Skip to content

These Marijuana Side Effects are Scaring Doctors

It can cause distressing issues.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Marijuana has never been more accepted or widely available legally, a trend that is set to continue as more states approve cannabis for recreational use. But contrary to the popular conception that cannabis is relatively risk-free, like any substance it can cause uncomfortable and even distressing side effects. A new element in the equation: Many cannabis products currently for sale are much different than the joints of yore. Read on to find out more about the cannabis side effects that have doctors concerned—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


"I Felt Like My Body Was Levitating"

Woman fainted

This week, the New York Times reported on a teenager who had been vaping cannabis frequently when she developed disturbing symptoms, including frequent vomiting, as often as 20 times in two hours. "I felt like my body was levitating," she said.

After a number of doctor's visits, she was diagnosed with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which can cause nausea and vomiting in people who frequently use cannabis.


What Are the Symptoms of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Young vomiting woman near sink in bathroom

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS, can cause nausea and vomiting that can be severe. ("Hyperemesis" means severe vomiting.) Abdominal pain, weight loss, and dehydration are other symptoms. Hot baths or showers may be the only way those affected can get relief.

"CHS is more than just a side effect of marijuana," warns the Cleveland Clinic. "It is a condition that can lead to health complications if left untreated." These complications can include inflammation of the esophagus, chronic dehydration, and malnutrition. 


Youth Using Cannabis At Risk

Woman with a cannabis leaf in front of her face.

The Times reported that people may be at risk of issues beyond CHS because the oil and waxes used in cannabis vapes can contain up to 90 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. This is a much higher concentration than the joints of previous eras. (In 1995, the average cannabis sample contained 4 percent THC.) This may have the effect of poisoning users. 

"Marijuana is not as dangerous as a drug like fentanyl, but it can have potentially harmful effects — especially for young people, whose brains are still developing," the Times reported. "In addition to uncontrollable vomiting and addiction, adolescents who frequently use high doses of cannabis may also experience psychosis that could possibly lead to a lifelong psychiatric disorder, an increased likelihood of developing depression and suicidal ideation, changes in brain anatomy and connectivity and poor memory."

In people of any age, marijuana use has been associated with a number of side effects, including mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis; increased heart rate (and a corresponding increased risk of heart attack); and drug interactions. 


What Causes Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?


Experts aren't sure what causes CHS. It might be that in some people, cannabis overstimulates the endocannabinoid receptors throughout the body, leading to symptoms. The only cure, experts say, is to stop using cannabis completely. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
Filed Under