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Medical Marijuana - Topic Overview

How do you use medical marijuana?

Marijuana is usually smoked. It can also be brewed into tea, vaporized, applied to the skin, or cooked in food.

You may be affected for hours after you use marijuana. How soon you feel the effects of marijuana and how long they last depends on many things, including:

  • How much you used.
  • How you took it.
  • How your own body responds to it.

Unwanted side effects may include:

Is it addictive?

Some people who regularly use marijuana become addicted. This means that they keep using marijuana even though it's having harmful effects on their lives.

The risk of addiction is higher in people who:

  • Start using marijuana when they're young.
  • Use it every day.
  • Have mental health problems.

People who use marijuana often and then quit may have withdrawal symptoms. These include anxiety, trouble sleeping, and intense cravings for the drug.

Are there alternatives to medical marijuana?

Doctors can prescribe two legal alternatives: dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet). Both of these drugs contain a man-made form of THC, the main chemical in marijuana.

Nabilone is used to relieve nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Dronabinol can relieve this kind of nausea and vomiting too. It may also improve the appetite of people who have AIDS. Both drugs come in pill form.

Talk to your doctor if you think these medicines might help relieve your symptoms.

What is synthetic marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana is made of dried plant material that is treated with chemicals that produce effects like marijuana's effects. It is sold in the form of bath salts or incense under many names, such as K2 or Spice. The labels often claim that these products are "safe" or "natural." But in fact, the active chemicals are created in a lab. And they could be dangerous.

But young people often try these products because they are easy to buy and they may not be detected by drug tests.

People think that using these drugs will make them feel the same as when they use marijuana. But these drugs are different from marijuana. And the effects are hard to predict. That's because the type and strength of the chemicals used are often unknown. Some people have reported severe symptoms, such as:

  • Fast heart rate and high blood pressure.
  • Vomiting.
  • Feeling agitated or confused.
  • Feeling like others want to harm them (paranoia), or seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations).

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 21, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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