does marijuana hurt your liver

Recreational Marijuana FAQ

In this Article

In this Article
In this Article
  • How does marijuana work on the brain?
  • What effects can marijuana have?
  • What are the health effects of marijuana?
  • How does marijuana affect teens?
  • What are the different ways you can take marijuana, and how do they affect you?
  • How do edibles affect you compared to smoking marijuana?
  • How can marijuana affect your ability to drive?
  • If you’re pregnant, how does marijuana affect your unborn baby?
  • Can marijuana use lead to harder drugs?
  • What’s the difference between recreational and medical marijuana?
  • Is marijuana addictive?

More than 20 million Americans on average use marijuana each month, making it the most popular street drug in the country. ElevenВ states — Alaska, California, Colorado,В Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada,В Oregon, Vermont, WashingtonВ — and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. Many other states are considering laws to make it legal.

The number of Americans who are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana has risen. More than 60%В of people surveyed now support the idea. Most Americans don’t think marijuana is harmful. Yet despite the increasing acceptance, marijuana use does have some risks.

Here’s a look at how marijuana can affect your health.

How does marijuana work on the brain?

When you smoke or eat marijuana, chemicals called cannabinoids are released into your body. One main cannabinoid is THC.

Cannabinoids move from your lungs or stomach into your blood. From there, they travel to your brain and the rest of your body. THC acts on certain receptors in your brain. This creates the “high” some people feel.

What effects can marijuana have?

“Marijuana has a range of effects that vary based on the person and the potency,” says Christian Hopfer, MD, associate professor of psychiatry in the division of substance dependence at the University of Colorado. The more marijuana you use, the longer you use it, and the more THC it contains, the more effects you’ll feel.

In the short term, marijuana can affect your:

  • Ability to think and solve problems
  • Coordination
  • Reaction time
  • Judgment
  • Memory
  • Mood

Over the long term, regular use can lead to:

  • Memory loss
  • Trouble learning and thinking
  • Changes in brain structure
  • Trouble at work or in school

What are the health effects of marijuana?

Marijuana affects your body in many ways. Some of them are:

  • Lung problems, such as a chronic cough and trouble breathing
  • Intense nausea and vomiting
  • Faster heart rate, which may raise your risk for a heart attack
  • Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis

How does marijuana affect teens?

The effects of marijuana can be even more serious in young people. “There’s a much higher risk in people whose brains are developing — those 25 and under,” says Kevin Hill, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Substance Abuse Consultation Service at McLean Hospital. “If you’re a young person and you’re using regularly, there’s a whole host of problems that can occur.”

Regular marijuana use during the teen years has been linked to:

  • Lower IQ
  • Changes to areas of the brain involved with learning, memory, and attention
  • Anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems
  • Dropping out of school
  • Worse performance in college

The ABCD study will help researchers learn more about the effects of marijuana on young people. It launched in 2015 and will follow 10,000 kids from age 9 or 10 into early adulthood to see how drugs, alcohol, and other exposures affect brain development.

What are the different ways you can take marijuana, and how do they affect you?

Smoking is probably the most common way to use marijuana. When you smoke from a joint, pipe, or bong, the heat releases active chemicals from the plant into the smoke, which you breathe in.

Marijuana comes in other forms, too.

  • Vaporization. Similar to an e-cigarette, a vaporizer heats dried marijuana and releases a vapor. This vapor contains THC and other cannabinoids, but without the toxic smoke. It is unknown if this method is less harmful to the lungs than smoking marijuana.
  • Dabbing. In this newer delivery method, you heat and breathe in concentrated cannabis oils that contain up to 80% THC. Dabbing produces a strong high. Its safety is still unknown.
  • Edibles. Marijuana can be baked into foods like cookies or brownies. You can also take it by mouth in an oil, capsule, or tincture.

How do edibles affect you compared to smoking marijuana?

The way you take marijuana affects how quickly your body absorbs the THC and other chemicals. “It’s going to be a more rapid onset of action with an inhaled product,” Hopfer says.

Because edibles work more slowly, there’s a greater chance you’ll take too much. “You take a bite of an edible product and nothing happens. Then you take another bite and another bite, not understanding that it takes time for the effects to occur,” Hill explains. Eating large amounts of marijuana can expose you to dangerously high THC levels.

