To help you and your health care provider make informed decisions about the potential benefits and risks, we have published information on using cannabis for medical purposes.
Accidentally consuming or consuming too much cannabis at a time can lead to temporary adverse effects, also known as cannabis poisoning. Cannabis poisoning is not generally known to be fatal. It can, however, be very unpleasant and potentially dangerous, sometimes requiring emergency medical attention and, in some cases, hospitalization. Children and pets are at greater risk of cannabis poisoning.
For more information, please see the lower-risk cannabis use guidelines developed by Canadian experts in mental health and addiction.
The effects of cannabis on pregnancy and breastfeeding
Research suggests that there are ways to reduce the risks:
If you have questions, visit your health care provider.
Cannabis addiction is real, although the risk of addiction is lower than it is for other substances such as:
Everyone’s response to cannabis can also differ from one time to the next.
To get medical marijuana, you need a written recommendation from a licensed doctor in states where that is legal. (Not every doctor is willing to recommend medical marijuana for their patients.) You must have a condition that qualifies for medical marijuana use. Each state has its own list of qualifying conditions. Your state may also require you to get a medical marijuana ID card. Once you have that card, you can buy medical marijuana at a store called a dispensary.
Medical marijuana received a lot of attention a few years ago when parents said that a special form of the drug helped control seizures in their children. The FDA recently approved Epidiolex, which is made from CBD, as a therapy for people with very severe or hard-to-treat seizures. In studies, some people had a dramatic drop in seizures after taking this drug.
Why hasn’t more research been done? One reason is that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers marijuana a Schedule I drug, the same as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, and likely to be abused and lacking in medical value. Because of that, researchers need a special license to study it, says Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, a substance abuse specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Which states allow medical marijuana?
“The greatest amount of evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis relate to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and spasticity [tight or stiff muscles] from MS,” Bonn-Miller says.
Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, adjunct assistant professor, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
The drug can also affect judgment and coordination, which could lead to accidents and injuries. When used during the teenage years when the brain is still developing, marijuana might affect IQ and mental function.
National Conference of State Legislatures: “State Medical Marijuana Laws.”
2. Reduces nausea from chemotherapy
In fact, a large 2015 systematic review concluded that THC used in combination with other cannabinoids improved self-reported muscle spasms more than a placebo, although the difference was not statistically significant.
4. Improves sleep
Important: Contrary to popular belief, you can’t flush THC out of your system by sweating or drinking water, but experts say the only way to detox THC is by waiting it out and stopping use.