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Health effects of marijuana

Learn more about the health effects of using marijuana. This includes lung health, secondhand smoke, heart health, mental health, and more.

Table of Contents


Getting high can impact your decision making. This means you might do things that could result in injury. It can also change the way things appear (perception) and slow your reaction time, affecting your ability to drive or operate machinery safely.

Smoking and your lungs

Smoke hurts your lungs. When you smoke marijuana, you inhale toxins, irritants, and carcinogens — many of which are the same as those found in tobacco smoke. Smoking marijuana can lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and phlegm production. These symptoms generally improve when people who smoke marijuana quit.

Secondhand marijuana smoke

Secondhand marijuana smoke contains THC and many of the same toxic compounds in tobacco smoke. So it could affect anyone who breathes it in, especially pregnant women, babies, and children.

Heart health

Smoking marijuana may raise blood pressure, can raise your heart rate, and may increase the chance of heart attack. If you smoke it regularly over the long term, it can cause heart disease.

Brain development

Babies’ and kids’ brains are still developing, and are more affected by marijuana than adults’ brains. Scientists are still learning about what marijuana does to developing brains, but some studies show that marijuana use by mothers during pregnancy may be linked to problems with attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior problems in their children.

Your brain doesn’t finish developing until you are in your mid-20’s, so using marijuana before then can interfere with that. It can affect memory, learning and attention, and make problem solving harder.

Mental health

We still have a lot to learn about whether marijuana use leads to mental health problems or if having a mental illness makes people more likely to use marijuana. As with other drugs, things like the age of users, how early they start, the amount of the drug they used, and their genetics all could impact whether or not long-term problems develop.


Most people do not become addicted, but research shows that some heavy users can show signs of dependence — the more often they use marijuana, the more they need it. They may continue to use it even when it causes problems with their life, health, work, family, and friends. When they try to quit, they can have real withdrawal symptoms like cravings, trouble sleeping, anxiety, or loss of appetite.

At this time, there is less information about how long it takes for symptoms to begin after stopping use of edibles or how long they might last.

For more information about the health effects of marijuana, visit the CDC.

If you are looking for substance use treatment and recovery services, contact the MA Substance Use Helpline. Helpline services are free and confidential. Caring, trained specialists will help you understand the treatment system and your options.