5 Risk of Non-medicinal Cannabis Use You Should Know

Read on to learn more on the ‘5 Risks of Non-Medicinal Cannabis use you should know’.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is popularly known as marijuana. It is as derived from the cannabis plant called cannabis sativa.

Cannabis grows wild in many of the tropical and temperate regions of the world. It is vastly used for either recreational and medical purposes.

Recreational use of cannabis is legal in several states of the USA and some other countries. This recent development has sprung more scientific research.

Thus, improving our knowledge of the therapeutic potential of medicinal drugs containing cannabis.

In recent times, more patient is requesting more information about cannabis use from doctors and healthcare professionals.

Cannabis remains the most consumed illegal substance across the world. From UN statistics, an estimate of 125 to 227 million people consumes cannabis globally.

Cannabis consumption is often in the form of marijuana ( the dried flowers and leaves) or hashish (the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]-containing resin of the inflorescences).

The Oil containing THC is also sometimes ingested in foodstuffs.
THC is the principal psychotropic substance in cannabis. Its use has increased so much in the past decade.

Cannabidiol is another active ingredient. Cannabidiol (CBD), is no longer available in many strains.

The anxiolytic, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, and neuroprotective actions are huge attributes with Cannabidiol. CBD may compensate for the adverse effects of THC.

Consumption of cannabis products high in THC and low in CBD can result in undesired effects.

There is a high record of addiction treatments due to cannabis consumption in Europe and the USA

A survey by National Epidemiology in Germany showed 4.5% of adults had used cannabis in the previous year.

Cannabis is more consumed among the population age of 18- to 20-year-olds.

An estimated 1% of the population of the European Union are daily users of cannabis.

Some medicinal uses of Cannabis and THC include:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Anorexia and Cachexia
  • Spasticity
  • Movement Disorders
  • Pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Epilepsy
  • Asthma
  • Dependency and Withdrawal
  • Psychiatric Symptoms
  • Autoimmune Diseases and Inflammation
  • Miscellaneous, Mixed Syndromes
  • Anxiety and depression,

What are Disorders associated with cannabinoids?

1. Acute intoxication, Harmful and Addictive use of Cannabis

When smoking cannabis, THC moves through the lungs into the bloodstream. It also gets to the internal organs and the brain within minutes.

In the brain, THC exerts its effect most of all via the CB1 cannabinoid receptors found in the cerebrum.

The cerebrum handles locomotion, learning, memory, and the reward system.

Smoking of herbal cannabis can result in acute intoxication.
Acute intoxication may depend on the following;

  • composition of the cannabis preparation
  • dose
  • frequency
  • route of administration

The user’s disposition and experience of cannabis consumption can also be a factor.

Most often these symptoms disappear when the pharmacological effects have worn off.

Acute cannabinoid intoxication

Dysfunctional behavior or distorted perceptions can result in one of the following:

  • Euphoria and disinhibition
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Mistrust or paranoid delusions
  • Altered sense of time
  • A feeling of racing thoughts
  • Limited power of judgment
  • Attention disorder
  • Impaired reaction time
  • Acoustic, optic, or tactile illusions
  • Hallucinations without lack of orientation
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Impaired personal performance

Furthermore, at least one of the following signs may be present:

  • Loss of Appetite
  • dry mouth
  • conjunctival injection
  • tachycardia

These signs may persist for as long as a week.  The other symptoms subside within a few hours of cannabis consumption.

To diagnose for cannabis withdrawal syndrome, at least two mental symptoms such as;

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Aggressiveness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances

And at least one vegetative symptom such as the following must be present:

  • pain
  • shivering
  • sweating
  • elevated body temperature
  • chills

Symptoms are very intense in the first week and can persist for as long as a month.
Symptoms can be attention deficiency or prolonged intoxication effects in regular users.
A Clinical withdrawal from cannabis is usually uncomplicated.

2. Cognitive consequences

A study report shows cannabis effect on learning capacity and memory in users.

The non-abstinent cannabis users exhibited mild impairments in the following areas:

  • Abstract thinking or executive performance
  • Attention
  • Retentiveness
  • Learning
  • Psychomotor functions

In persons who had often used cannabis before reaching the age of majority.  The mean intelligence quotient at the age of 38 years was eight points lower than at the age of 13 years.

These findings present an elevated vulnerability to neurocognitive impairments. Especially among adolescents who frequent cannabis use, with questionable reversibility

3. Influence on Education

It is also suggested that there is a connection between early cannabis use before the age of 15 years.  This increase the risk of leaving school early or attaining a lower level of education.

4. Somatic Risks

Below are possible somatic consequences of acute and chronic use of non-medicinal cannabis.

  • Mouth and throat:

Gingival proliferation, inflammation of oral mucosa (stomatitis) or uvula (uvulitis).

  • Respiratory tract:

Irritation of the respiratory system, damage to the bronchioles, and chronic bronchitis.

There is also an association between cannabis consumption and cough.

Dyspnea, hoarseness, chronic-obstructive lung disease, or pharyngitis with a combined consumption with tobacco

Life-threatening respiratory problems.

