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Just like any other medicine, medicinal cannabis is certainly not without risks. The most important risk factors are:

The evidence suggests that the risk of developing an addiction to cannabis when taken as a medicine is minimal. The recommended dose for medicinal use is often lower than that of a recreational user, and a medical professional should always be involved in medicating and monitoring the patient.

Side effects and risks: a special warning

Patients should take particular care, however, if they have prior problematic substance use. High doses of medicinal cannabis, taken over long periods, may lead to dose escalation and misuse. The abrupt cessation (quitting) may then cause withdrawal symptoms, such as mild forms of restlessness, irritability, insomnia, vivid dreams, and decreased appetite.

The consumption of medicinal cannabis has not been shown to lead to life threatening adverse events, even at very high doses. However, an overdose of cannabis (THC) can result in a range of adverse effects, with high variability in tolerance between subjects. The most common adverse effect of overdosing a single dose of THC is anxiety, which, in some cases, may lead to mild acute psychotic states (panic attacks). In addition, increased heart rate and changes in blood pressure may occur.

Specifically, it is possible that a THC overdose will result in acute hypotension and/or tachycardia. In some cases, nausea and vomiting and diarrhea may be observed as well. That aside, impaired executive function and motor control may lead to feelings of confusion, depersonalisation, loss of control, or even helplessness. Also reddened eyes and a dry mouth may be experienced as very unpleasant to some individuals. Most adverse effects will spontaneously resolve, usually within a few hours, when serum levels of THC fall.

For more information on drug interactions with marijuana, please visit the Drug Interactions Checker.

Compounds which have a structure similar to THC are known as cannabinoids.

In the past (for example, in the Obama administration) it has been stated that it is unlikely that the federal government is interested in pursuing individuals complying with state-mandated regulations surrounding legalized cannabis for recreational use, although the CSA law still gives them authority to do so. These rules can and have change based on political changes that may occur in the legislature.


Medical marijuana in the U.S. is controlled at the state level. It is important to recognize that these state marijuana laws do not change the fact that using marijuana continues to be an offense under Federal law. Per federal law, cannabis is illegal and a schedule 1 substance as noted in the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. Use of medical marijuana outside of the state laws for illegal use or trafficking will not be tolerated by state or federal government.

Long term effects of heavy use can include:

Cannabis may increase the effects of other drugs that cause drowsiness, including antidepressants, alcohol, antihistamines, sedatives (used to treat insomnia), pain relievers, anxiety medicines, seizure medicines, and muscle relaxants.

While cannabis (marijuana) remains a federal DEA Schedule 1 controlled substance, research has resulted in development and marketing of medications which are synthetic prescription cannabinoid products.