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Medical Marijuana Side Effects (Long Term)

Along with its short-term side effects, regular users of marijuana may also experience side effects over the long term. These side effects include respiratory problems such as lung infections and a daily cough for those who take medical marijuana through smoking; depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, suicidal thoughts, and health problems in babies if cannabis is used during pregnancy.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Whether or not marijuana is addictive has been hotly contested for a long time. There is no agreed-upon definition of marijuana addiction, but the World Health Organization has established criteria for cannabis dependence. To be considered marijuana-dependent by the WHO, a person must be an active user and fit three or more of the following criteria. The user:

  • has a strong desire or compulsion to take cannabis;
  • has trouble controlling when they take cannabis, when they do not, and how much they take;
  • experiences withdrawal when reducing or stopping use of the drug, including either symptoms of withdrawal or use of a similar drug to achieve similar results;
  • requires more marijuana to get the same results;
  • neglects other pleasures and interests in order to either use, obtain, or recover from marijuana;
  • continues to use cannabis even though it causes harm.

Risks of marijuana dependence are lower than dependence risks of other common drugs. The risk of cannabis dependence has been estimated at about 9%, as compared to 32% for nicotine, 23% for heroin, and 15% for alcohol. The risk of marijuana dependence climbs to 16%, however, when use begins in adolescence. A family history of addictive behavior also increases this risk.

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