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In this article, we will explore some of the side effects that patients may or may not experience when medicating with cannabis. Side effects will include themes like dry mouth, anxiety, excessive sweating and other potential reactions to early use of medical cannabis. This is an important read intended to guide patients, not to frighten them.

Medical cannabis should be approached with the same precaution as any other prescribed medication, in that it has both, potential benefits and side effects. This post will cover the most commonly known and reported unwanted effects of using medical cannabis. The most noticeable of these side effects depends on how they are taken, inhaled or ingested. With inhaled use, you may notice that you have dry mouth, coughing (with or without mucus), and may be susceptible to developing bronchitis, which is the inflammation of airway tubes in your lungs. This side effect may further lead to shortness of breath, wheezing, a feeling of chest tightness and a low-grade fever.

Though not common with the initial use of inhaled or ingested medical cannabis, some people may experience upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting with medical cannabis that often resolves in hours. An exception to this is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS), a condition that involves recurrent episodes of nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, typically one to five years after regular use of a cannabinoid product.

The mental effects of medical cannabis that may be concerning and must be considered before operating heavy machinery or doing tasks that involve full concentration are dysphoria (a general feeling of unease, discomfort and low mood), sedation, anxiety, dizziness, and an altered sense of time. Physical side effects may include reduced coordination, ataxia (a sense of not being in control of your body movements), redness of the eyes, changes in visual perceptions, decreased eye blinking rate, and slowed pupillary response to light that may cause sudden or ongoing headaches. As well, changes in your rate and rhythm of breathing and sweating may also occur.

In particular, when people begin taking medical cannabis they may initially have side effects involving their cardiovascular system, including increased or decreased heart rate and irregular heart rhythms or arrhythmias. Changes in blood pressure that results in higher or lower blood pressure, or a sudden drop in blood pressure when going from sitting to standing or vice versa, may also be felt. These may not present as noticeable physical side effects, rather it may look and feel like a sudden change in your level of anxiety or depression that may seem out of the ordinary for the user. In these situations, you must seek immediate medical attention when there is an overwhelming feeling or any thoughts of harm to yourself or others, as this is likely to have been caused by the use of medical cannabis. 

Being aware of the most common potential side effects of medical cannabis based on the types of side effects mentioned will help you avoid its use in certain situations or individuals for whom these side effects can be detrimental to their health. If, after consulting with your healthcare provider, it’s determined that medical cannabis is appropriate for you, being knowledgeable and mindful about side effects will help you know what to look out for when using it.

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