids to the user without producing smoke. Thus, when weed is vaporized, physical side effects may be reduced due to the elimination of the irritating or even toxic effects of smoke on the lungs. The emotional and psychological side effects of vaporizing marijuana, on the other hand, are similar to those caused by smoking weed, and may even be magnified, since vaporizing can increase the amount of THC that reaches the user.

The side effects of ingesting marijuana orally can be unpredictable, due to its slower-acting but potentially more intense and long-lasting effects on the user. It is easy to use too much marijuana at one time when consuming it in a food or a tea, since the amount being ingested is more difficult to judge. Furthermore, some users might mistakenly believe the amount they ingested was insufficient when they don’t feel high as quickly as expected; this might lead them to consume more, only to find, once the drug’s full potency sets in, that they are much higher than intended or desired.

Short-term, physical side effects of weed:

  • Dry mouth

  • Racing heart

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Numbness or tingling in face or limbs

  • Impaired motor coordination

Short-term, emotional/psychological side effects of weed:

  • Hallucinations

  • Anxiety or paranoia

  • Depression

  • Panic attacks

  • Impaired memory, perception and decision-making

Long-term, physical side effects of weed:

  • Chronic cough, bronchitis or other lung conditions

  • Infertility in men due to lowered sperm count

Long-term, emotional/psychological side effects of weed:

  • Mild memory impairment

  • Lowered IQs in young, habitual users

  • Potential for addiction


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About The Author: Catherine Avril Morris writes on subjects ranging from astrology to parenting, grief, and romance novels. Her role in the 1993 cult classic film Dazed and Confused may have laid the foundation for her interest in current events related to the legalization of marijuana. Find her at