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Cannabis Health Effects

Key points

  • Cannabis use may have a wide range of health effects on the body and brain.
  • There are several risk factors and negative health outcomes associated with cannabis use.
A hand with medical gloves holding a cannabis leaf in one hand and dried cannabis in the other.

How cannabis can affect your health

Cannabis is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States, with an estimated 61.9 million people using it in 2022.1 Cannabis use may have a wide range of health effects on the body and brain.2 Click on the sections below to learn more about how cannabis use can affect your health.

Cannabis health effects

There are health risks associated with using cannabis regardless of how it is used. These include:

Cannabis Use Disorder

People who use cannabis can struggle with physical dependency and controlling their use. This is concerning as there is evidence suggesting the use of highly concentrated THC products is associated with more severe cannabis use disorder symptoms.3 While approximately 3 in 10 persons who report cannabis have a cannabis use disorder, this figure is rising.14 Some signs and symptoms of cannabis use disorder include trying but failing to quit using cannabis or giving up important activities with friends and family in favor of using cannabis.5 The risk of developing cannabis use disorder is stronger in people who start using cannabis during youth or adolescence and who use cannabis more frequently.6

Brain Health

Cannabis use directly affects brain function—specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time. 78

Heart Health

Cannabis can make the heart beat faster and raise blood pressure immediately after use.910 It could also lead to increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and other vascular diseases. 1112131415


Cannabis, like alcohol, negatively affects several skills required for safe driving. You can choose not to drive—and remind your friends and family to do the same—after using cannabis.

  • It can slow reaction time and ability to make decisions.716
  • Cannabis can impair coordination and distort perception.716
  • The use of multiple substances (such as cannabis and alcohol) at the same time can increase impairment. 17
  • Some studies have shown an association between cannabis use and car crashes; however, more research is needed.717
Keep Reading: Cannabis and Driving

Lung Health

Smoked cannabis, regardless of how it is smoked, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to small blood vessels. 1819

Mental Health

Cannabis use has been linked to social anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia (a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that aren't really there), but scientists don't yet fully understand the relationships between these mental health disorders and cannabis use. 2021

Unintentional Poisoning

Edibles, or food and drink products infused with cannabis, have some different risks than smoked cannabis, including a greater risk of poisoning. 7 Some cannabis edibles have packaging designed to mimic the appearance of well-known branded snacks and candy that appeal to children, which increases the risk for unintentional ingestion. Children who consume THC-containing products can become very sick. 22

If You Use Cannabis Products‎

If you use cannabis products, keep them in a locked childproof container and out of the sight and reach of children. For additional questions, you can contact your healthcare provider, your health department, your local or regional poison control center at 1-800-222-1222, or 911 if it's an emergency.

FDA Warns About Children Accidentally Ingesting Food Products Containing THC

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP23-07-01-006, NSDUH Series H-58). Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2023. Accessed on February 9, 2024.
  2. Rosenberg EC, Tsien RW, Whalley BJ, et al. Cannabinoids and Epilepsy. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):747-768. doi: 10.1007/s13311-015-0375-5.
  3. Freeman TP, Winstock AR. Examining the profile of high-potency cannabis and its association with severity of cannabis dependence. Psychol Med. 2015;45(15):3181-3189. doi: 10.1017/S0033291715001178
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP22-07-01-005, NSDUH Series H-57). Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed on February 9, 2024.
  5. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA, 2013.
  6. Winters KC, Lee C-YS. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: Association with recent use and age. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;92(1-3):239-247. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005.
  7. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: the current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2017. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  8. Batalla A, Bhattacharyya S, Yücel M, et al. Structural and functional imaging studies in chronic cannabis users: A systematic review of adolescent and adult findings. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e55821. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055821.
  9. Sidney S. Cardiovascular consequences of marijuana use. J Clin Pharmacol. 2002;42(S1):64S-70S.
  10. Subramaniam VN, Menezes AR, DeSchutter A, et al. The cardiovascular effects of marijuana: Are the potential adverse effects worth the high? Mo Med. 2019;116(2):146-153.
  11. Wolff V, Armspach JP, Lauer V, et al. Cannabis-related stroke: Myth or reality? Stroke. 2013;44(2):558-563. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.112.671347.
  12. Wolff V, Zinchenko I, Quenardelle V, et al. Characteristics and prognosis of ischemic stroke in young cannabis users compared with non-cannabis users. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;66(18):2052-2053. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2015.08.867.
  13. Franz CA, Frishman WH. Marijuana use and cardiovascular disease. Cardiol Rev. 2016;24(4):158-162. doi: 10.1097/CRD.0000000000000103.
  14. Rumalla K, Reddy AY, Mittal MK. Association of recreational marijuana use with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2016;25(2):452-460. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2015.10.019.
  15. Rumalla K, Reddy AY, Mittal MK. Recreational marijuana use and acute ischemic stroke: A population-based analysis of hospitalized patients in the United States. J Neurol Sci. 2016;364:191-196. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2016.01.066.
  16. Compton R. Marijuana-impaired driving. A report to Congress. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffics Safety Administration, 2017. Accessed February 9, 2024.
  17. Lacey JH, Kelley-Baker T, Berning A, et al. Drug and alcohol crash risk: A case-control study (Report No. DOT HS 812 355). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 2016.
  18. Tashkin DP, Simmons MS, Tseng CH. Impact of changes in regular use of marijuana and/or tobacco on chronic bronchitis. COPD. 2012;9(4):367-374. doi: 10.3109/15412555.2012.671868.
  19. Wang X, Derakhshandeh R, Liu J, et al. One minute of marijuana secondhand smoke exposure substantially impairs vascular endothelial function. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5(8):e003858. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.116.003858.
  20. Fattore L, Fratta W. How important are sex differences in cannabinoid action? Br J Pharmacol. 2010;160(3):544-548. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00776.x.
  21. Volkow ND, Swanson JM, Evins AE, et al. Effects of cannabis use on human behavior, including cognition, motivation, and psychosis: A review. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(3):292-297. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.3278.
  22. Richards JR, Smith NE, Moulin AK. Unintentional cannabis ingestion in children: A systematic review. J Pediatr. 2017;190:142-152. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.07.005.