How can marijuana affect your ability to drive?

Marijuana affects many of the skills you need to drive safely, including your:

  • Judgment
  • Motor skills
  • Reaction time
  • Perception

Your risk of getting into a car accident goes up significantly after you’ve used marijuana. “Marijuana definitely affects your ability to drive, just like alcohol does, but you make different errors,” Hill says.

Alcohol makes you forgetful. You might neglect to check your mirrors or drive over the speed limit. With marijuana, you’re more aware that you’re impaired, so you become overly cautious. “When you’re drunk you run red lights, and when you’re stoned you stop at green lights,” Hill says.

After you’ve used marijuana there’s no way to tell whether you’re safe to drive. “We don’t have the technology to test the amount of impairment with cannabis like we do with alcohol,” Hill says. A breathalyzer test can tell if your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. No test can tell whether you’re too high to drive.

The best advice is to avoid driving after you’ve used marijuana. Or at least wait a few hours before you get behind the wheel.

If you’re pregnant, how does marijuana affect your unborn baby?

We know the effects of alcohol on pregnancy. Miscarriage, birth defects, low birth weight, and developmental problems are possible. The effects of marijuana during pregnancy aren’t as well known, Hill says.

Early research suggests that children born to mothers who smoked marijuana during pregnancy have more problems with:

  • Emotions
  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Impulsive behavior

THC can also get into breast milk. It’s not clear what effect this might have on a baby’s brain.В Some studies show thatВ marijuana use during pregnancy can cause low birth weight in newborns.

Can marijuana use lead to harder drugs?

One of the biggest arguments against legalizing marijuana is that it is a “gateway” drug. The idea is that smoking marijuana might lead people to use other, harder drugs. There is a link between marijuana use and other drug use. Yet there’s no proof smoking pot drives people into hard drugs. “Just because they happen to use marijuana doesn’t mean they’re going to use opioids in 6 years,” Hill says.

Drug use has many causes, including genes, exposure to drugs at home, and stress. It’s possible that people who are more likely to use drugs take marijuana first because it’s easy for them to get. Most people who use marijuana don’t go on to use harder drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.В Find out the truth behind common marijuana myths.

What’s the difference between recreational and medical marijuana?

“There really isn’t a difference,” Hopfer says. “Medical marijuana is just marijuana that a doctor has recommended.” Both contain THC and have the same effects on the brain and body. Medical marijuana is used to treat a number of conditions including seizures, nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and pain. But there isn’t much research into how well it works.

Is marijuana addictive?

“There’s no question about it,” Hill says. “Marijuana is both physically and psychologically addictive, but most people who use it don’t become addicted.” Around 9% of adults who use marijuana and 17% of teens will get addicted.


Arria, A. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, September 2015.

Drug Policy Alliance: “How Marijuana is Consumed.”

Filbey, F. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, December 2015.

Gallup: “In U.S., 58% Back Legal Marijuana Use.”

Hancock-Allen, J. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, July 2015.

Kevin Hill, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; director, Substance Abuse Consultation Service, McLean Hospital.

Christian Hopfer, MD, associate professor of psychiatry, division of substance dependence, University of Colorado.

Kuzma, E. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, October 2014.

March of Dimes: “Alcohol during pregnancy.”

The Centers for Disease Control: “What You Need to Know About Marijuana Use and Pregnancy

Meier, M. PNAS, October 2012.

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Can marijuana use during pregnancy harm the baby?” “Does marijuana use affect driving?” “DrugFacts: Marijuana,” “Is marijuana addictive?” “Is marijuana a gateway drug?” “Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders?” “Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Brain Development (ABCD Study),” “Marijuana’s Lasting Effects on the Brain.”

News release, The University of Texas at Dallas.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.: “Marijuana use and perceived risk of harm from marijuana use varies within and across states.”

Governing: “State Marijuana Laws in 2018 Map.”

Learn how recreational marijuana use can affect your health. And find out if it’s addictive.