  • Gastrointestinal tract:

There is a worsening of hepatic steatosis.  Especially in hepatitis C with potential steatogenic and fibrotic effects.

  • Cannabis-hyperemesis syndrome:

Repeated episodes of nausea and vomiting

  • Cardiovascular system:

Tachycardia increased BP, arrhythmias up to and including atrial fibrillation. Deaths are due to cerebral and cardiac ischemia.

  • Effects on skin and mucosa

Conjunctivitis, inflammation of posterior palate.

Other isolated cases include;

urticaria, pruritus, exfoliative prurigo, type-1 allergies such as asthmatic and anaphylactic reactions.

  • Consequences for hormone metabolism

Elevated visceral fat deposition and insulin resistance.

  • Comatose states

There have been Individual cases in children who had ingested cannabis.

  • General mortality

Cannabis use can increase the risk of road traffic accidents which influence mortality.

  • Consequences for the reproductive system

In women adverse effects on:

  • frequency of menstrual cycle
  • implantation of the embryo
  • development of the brain in the embryo
  • increased risk of birth complications
  • a decrease in the birth weight of the child

In children of women exposed to cannabis during pregnancy:

  • increased impulsiveness
  • impairment of learning
  • memory, and executive functions, particularly the following exposure in the third trimester

In men: ejaculation problems, decrease in sperm count, libido loss or impotence

  • Tumor diseases

Nasopharyngeal tumors (independent of tobacco consumption), tumors of head and neck.

There is an increased risk of lung tumors.  Although simultaneous tobacco consumption is a potential confounding factor.

  • Effects on the immune system

The immunosuppressive effect in many autoimmune diseases or inflammatory processes.  An example is in multiple sclerosis, atherosclerosis, asthma, rheumatic, gastrointestinal, and liver diseases.

5. Mental Comorbidity

  • Affective disorders, suicidality, anxiety disorders:

About 50% to 90% of cannabis-dependent users get diagnosed with a mental disorder or health impairment due to alcohol consumption or other substances at some point in their lives.

Some studies suggest that there is a positive relationship between cannabis consumption and bipolar disorders or between augmented manic symptoms and cannabis use.

The relationship between cannabis use with depression is less clear.

Suicidal thoughts are more prevalent in adolescents and young adults who use cannabis.

The treatment of the affective disorder may reduce accompanying cannabis use.

  • Psychoses:

Early, regular, long-term, and heavy consumption of cannabis, in association with other stressors such as the experience of violence and abuse in childhood or psychoses in the original family, has been connected with increased risk of psychotic disorders.

  • Consumption of cannabis and other substances:

From studies, there are links between early, regular cannabis use and continuing consumption of other illegal drugs or alcohol.


A lot of patients with cannabis-related disorders are usually treated as outpatients.  For example, via dependency outreach services, addiction clinics, or specialist centers.

Uncomplicated withdrawal is also treated on an outpatient basis.

Qualified inpatient treatment is indicated in the case of;

  • A complicated course of intoxication
  • Severe withdrawal syndrome and/or severe after-effects
  • High danger of relapse
  • Comorbid mental disorders

The treatment can be an acute or post-acute phase.

The acute phase usually takes two to four weeks in adolescents or four to twelve weeks.

It can include physical detoxification, diagnosis, and treatment of withdrawal symptoms.  There is also detection and possible treatment of any coexisting disorders.

It involves combined intensive counseling and structuring of daily activities, accompanied by psychopharmaceutical support if indicated.

Patient gets encouragement to begin abstinence-stabilizing treatment.

Especially in cases where treatment motivation is lacking in the presence of impairment of psychosocial function.

For example, difficulties in organizing the daily routine and structuring activities.

More complicated episodes of intoxication may present as;

panic attacks or by psychotic or delirious symptoms.

In such cases, it is important to talk to the patient and, if applicable, to administer drugs for a limited period of time.

Rehabilitation post-acute treatment (duration between six to nine months) often serve to ensure abstinence, prevent relapse, stabilize the patient’s mental, social, and occupational situation, and treat any comorbidity.

In adolescents, attention should aim towards educational support, reintegration into school, and the situation of the family.

Psychotherapeutic interventions

Short interventions usually 6 to 12 sessions with combinations of measures to promote motivation, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and contingency management such as learning via systematic rewards have the greatest effect.

Furthermore, family therapy interventions have proved effective in children and adolescents with abstinence rates of between 10 and 50%.

Internet- and computer-based interventions are effective in reaching young people at the time when their use of cannabis is becoming problematic and in achieving a reduction in consumption.


No medications are yet licensed for the treatment of cannabis-related disorders.

Drug treatment is necessary only in the presence of:

  • severe withdrawal symptoms (e.g., with gabapentin, benzodiazepines, sedative antipsychotics)
  • psychoses (with antipsychotics)
  • panic attacks (with benzodiazepines, sedative antipsychotics).


Cannabis consumption is widespread, extending from experimental consumption to dependence.

Empirical data have shown that starting early in life and regular use of high amounts of cannabis for a long period of time increases the risk of various mental and physical disorders and endangers age-appropriate development