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Newbies More Apt to Have Bad Reaction to Marijuana: Study

THURSDAY, April 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Common bad reactions to marijuana include coughing fits, anxiety and paranoia, but regular users are less likely to have problems than occasional users, a new study finds.

"There's been surprisingly little research on the prevalence or frequency of various adverse reactions to cannabis and almost no research trying to predict who is more likely to experience these types of adverse reactions," said study co-author Carrie Cuttler. She's an assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University in Pullman.

"With the legalization of cannabis in Washington and 10 other states, we thought it would be important to document some of this information so that more novice users would have a better sense of what types of adverse reactions they may experience," Cuttler said in a university news release.

For the study, the researchers surveyed more than 1,500 U.S. college students on the type and frequency of bad reactions they had while using marijuana.

More than half said they had had coughing fits, anxiety and/or paranoia. The most common problems -- reported by 30% to 40% -- were coughing, chest/lung discomfort and body humming.

The least common bad reactions were fainting, hallucinations and cold sweats, the findings showed.

Panic attacks, fainting and vomiting were considered the most distressing of 26 possible bad reactions, while body humming, numbness and feeling off balance/unsteady were the least distressing, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Cannabis Research.

"It is worth noting even the most distressing reactions to cannabis were only rated between moderately and quite distressing," Cuttler said. "This suggests cannabis users do not, in general, find acute adverse reactions to cannabis to be severely distressing."

Less frequent users were more likely to report negative effects, the investigators found.

"Interestingly, we didn't find that quantity of use during a single session predicted very much in terms of whether or not a person was going to have a bad reaction," Cuttler said. "It was the people who smoke on a less frequent basis who tend to have these bad experiences more often."

The findings underscore the need to provide legal marijuana users with information about potential bad reactions, according to Cuttler.

"When you get any other kind of medication, there will be a leaflet or a warning printed on the bottle about the drug's potential side effects," she said. "There really isn't very much out there on this for cannabis, and we think that it is important for people to have access to this kind of information."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about marijuana.

SOURCE: Washington State University, news release, March 30, 2020

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