Chronic Health Effects of Cannabis Use

Chronic Health Effects of Cannabis Use

  • Selective impairment of cognitive functioning which include the organization and integration of complex information involving various mechanisms of attention and memory processes;
  • Prolonged use may lead to greater impairment, which may not recover with cessation of use, and which could affect daily life functions;
  • Development of a cannabis dependence syndrome characterized by a loss of control over cannabis use is likely in chronic users;
  • Cannabis use can exacerbate schizophrenia in affected individuals;
  • • epithetial injury of the trachea and major bronchi is caused by long-term cannabis smoking;
  • Airway injury, lung inflammation, and impaired pulmonary defence against infection from persistent cannabis consumption over prolonged periods;
  • Heavy cannabis consumption is associated with a higher prevalence of symptoms of chronic bronchitis and a higher incidence of acute bronchitis than in the non-smoking cohort;
  • Cannabis used during pregnancy is associated with impairment in fetal development leading to a reduction in birth weight;
  • Cannabis use during pregnancy may lead to postnatal risk of rare forms of cancer although more research is needed in this area.


The health consequences of cannabis use in developing countries are largely unknown beacuse of limited and non-systematic research, but there is no reason a priori to expect that biological effects on individuals in these populations would be substantially different to what has been observed in developed countries. However, other consequences might be different given the cultural and social differences between countries.


Therapeutic Uses of Cannabinoids

Several studies have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. Dronabinol (tetrahydrocannabinol) has been available by prescription for more than a decade in the USA. Other therapeutic uses of cannabinoids are being demonstrated by controlled studies, including treatment of asthma and glaucoma, as an antidepressant, appetite stimulant, anticonvulsant and anti-spasmodic, research in this area should continue. For example, more basic research on the central and peripheral mechanisms of the effects of cannabinoids on gastrointestinal function may improve the ability to alleviate nausea and emesis. More research is needed on the basic neuropharmacology of THC and other cannabinoids so that better therapeutic agents can be found.