Adverse Effects

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Marijuana is unique among drugs of abuse in that there have been no credible reports of fatal overdose. The most prominent effect of acute marijuana use is intoxication, which can impair the cognitive and motor skills needed to complete complex tasks. Anxiety and panic reactions are occasionally reported in inexperienced users or following use of large quantities of marijuana. A9-THC causes its greatest effects on short-term memory, as measured in free-recall tasks. Marijuana does not affect the retrieval of previously learned facts. In contrast to alcohol, there is no residual hangover from a single use of high quantities of marijuana.

Heavy marijuana smoking produces bronchitis, and some individuals have evidence of precancerous lung conditions. However, definitive evidence of the relationship between marijuana smoking and the incidence of lung cancer is lacking.

Tolerance develops to many of A9-THC's effects in heavy marijuana users. Although chronic cannabis use does not result in severe withdrawal symptoms, numerous case reports attest to development of dependence in subjects taking high doses of THC for several weeks. The most prominent symptoms were irritability and restlessness; others included insomnia, anorexia, increased sweating, and mild nausea. Cessation of mild or moderate use of marijuana, however, does not produce a withdrawal syndrome.

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