Medical marijuana is a precious substance with so many incredible benefits. It eases symptoms related to a plethora of conditions, reducing pain, seizures, anxiety, sleep issues, and more. However, like all substances, cannabis can produce a few less-than-desirable side effects in some individuals, though none as dangerous as the side effects contributed to many prescription pharmaceuticals. Fortunately, medical marijuana side effects are easy to remedy, or prevent entirely, and we’ll teach you how!
Dry Mouth (a.k.a. Cotton Mouth)
Dry mouth and thirst are two very common side effects attributed to marijuana, as well as a myriad of prescription pharmaceuticals. Many people believe that smoking cannabis is the culprit for cotton mouth, but this is not true—just ask those who vape or use edibles to distribute their MMJ. In truth, dry mouth and heightened thirst is actually caused by a chemical reaction from the THC. There are cannabinoid receptors all over our bodies, including in the submandibular gland which produces saliva. When cannabis interacts with the receptors in those glands less saliva is produced, causing a dry mouth and excess thirst.
There are many easy ways to solve this common problem. First of all, we always suggest staying as hydrated as possible. Hydration will help to ease thirst, of course, but it will also lubricate the mouth. If water isn’t enough, try a mouthwash or gum that contains xylitol, a substance that increases saliva production. Additionally, if you find yourself with a dry mouth often, avoid other foods and substances, like alcohol and tobacco, that can decrease saliva production.
Red or Bloodshot Eyes
For many individuals, bloodshot and red eyes are the tell-tale signs of cannabis use. While they may not look very attractive, this side effect is purely an aesthetic issue and does not pose any danger or long-term effects. Interestingly, for people suffering from high blood pressure or glaucoma using medical marijuana, their red eyes are caused by the chemical reaction that also provides them relief. THC is incredible at lowering blood pressure, especially intraocular pressure. When the blood pressure decreases in the eye, though, the blood vessels there will dilate, bringing increased blood flow to the eye and making them appear red.
Once again, we strongly suggest drinking water when treating red eyes caused by marijuana. This may seem unconnected, but dehydration will only increase the redness. If addition to staying hydrated, over-the-counter anti-redness eye drops are one of the best ways to help your eyes appear normal. Eye drops will also help provide moisture if your eyes are dry. Lastly, if the redness is very stubborn, causing you stress, or garnering weird looks from strangers, try using a strain that is lower in THC and higher in CBD or CBN. These strains will provide similar relief without producing dramatically bloodshot eyes.
Drowsiness & Fatigue
Two of the most commonly cited side effects that our patients struggle with are drowsiness or fatigue. For those seeking relief from anxiety, insomnia, or PTSD-related nightmares, this may not be a negative side effect. For others, like patients with chronic pain and seizures, who rely on medical marijuana to treat their conditions, fatigue and drowsiness may pose a problem in their day-to-day lives.
Unlike bloodshot eyes and cotton mouth, preventing or treating the fatigue associated with marijuana is more complicated. Unfortunately, the solution for this side effect comes down mostly to trial and error. If you struggle with drowsiness while medicating, switching to a sativa strain, rather than indica which can increase feelings of fatigue, can help you feel more alive and “lifted.” Hybrid strains, a mix of sativa and indica, can also provide the “best of both worlds.”
Many people avoid marijuana throughout life after they’ve experienced a bad high, often one that resulted in paranoia. Paranoia caused by marijuana is made even worse because sometimes it is completely unexpected. A patient can have a go-to strain that they use time and time again, until one day it causes increased paranoia. While paranoia isn’t always avoidable because it isn’t always expected, there are some ways you can decrease the risk of experiencing it.
Firstly, if you’re more prone to paranoid thoughts while using cannabis, try switching to strains where CBD outweighs THC. The low dose of THC will still provide its medicinal benefits, but the CBD will help negate paranoia. It can also help to control doses. Instead of smoking or vaping cannabis—two methods of consumption that are difficult to dose accurately—try capsules, tinctures, or homemade edibles which are more measurable. Finally, it can be helpful to create a calming, safe environment prior to consuming cannabis.
Increased Hunger (a.k.a. The Munchies)
Like fatigue and drowsiness, the munchies may be a positive or negative side effect depending on the patient. For individuals undergoing chemotherapy or battling eating disorders, medical marijuana side effects like hunger can help them feel and be healthier by encouraging them to eat. For people who aren’t looking to increase their appetite, the munchies may be an unwelcome side effect that leaves them prone to binge eating and unhealthy choices surrounding food.
If you fall into the latter category, rest assured that not all hope is lost. You can, in fact, avoid or learn to cope with the munchies. The first, and most important, strategy to avoid falling victim to this side effect is consuming regular meals and snacks throughout the day. Furthermore, eating before you dose while you’re already satiated will help you avoid the munchies. If you still struggle, try brushing your teeth. The minty flavor will deter you from eating, simply because eating after brushing never tastes good. It can also help to immediately find something to focus on after consuming cannabis. Reading a book, playing a video game, or starting a puzzle will keep your mind busy, and therefore you’ll be less likely to pay attention to false hunger pangs.
Overall, medical marijuana side effects do not outweigh the benefits of the substance. Many issues people face with marijuana can be easily fixed by small tweaks to their routine or by switching to a different strain.