Some people believe that marijuana is harmless, natural and safe to use. While it may cause less obvious problems than alcohol or other “harder” drugs, pot can still have negative consequences. It’s important that you think about potential impacts on your academic career, relationships and physical and emotional health before considering the use of pot.

Facts About Pot

  • Pot affects people differently depending on their size, tolerance, how much food they’ve eaten that day, physical condition, medications being taken, strength of the pot and method and quantity of pot consumed.

  • Marijuana can cause dry mouth, dry eyes, increased heart rate and visible signs of intoxication such as bloodshot eyes and puffy eyelids. Other results of pot use include impairment of learning and memory, muscle incoordination, apathy, nausea, trouble solving problems, impaired immune system, chronic cough and exacerbation of asthma or other lung conditions.

  • Remember that even if you have a medical marijuana (215) card, the possession and use of pot is prohibited on campus, so you could get in trouble.

  • While some people may believe that they can drive fine or even “better” when stoned, research does not support this. Driving after using marijuana can result in accidents, tickets and legal trouble.

  • Although no reported deaths from marijuana overdose have been reported, serious side effects can result from use, including paranoia, psychotic symptoms (e.g., hearing voices, seeing things that others can’t see) and heart problems in people with heart disease or high blood pressure. In some cases, drug-induced psychosis can be permanent in susceptible individuals.

  • People who use pot regularly may prevent themselves from learning other ways to cope with life’s problems and difficult emotions and may be less mature in relationships because they aren’t learning those skills. They also may allow bad situations to continue because the pot makes them apathetic or allows them to “feel OK” when things may not be OK.

  • Despite myths to the contrary, people can become physically and psychologically dependent on pot. The withdrawal symptoms may be milder than those for alcohol or other drug addiction, but they exist, and quitting can be tough.

  • Pot in its current state is no longer “natural,” as it has been bred over time to be many times stronger than naturally occurring cannabis. Also know that marijuana is sometimes laced with other drugs. Don’t buy pot from someone you don’t know, or you could end up consuming a drug or contaminant you didn’t count on. Seek medical help if you have a sudden and/or unexpected reaction to pot, such as severe heart palpitations or extreme paranoia.

Cautions and Harm Reduction

  • Avoid mixing pot with other drugs or large quantities of alcohol—you may have a severe, unpleasant reaction or even a dangerous side effect; for example, when you’ve had too much to drink, pot can dampen your body’s natural protective vomiting mechanism, which can lead to alcohol poisoning.

  • If you have lung problems, such as asthma, note that smoking pot can make them worse.

  • If you choose to use pot, limit your marijuana use to times when you don’t have to drive, study, take an exam or fulfill other responsibilities. Avoid daily and/or heavy use, which can lead to dependence and other consequences.

  • It’s hard to gauge the strength of pot in edible products, so the effects can be uncomfortably strong, unpredictable and long-lasting.

  • Shared pipes, vaporizer nozzles or bongs can spread germs. If you are using shared smoking devices, wipe them with alcohol swabs between uses to avoid colds, flu and other illnesses.

Warning Signs that You May Have a Problem

  • Increased use of pot, needing more and more to get the same effect

  • Ignoring responsibilities because of time spent obtaining or using pot, lack of motivation

  • Having the goal of getting completely obliterated when you use pot

  • Using pot in isolation, dropping friends who don’t use pot and/or associating only with people who do

  • Spending too much money on pot

  • Finding it’s hard to be happy or feel OK without pot

  • Thinking about pot all the time

  • Trying to quit or cut back but being unable to do so

  • Needing to use pot in the morning to “get going” or to counteract the effects of other drugs

  • People expressing concern or annoyance about your pot use

  • Continuing to use pot despite serious consequences (e.g., failing classes, legal problems)

For more information about marijuana, visit the SHOP’s Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs website.