Harm Reduction for People Who Use Marijuana

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.


Don’t Take Risks With the Law

Dealing marijuana,marijuana
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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.


Don’t Drive When You Are Stoned

Auto accident involving two cars on a city street
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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.


Keep a Check on Your Mental Functioning

Female hand holding a pencil and solves crossword puzzle
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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.


Keep a Check on Your Motivation

Teenage girl playing electric guitar, recording music in home office
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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.


Take Care of Your Lungs

Overhead view of brownie bites in jar on table
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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.


Don't Use Marijuana Every Day

Man Smoking a Joint
© 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. 


If You're a Teen, Don't Use Marijuana

Young teenagers smoking marijuana which contains THC
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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.


Only Use Marijuana From Trusted Sources

Marijuana dispensery
(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.
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  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Is it possible for teens to become addiction to marijuana?

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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.