Here at Heally, we’ve extensively covered the benefits that cannabis and hemp-related products can provide. Cannabis and CBD can play a critical role in broader holistic health.
In a broader approach to holistic health, it’s important for you to know what the potential outcomes of long-term or high-dosage cannabis use — both positive and negative. That way you can consult with a physician and take steps to prevent potential negative side effects.
In this article, we’ll examine some of the possible long-term effects, that research has thus far seen a link in, and provide some simple tips for limiting potentially negative ones.
– Disclaimer –
It is important to note that while there is some research on the long-term effects of cannabis consumption, the topic as a whole has been understudied due to the nearly-worldwide illegality of cannabis. These findings could change in the coming years as more reliable research is conducted.
As with all substances, we encourage our readers to consult with a doctor about their usage, potential long-term effects, and dosage information to ensure that they are using responsibly.
THC vs. CBD
Before we dive into the long-term effects of cannabis usage, we just wanted to make sure that we made something clear. This article mostly focuses on the long-term effects of cannabis containing THC, not CBD. While cannabis has been associated with many long-term effects, both positive and negative, CBD has only been linked to positive long-term outcomes at this time.
Additionally, many of the studies referenced in this article were conducted using smoking as the primary method of consumption. There are many studies that show very real physical and neurological effects of inhaling smoke. Other consumption methods, such as edibles or tinctures, may limit negative long-term effects.
Long-Term Effects of Cannabis for Pain Management
One common area where users find positive long-term effects from cannabis is as a chronic pain management alternative. Cannabis’s effectiveness as a painkiller has played a key role in the adoption of medical marijuana across the United States and has forced the medical community to rethink how they manage chronic pain for patients.
Positive Long-Term Effects of Cannabis for Pain Management
For years, opioids have been the go-to prescription for pain management. They are an effective tool but do come with a whole host of potential side-effects and long-term issues for patients.
As the opioid epidemic kills more than 130 people every day in the US due to overdoses, medical marijuana provides a lower-risk alternative to effective pain management. Cannabis toxicity is extremely low, meaning there is no risk of death from overdose.
Chronic pain can cause many issues that lead to poor physical and mental health in the long-term. It can lead to problems sleeping, impaired memory and concentration, mood swings, and poor outcomes in personal relationships. Embracing cannabis as an option for pain management can have a profound effect on the lives of those that suffer through chronic pain and want to avoid the potential downsides of opioids.
Negative Long-Term Effects of Cannabis for Pain Management
While cannabis use can be addictive, the risk of addiction is significantly lower than with opioids. Additionally, the effect of addiction is less impactful among cannabis users. Cannabis consumption is also not associated with the same detrimental effects on the kidneys and liver as over-the-counter painkillers and opioids.
Medicinal marijuana represents a more holistic approach to pain management.
Long-Term Cannabis Use and Mental Health
Cannabis consumption can have both a positive and negative long-term effect on your mental health. As with many substances, maintaining reasonable dosage and practicing moderation can go a long way toward helping you to enjoy the benefits, while limiting exposure to potentially negative long-term effects.
Positive Effects of Long-term Cannabis Use on Mental Health
Washington State University researchers published a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders that showed that cannabis usage led to a reduction in self-reported levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. While repeated use didn’t show any long-term reduction, using cannabis to treat acute symptoms can facilitate changes in your mindset that lead to long-term benefits.
As mentioned, cannabis is an excellent tool for chronic pain management. Using medicinal marijuana to effectively treat chronic pain can certainly lift someone’s spirits and improve their mental health in both the short-term and long-term.
Additionally, new evidence is also showing that using cannabis in the treatment of PTSD. Researchers have run studies with combat veterans that suffer from PTSD and have found drastic improvements, leading to calls for more studies. While these studies are new and we should wait for more evidence before drawing conclusions — it certainly does look promising.
Negative Effects of Long-Term Cannabis Use on Mental Health
A commonly held belief is that cannabis consumption makes a person more likely to suffer from mental illness, especially when they are genetically predisposed to mental health issues. It’s important to note that there has been research that has shown that long-term cannabis users who started using cannabis at an early age show a higher tendency to have mental health problems, including schizophrenia and depression.
Mental Health Disclaimer
The potential negative mental health effects of cannabis consumption can be avoided by ensuring that you begin cannabis usage after adolescence, take T-breaks, and avoid consumption if you have a history of mental health disorders in your family.
Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on the Brain
Numerous studies have shown that long-term cannabis consumption can have both positive and negative effects on the brain. Memory issues are the often-cited long-term effect of marijuana use. While there is some research that backs this assertion, there are also studies that refute it.
Positive Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on the Brain
This recent study found that CBD consumption in rats and mice actually led to hippocampal brain growth — the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, emotion, and impulse control. Cannabinoids may also act as an effective neuroprotectant, specifically protecting the nervous system against damage from amyloid proteins that have been associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Negative Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on the Brain
Studies in this area have been somewhat conflicting. A study that examined 4,000 adults over a 25-year period found that cumulative lifetime exposure to marijuana was associated with lower test scores during verbal memory tests. However, that same study also showed no effect on other cognitive abilities like processing speed and executive function.
Brain Changes Disclaimer
The only studies in this area have focused on long-term users. Practicing moderation and t-breaks may be an effective way to avoid negative long-term effects on the brain from cannabis consumption.
Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on the Lungs
Smoking cannabis is the most popular consumption method, but may also present the most risk to users. There are both positive and negative effects that come from cannabis.
Positive Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on the Lungs
Some studies have shown that smoking cannabis has no discernable negative effects in the dosage most users intake. The study monitored more than 5,000 adults over the course of 25 years and found that low-to-moderate users actually saw an increase in lung capacity. The heaviest users in the study did not see the same improvement.
Negative Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on the Lungs
This almost exclusively applies to those that choose to smoke (and potentially even vape) cannabis — but a 2012 report from the British Lung Foundation found that smoking cannabis was linked to several respiratory conditions, most prominently chronic bronchitis.
Chronic bronchitis is one type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), caused by inflamed bronchial tubes which overproduce mucus. It’s a common condition among tobacco smokers, and cannabis smokers do not appear to be exempt from smoke inhalation-related issues.
Smoking Cannabis Disclaimer
The increased risk of chronic bronchitis is completely avoidable with other consumption methods. Edibles and tinctures completely eliminate the risk. Vaping, while not fully studied, also presents an option for mitigating risk and lung issues associated with smoking.
Lessen Negative Long-Term Effects:
Moderation and T-Breaks
In conclusion, if you are concerned about suffering from long-term side effects from cannabis usage, consult with your doctor immediately. Only a trained medical professional can provide advice on how to deal with these issues.
However — moderation is always an excellent place to start. T-breaks (breaks from consuming THC) for weeks or months can help you avoid the long-term negative effects of cannabis usage while ensuring that you use responsibly.
Secondly, taking T-breaks also has the added benefit of reducing your tolerance to THC. This allows you to feel more while consuming less.
Another option is microdosing. Microdosing can help you to avoid negative short-term and long-term side effects of excessive consumption.
Products to Try
If you experience chronic pain, cannabis can be a promising option for relief. You might want to consider these products:
These KIVA Moroccan Petra Mints are a perfect choice for microdosing, containing just 2.5 MG of THC per mint. They contain a blend of CA grown cannabis, green tea matcha, and peppermint extract. This results in a refreshing peppermint taste with light notes of Tahitian vanilla.
Mary’s Jane All Natural Face & Body Balm is an excellent solution for aches and pains. It reduces swelling around eyes and works within minutes to alleviate pain, inflammation, swelling, cramping, and/or injured muscles and joints. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.