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4 Possible Side Effects of Marijuana Abuse You Probably Didn't Know

By Steph Coelho
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on December 04, 2021
Find out about the risks and long-term side effects of marijuana abuse.

Marijuana is a popular recreational drug that is often thought of as harmless. Fatal marijuana overdoses are exceptionally rare, but it is possible to become addicted to weed. Some of the potential side effects of long-term marijuana abuse include:

Memory Problems: One of the most notable long-term side effects of weed relates to the brain. When you consume cannabis, the drug temporarily stops the brain from forming new memories and picking up new information. Research shows that frequent marijuana users may be more likely to develop false memories. They may also experience memory issues down the road—especially if they started consuming cannabis at a young age. 

Dr. Dimitar Marinov tells WebMD Connect to Care that data from various animal and human studies suggest that prolonged use of high doses of THC may increase a person’s risk of developing short-term memory issues and psychosis. He adds that “these effects were much rarer in individuals using cannabis with higher CBD content.” Essentially, CBD can help counteract some of the undesirable effects of THC. 

Erectile Dysfunction: There’s some evidence that frequent cannabis use may limit sexual function. An animal study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine discovered that marijuana inhibits erectile tissue receptors. Because marijuana inhibits regular bodily functions, it may make it harder for a person to get an erection. One 2010 study suggests that chronic marijuana use may cause men to have trouble reaching orgasm. 

Mental Health Issues: Chronic marijuana smoking poses a mental health risk, particularly in young people whose brains have not yet fully developed.  Studies have also linked heavy marijuana use in teens to mental health issues later in life. 

Chronic Cough: People who regularly smoke marijuana have a higher likelihood of developing a chronic cough. This can lead to breathing issues and excess phlegm production. In fact, the side effects are very similar to those of tobacco smoking. 

Get Help Now

While there is a perception that marijuana is a harmless drug, it does pose certain risks. This is especially true for young people. Studies have shown that young weed users are more vulnerable to the side effects of long-term marijuana use. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.

Treatment & Resources for Marijuana Addiction