Addiction Drug Use Marijuana Harm Reduction for People Who Use Marijuana By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 22, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE Medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Marijuana has a reputation for being a harmless drug, but this is inaccurate. Many problems can occur as a result of this drug, including addiction, legal problems, accidents happening while under the influence of marijuana, problems with mental functioning, and physical health problems. Following these harm reduction tips for marijuana users will help to reduce the potential harm of your marijuana use, but it will not necessarily prevent problems from occurring if you choose to partake in this or any type of drug use. 1 Don’t Take Risks With the Law krisanapong detraphiphat / Getty Images Legal problems are often a negative consequence of marijuana use, and it really isn’t worth the risk. If you are using marijuana to deal with a health problem, look into getting your marijuana through a legitimate medical marijuana source. If you are using marijuana recreationally, purchase it in small quantities and keep it for your own personal use. If you buy in larger amounts to save money, and particularly if you are passing it on to others, you could be breaking the more serious trafficking drug laws rather than simply possessing it for personal use. You should alo be discreet about marijuana use whether or not you think everyone is doing it and no one cares. Flaunting your marijuana use in public is annoying to others and is asking for legal trouble. 2 Don’t Drive When You Are Stoned boonchai wedmakawand / Getty Images Just because the drunk-driving laws are focused on alcohol does not mean you aren’t impaired through marijuana use. And it certainly doesn’t mean you won’t get in trouble if you are caught driving under the influence. The police are not naïve and know the signs of marijuana intoxication. More importantly, you could cause a serious accident while driving under the influence, and could even get killed or be responsible for the death of another person. Not easy to live with. 3 Keep a Check on Your Mental Functioning Burak Karademir / Getty Images Marijuana can have detrimental effects on your mental functioning. It can affect learning, memory, and performance. There is no point in lying to yourself—keep a check on your mental functioning, and if you think it is slipping, ease off the marijuana for a while. You will be surprised how mentally alert you can feel after a few weeks of abstinence. 4 Keep a Check on Your Motivation Hero Images / Getty Images Marijuana can cause long-term problems with motivation, but these problems can creep up without you noticing. Chronic users of marijuana will often vehemently deny they are addicted to marijuana and that it affects their motivation only to show up in treatment 10 or 15 years later, complaining that they have achieved nothing. Set goals for yourself, whether to improve your education, your job prospects, or achieve something significant. Each year, evaluate how closely you have come to achieving your goal. If you find you have done nothing but a dream since last year, it could be time to take a break from the weed. 5 Take Care of Your Lungs Cavan Images / Getty Images Much of the focus in preventing lung cancer has been on cigarette smoking, but inhaling any type of smoke, including marijuana, can increase the risk of this painful and deadly disease. Marijuana can be taken orally, for example, by being cooked into brownies and cookies, and this might be a better option than inhaling smoke. Take care that any sweet treats containing marijuana are not within reach of children or anyone else who might eat them by mistake; be aware that marijuana effects are often stronger and longer lasting when it is eaten than when it is smoked. 6 Don't Use Marijuana Every Day © Getty Images Daily use can significantly increase your risk of developing an addiction or marijuana use disorder. Those who start using marijuana at an earlier age have an even higher risk of experiencing problems. Addiction is the greatest risk for those who use marijuana. Any use can lead to addiction, but daily and long-term medical use, in particular, can lead to addiction and marijuana use disorder. It is also important to note that the experimental use of marijuana also poses considerable risks. If a person discovers that they like the experience, they are at a much higher risk of developing marijuana use disorder, which can lead to many other problems in a person's life. 7 If You're a Teen, Don't Use Marijuana GARO/PHANIE Getty Images Avoiding marijuana until you are older is less dangerous than starting use when you are in your teens. Research suggests that one in six teens who use marijuana and 25-50% who smoke daily will develop an addiction. Adolescents are also more likely to experience cognitive impairments related to marijuana use, particularly because their brains are still developing up until early adulthood. 8 Only Use Marijuana From Trusted Sources (Photo courtesy of Colorado Cannabis Tours) Since marijuana is not regulated, sometimes other drugs are added to it. Other drugs are sometimes added to create a stronger euphoria and to improve sales. This can cause a variety of adverse effects. For example, there have been deaths from an opioid overdose when fentanyl is added and the person is killed when this adulterant causes them to stop breathing. By only using marijuana from trusted sources, it may help ensure that other drugs are not added to it. 9 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. Volkow ND, Baler RD, Compton WM, Weiss SR. Adverse health effects of marijuana use. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(23):2219–2227. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1402309 Pacula RL, Smart R. Medical marijuana and marijuana legalization. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2017;13:397–419. doi:10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032816-045128 Hartman RL, Huestis MA. Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clin Chem. 2013;59(3):478–492. doi:10.1373/clinchem.2012.194381 Shrivastava A, Johnston M, Tsuang M. Cannabis use and cognitive dysfunction. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011;53(3):187–191. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.86796 Volkow ND, Swanson JM, Evins AE, et al. Effects of cannabis use on human behavior, including cognition, motivation, and psychosis: A review. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(3):292–297. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.3278 Tan WC, Sin DD. What are the long-term effects of smoked marijuana on lung health?. CMAJ. 2018;190(42):E1243–E1244. doi:10.1503/cmaj.181307 Keyhani S, Steigerwald S, Ishida J, Vali M, Cerdá M, Hasin D, Dollinger C, Yoo SR, Cohen BE. Risks and Benefits of Marijuana Use: A National Survey of U.S. Adults. Ann Intern Med. 2018;169(5):282-290. doi: 10.7326/M18-0810 National Institute on Drug Abuse. Is it possible for teens to become addiction to marijuana? Abdul Hameed AM, Golamari R, Khan Z, Iriarte-Oporto B, Malik A, Ghionni N, Gooch J, Gulati S, Bhardwaj A, Valentino III D. Reefer madness: a case of diffuse alveolar hemorrhage due to fentanyl-laced marijuana. InB51. Cigarettes, E-Cigarettes, and Hookahs. 2018 May (pp. A3578-A3578). American Thoracic Society. By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.