6 Conditions That Marijuana Can Mimic

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While some states have approved the use of marijuana for medical and sometimes recreational uses, the drug can have many serious health risks and consequences. Such risks can be even greater when marijuana is used in conjunction with other drugs. Even alcohol potentiates the effects of weed significantly.

Marijuana is also one of the most complicated naturally-occurring drugs. 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. This means that the effects can often be inconsistent from one individual to the next, and sometimes people may misinterpret their reaction as a medical or mental health condition.

This article discusses the conditions that marijuana's effects can mimic. If you are using medical marijuana or a cannabis-derived product to alleviate symptoms of a condition, it can be helpful to understand how it might effect you and how to distinguish it from other symptoms.

It is also important to note that marijuana is illegal at the federal level and many states still prohibit any cannabis-products containing THC levels higher than 0.3%.

Anxiety-Inducing Effects

Marijuana can lead to increased anxiety in some individuals. Some people go to the hospital thinking they've had a medical emergency. A 2023 retrospective study found that 17.3% of emergency department patients in a community-based sample experienced cannabis-induced anxiety.

The type of cannabis product and route of administration can also lead to differing effects. Inhaled marijuana produces faster effects than edible products, which take much longer to take effect.

As a result, people may inadvertently take more of a substance, producing adverse effects like anxiety.

The psychoactive component of marijana, tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), can produce feelings of anxiety and paranoia. High levels of THC and high can have effects similar to the effects of a stimulant.

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 psychoactive effects, scientists have focused on the impact of marijuana on the brain and central nervous system. But, evidence shows that cannabis also affects the heart.

Marijuana can have cardiovascular effects and lead to heart rhythm disturbances. Such events might be linked to pre-existing conditions exacerbated by marijuana use, but more research is needed to determine if cannabis can cause heart problems and lead to an increased risk of death.

If you experience chest pain after using medical marijuana or another cannabis-derived product containing THC, 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.


Marijuana also slows down mental processes. Feelings of relaxation and absentmindedness are common.

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 they 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. 


Marijuana can also cause people to vomit, which is known as cannabinoid hyperemesis. Typically associated more with chronic marijuana use, cannabinoid hyperemesis leads to severe, uncontrollable vomiting. The only way to stop the condition is to stop using marijuana.

Not a lot is known about cannabinoid hyperemesis. While it affects people who use marijuana chronically, it can also affect those who use large quantities of it.

In some cases, it may be a sign of a marijuana overdose. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, contact emergency services immediately.

For folks who start vomiting after using marijuana or marijuana products, 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.


Besides vomiting, marijuana is also known for causing a fair amount of indigestion and heartburn, particularly among people who use it regularly. 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 other conditions can also cause it so it is important to rule out other possible causes.

Panic Attacks

While most panic attacks are psychiatric in nature, marijuana can also lead to panic attacks. Today's marijuana contains far higher THC levels than in the past, which may result in more panic, particularly after someone has ingested a large amount of the drug.

Mislabeling Is Common

Research has also found that many products containing the cannabinoids CBD and THC are mislabeled. As much as 70% of CBD products contain THC levels far higher than the label suggests. And because there is a lack of regulation for such products, it is difficult to gauge how much THC you might actually be consuming accurately.

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. Abstinence is the only option for those susceptible to panicky feelings.

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 marijuana is 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.

How to Get Help

Marijuana is often described as a safe substance, but it is essential to recognize that it has serious health risks. Sometimes, the effects of marijuana 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 can also be addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 30% of people who use marijuana will become addicted to it. This risk is four to seven times higher for those who start using marijuana as teens.

Teens who use marijuana are also more susceptible to detrimental cognitive effects. Regular use during adolescence can impede development, thinking, and learning.

If you are experiencing symptoms of addiction or want to stop using marijuana, there are treatments that can help. Such treatments typically involve behavioral interventions, but medications might also be prescribed to help treat co-occurring mental health conditions.

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.

13 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.