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 to think about potential impacts on school or work, 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 effects 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.

  • 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, there are still some potential serious side effects, including panic attacks, paranoia, psychotic symptoms (e.g., hearing voices, visual hallucinations), accidents, and heart problems in people with heart disease or high blood pressure. In some cases, pot-induced psychosis can be permanent in susceptible individuals.

  • People who use pot regularly and/or as a coping tool may prevent themselves from learning other ways to cope with life’s problems and emotions.

  • Regular pot users may stay in bad situations because the pot makes them apathetic or masks bad feelings that would otherwise motivate them to change their situation.

  • Despite myths to the contrary, people can become physically or psychologically dependent on pot. The withdrawal symptoms are typically milder than those of withdrawal from alcohol or "harder" drugs, but they do exist and include sleep and appetite problems, irritability, anxiety, low mood, cravings, and restlessness.

  • Most current strains of marijuana are no longer “natural,” as they have been bred over time to be many times stronger than naturally occurring cannabis. Also, marijuana is sometimes laced with other drugs or sprayed with pesticides, so 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, vomiting, or extreme paranoia.

Cautions and Harm Reduction

  • Delivering, furnishing, transferring, manufacturing, using, and possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia is strictly prohibited at the university, so these activities could get you in trouble. Even if you have a medical marijuana (215) card, the possession and use of pot is prohibited on UCSC's campus.

  • Avoid mixing pot with other drugs or large quantities of alcohol—you may have a severe, unpleasant, or dangerous reaction; 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, 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 edible marijuana products, so avoid them or use caution: 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 With Pot

  • Increased use; needing more and more to get the same effect

  • Ignoring responsibilities because of time spent obtaining or using it; lack of motivation

  • Using it to the point that you are so high you can't function

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

  • Spending too much money on it

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

  • Thinking about it all the time

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

  • Needing to use it in the morning to “get going”; using it to counteract the effects of other drugs

  • People expressing concern or annoyance about your use

  • Continuing to use despite consequences (e.g., failing classes, legal problems, loss of relationships)

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