Marijuana Study Finds CBD Can Cause Liver Damage

Hemp oil, Hand holding bottle of Cannabis oil against Marijuana plant, CBD oil pipette. . [+] alternative remedy or medication,medicine concept

There is no denying that cannabidiol, more commonly referred to as CBD, is rapidly becoming more popular in the United States than sliced bread. It is a hot trend that got started several years ago after Dr. Sanja Gupta showed the nation in his documentary ‘Weed 2’ just how this non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant was preventing epileptic children from having seizures.

Since then, CBD, a substance often touted as being safer than popping pills, has become highly revered as an alternative treatment for a variety of common ailments from anxiety to chronic pain. But a new study suggests that CBD may spawn its fair share of health issues. Specifically, scientists have learned that this substance could be damaging our livers in the same way as alcohol and other drugs.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences recently rolled up their sleeves to investigate CBD hepatotoxicity in mice. What they found was while this cannabis derivative is gaining significant recognition as of late in the world of wellness, people that use CBD are at an elevated risk for liver toxicity.

The findings, which were published earlier this year in the journal Molecules, suggest that while people may be using CBD as a safer alternative to conventional pain relievers, like acetaminophen, the compound may actually be just as harmful to their livers.

It is the methods used in this study that makes it most interesting.

First, researchers utilized all of the dosage and safety recommendations from a CBD-based drug known as Epidiolex. If this name sounds familiar, it should. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it as a treatment for certain kinds of childhood epilepsy. It was a development that marked the first time in history that a cannabis-based medicine was approved for nationwide distribution in the United States.

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Researchers then spent some time examining mice under the influence of various doses of CBD. Some of the animals received lower doses, while others were given more. The dosage is said to have been “the allometrically scaled mouse equivalent doses (MED) of the maximum recommended human maintenance dose of CBD in EPIDIOLEX (20 mg/kg).”

Shockingly, researchers discovered that the mice given higher doses of CBD showed signs of liver damage within 24 hours. To that end, 75 percent of these animals in the sub-acute phase had either died or were on the verge of death within a few days.

Regardless of your feelings on this particular study, it is hard to argue with dead mice – even if you are an all-knowing marijuana expert.

The photo of liver is on the man’s body against gray background, Liver disease or Hepatitis, Concept . [+] with body problem and male anatomy

Liver toxicity is an adverse reaction to various substances. Alcohol, drugs and even some natural supplements can all take their toll on liver function – even in healthy individuals. But this is the first study of its kind indicating that CBD might be just as detrimental to the human liver as other chemicals.

But come to find out, there has been evidence of CBD’s havoc wreaking ways on the liver for some time.

Lead study author Igor Koturbash, PhD, recently told the health site Nutra Ingredients USA that the risk of liver damage from CBD is a nasty side effect printed in black and white on GW Pharma’s Epidiolex packaging.

“If you look at the Epidolex label,” he said, “it clearly states a warning for liver injury. It states you have to monitor the liver enzyme levels of the patients. In clinical trials, 5% to 20% of the patients developed elevated liver enzymes and some patients were withdrawn from the trials,” he added.

In other words, anyone taking CBD regularly and in higher doses might unwittingly find themselves on the road to liver disease.

Previous studies have also suggested that certain components of the cannabis plant may be harmful to the liver. Although one study found that marijuana may actually help prevent liver damage in people with alcoholism, in some cases it worsened the condition.

“Patients with hepatitis C who used cannabis had way more liver scarring than those who didn’t and more progression of their liver disease. Something in the cannabis could actually be increasing fatty liver disease,” Dr. Hardeep Singh, gastroenterologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, told Healthline.

But wait, it gets worse.

The latest study also finds that CBD has the potential for herbal and drug interactions. “CBD differentially regulated more than 50 genes, many of which were linked to oxidative stress responses, lipid metabolism pathways and drug metabolizing enzymes,” the study reads.

However, Dr. Koturbash was quick to point out that the CBD products coming to market may not pose this particular risk. What he is sure of, however, is that more research is needed on CBD to evaluate its overall safety.

As it stands, none of the CBD products being sold in grocery stores and malls all over the nation have received FDA approval. And the only CBD-based medicine that has been approved, Epidiolex, is apparently stamped with a big, fat warning of potential liver damage.

Although CBD is often revered as a miracle drug, a new study finds that it could be causing liver damage.