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Surprising Side Effects of Marijuana Edibles

Legal doesn’t mean safe, experts warn.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Marijuana is legal in a number of U.S. states for both medical and recreational use—but that doesn't necessarily mean there aren't any risks associated with taking it. "It is critical to tell your doctor if you are using any cannabis product," says Yasmin Hurd, Ph.D, Director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai. "Like any drug, cannabis is broken down into various active chemicals that your body can use by liver enzymes. If you are taking any other pharmaceutical drugs, cannabis may interact with the same liver enzymes and either diminish or increase the activity beyond its intended use. So, your doctor absolutely has to know to avoid a potentially dangerous drug interaction. One of the benefits of legalization is that there should not be any risk in being honest with your doctor about your cannabis use. The more honest that you can be, the better medical care you can receive." Here are five side effects of marijuana edibles you might not be aware of. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Heart Issues

closeup man's chest heart attack

Doctors have shared concerns about the impact of marijuana on heart health after a THC-laced lollipop caused a 70-year-old Canadian man to have a heart attack. "One of the most reliable acute effects of the THC in cannabis is that it increases heart rate," says Ryan Vandrey, P.h D. "And it's dose dependent. Even at modest doses you can get increases in heart rate of 20 to 30 beats per minute. And it can go higher. If someone with cardiovascular risk factors experiences a short-term bump in heart rate, that would be a concern. Part of my frustration with products like this is that nobody is going to take just a couple of licks and then put it away. There should be no circumstance where you get a product and you're not supposed to consume the whole thing and it's not clear when you're supposed to stop."


Mental Health Issues

Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

"In addition to potentially developing an addiction to cannabis, with use of highly potent cannabis products, we see mental health related problems," says Dr. Hurd. "For example, issues with attention, memory, and cognition. Those are a side effect of chronic cannabis use, and even occasional use can impair motor issues. We also see the risk for psychosis, especially in certain younger people, when they use cannabis."


It's Easy To Take Way Too Much

Woman fainted

Taking too much marijuana can lead to a host of unpleasant outcomes, including nausea, anxiety, and psychosis. "Because ingested cannabis needs to be digested prior to absorption, the onset of effects is typically delayed, which might lead someone to consume more than intended early on only to experience symptoms consistent with overconsumption later on," says Lawrence C. Loh, MD, MPH, clinician and public health researcher at the University of Toronto.

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Buyer Beware


If you are going to take edibles, make sure they have been vetted to avoid any potentially dangerous health outcomes. "For those who do consume, and have never done so before, we recommend consuming licensed products, to avoid the possible issues linked with the ongoing availability of illegal edibles that may be contaminated with mold, pesticide residues, or other drugs," says Dr. Loh. "We also recommend proceeding slowly, even if no particular effects are felt initially, and consuming with others around who may be able to assist in the event of an unforeseen response."

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Is the Label On Your Edibles Even Accurate?

Edible medical marijuana cookies.

One study showed that many marijuana labels for edibles either overstated or understated the amount of THC in the product. "If this study is representative of the medical cannabis market, we may have hundreds of thousands of patients buying cannabis products that are mislabeled," says Dr. Vandrey. "We didn't have a guess as to how many products would have inaccurate labels, but I was surprised it was so many."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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