6 Conditions That Marijuana Can Mimic

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Marijuana is touted as the safest of all recreational drugs. There is considerable debate about that, but the good news is that deaths from marijuana only are rare. Marijuana used in conjunction with other drugs, however, is a much bigger problem. Even alcohol potentiates the effects of weed significantly. After hearing how mellow marijuana is supposed to be, many folks who try it for the first time are surprised by their reactions.

As drugs go, especially naturally occurring drugs, marijuana is one of the most complicated. Made from the cannabis plant, it contains more than 113 active ingredients called cannabinoids. These cannabinoids all affect the body in some way, and not always in the same way.

If you are unfamiliar with marijuana's effects, you might be surprised by the reaction that you experience. You might find that the high isn't exactly what you expected. Sometimes, these reactions might be misinterpreted as a medical or mental health condition.

This article discusses the conditions that marijuana's effects can mimic. Being aware of these side effects can help you better determine if what you are experiencing is something serious.

Anxiety-Inducing Effects

Some people may experience increased anxiety while using marijuana. Some people go to the hospital thinking they've had a medical emergency.

The various psychoactive substances in marijuana are likely to create all sorts of different reactions to its consumption and even the way the drug is consumed makes a difference.

For example, the effects you have after eating an edible can be different than if you smoke a joint. It also takes longer to feel the effects after ingesting the drug than after smoking it, which often leads newcomers to eat too much, thinking they aren't getting anywhere. When the weed starts kicking in, it comes on all at once.

The psychoactive component of marijana, tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), can produce feelings of anxiety and paranoia. High levels of THC and high can produce a high that is more similar to the effects of a stimulant than the sedative most people expect marijuana to be.

Heart Rhythm Disturbances

Marijuana contains hundreds of compounds, and researchers are not fully aware of the effects these substances might have on the body. Because of the fact that it gets you high, scientists have focused on the effects of marijuana on the brain and central nervous system. But, evidence shows that weed also affects the heart.

There are several documented cases of marijuana causing heart rhythm disturbances and even one death through a fatal arrhythmia. Such events might be linked to pre-existing conditions exacerbated by marijuana use. In at least one case of atrial fibrillation, the effect persisted after the high wore off.

Some people may report feeling as if they are having a heart attack after using weed. If you are experiencing chest pain after using marijuana, it is important to seek medical attention. The cardiac effects of marijuana are not yet well understood, so while the symptoms might be benign, they may also be linked to a marijuana-induced heart issue.

Hypoglycemia

Weed slows down your mental processes. People often report experiencing slow, gentle, absentmindedness and relaxation while using marijuana.

While this is a typical response to marijuana use, this feeling can sometimes be mistaken as hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood sugar levels drop below the standard range. Medical conditions such as diabetes are associated with experiencing hypoglycemia, but it can also occur in people who don't have diabetes. 

If you suspect you are experiencing hypoglycemia, check your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar is low, you should eat or drink a fast-acting carbohydrate such as a sugary snack or juice.

After 15 to 20 minutes, check your blood sugar again. If it has not risen sufficiently, repeat the process. After your blood sugar levels have returned to normal levels, eat a healthy snack or meal that includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat. 

Nausea

Marijuana can also cause people to vomit, known as cannabinoid hyperemesis. Typically associated more with chronic marijuana use, cannabinoid hyperemesis leads to severe, uncontrollable vomiting. Some people have discovered that hot showers can reduce nausea temporarily, but the only surefire way to stop the condition is to stop smoking weed.

Not a lot is known about cannabinoid hyperemesis. While it affects people who use marijuana chronically, uncontrollable vomiting has been documented in other examples of folks who simply took a lot of marijuana. In some cases, it may be a sign of a marijuana overdose.

For folks who start vomiting after smoking marijuana, the presence of vomiting while high could be easily mistaken for some infection or gastroenteritis. It can be difficult for doctors to identify the cause of nausea unless people share this information.

Indigestion

Besides vomiting, pot is also known for causing a fair amount of indigestion and heartburn, particularly among people who use it regularly. There are a few options that chronic users can take to try to calm their indigestion.

Over-the-counter (OTC) remedies may include antacids (such as calcium chloride or magnesium hydroxide), histamine-2 antagonists (such as famotidine), and proton pump inhibitors (such as omeprazole).

If you are experiencing heartburn regularly, you should talk to your doctor. It might be tied to marijuana use, but it can also be caused by other conditions. If it is a side effect of marijuana, the only guaranteed cure is to stop smoking. 

Panic Attacks

While most panic attacks are psychiatric in nature, weed can definitely push the panic button. It's not unheard of to see patients hyperventilating, scared, and panicked while high.

Today's marijuana contains far higher THC levels than in the past, which may result in more feelings of panic, particularly after someone has ingested a large amount of the drug.

Unfortunately, like many other adverse reactions to marijuana, time is the only cure. There isn't an antidote on the market that will reverse the effects of marijuana. Indeed, for those who are susceptible to the panicky feelings that weed might produce, abstinence is the only option.

Marijuana Psychosis

Marijuana use may also lead to psychosis. Psychosis is a symptom characterized by a disconnection from reality. Symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations, paranoia, and derealization.

Research has shown that daily use of high-potency marijuana led to a five-fold increase in the risk of developing psychosis.

Psychosis induced by marijuana doesn't always subside when the pot is all metabolized in some vulnerable individuals. In most cases of THC-induced psychosis, cessation of use is the eventual cure, but there are examples of marijuana being the trigger of longer-term psychotic symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Marijuana is often described as a safe substance, but it is essential to recognize that it can also lead to unpleasant and sometimes risky side effects. Sometimes, these side effects can mimic or be confused with other medical or mental health conditions. And sometimes, marijuana use can contribute to the onset of other problems, including cardiac issues and psychosis.

Marijuana is also known to affect cognitition negatively. Teens who use marijuana are particularly sensitive to the detrimental effects. Regular use during adolescence can have detrimental effects on development, thinking, and learning.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

11 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.