Constipation from Marijuana: Side Effects


Even though medical cannabis can ease constipation, it can also cause it for some patients. While constipation is one of the rarer side effects of medical cannabis, it’s an important one to consider and discuss with your medical marijuana doctor, especially if you’re thinking about using cannabis edibles or oils.

Every physician, no matter their specialty, focuses on providing you with a treatment plan that outweighs any potential side effects. If you experience uncomfortable side effects like constipation, you should discuss it with your doctor. They’ll be able to make additional recommendations to alleviate your discomfort.

Some side effects, however, are desired by both patients and physicians. If you cope with insomnia daily, for instance, your doctor may recommend medical marijuana because of its tendency to cause drowsiness, which will help you fall asleep. It’s essential to communicate openly about your experiences with cannabis use, including any unexpected effects like constipation.

How Does Cannabis Cause Constipation?

Because constipation is a rare side effect of medical marijuana, it hasn’t undergone extensive studies by researchers. Early studies and patient experiences suggest forms of medical cannabis that pass through the digestive tract — like oils and edibles — can cause constipation due to their additional ingredients. Understanding how cannabis interacts with your digestive system, particularly the gastrointestinal tract, is crucial for managing potential side effects. 

Individuals with health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s Disease, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may want to discuss potential implications with their medical marijuana doctor. In some cases, your doctor might recommend incorporating a mild laxative into your routine to alleviate constipation and improve bowel motility.

It’s important to note that in some rare cases, excessive marijuana use has been associated with a condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. This syndrome can lead to severe nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If you experience persistent vomiting or abdominal discomfort, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention.

Another factor that may contribute to medical cannabis-induced constipation is cannabinoids — specifically, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It’s thought that while cannabidiol (CBD) can cause diarrhea, THC does the opposite.

As medical and recreational marijuana use becomes increasingly integrated into American healthcare and accepted by the medical community, it’s anticipated that more research will be conducted into its side effects and benefits, including its impact on bowel function and the endocannabinoid system. This will provide patients with a better understanding of what to expect and why.

Signs of Constipation From Medical Cannabis

If you’ve experienced constipation before, the symptoms of medical cannabis-induced constipation are identical.

Symptoms of Medical Marijuana-induced Constipation Include:

  • Lumpy or hard stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Less than three bowel movements a week
  • Straining to pass stool
  • Feeling like your rectum is blocked
  • Bloating

In extreme cases, you may be unable to use the restroom. If this happens, seek medical attention. The interaction between cannabinoids and receptors in the digestive system, as well as the endocannabinoid system, can contribute to these symptoms, including changes in secretion.

Long-Term Side Effects of Constipation

While brief constipation often leaves you without any lingering effects, chronic constipation can cause several issues that require assistance from a medical professional, whether it’s your primary doctor or an ER physician. Some of these long-term side effects include:

  • Anal fissures
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Impaction
  • Rectal prolapse

Sometimes, continued constipation is a sign of a more life-threatening condition, such as:

  • Bowel stricture
  • Rectum bulge
  • Autonomic neuropathy
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Colon cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Abdominal cancer

Due to the range of issues that could cause chronic constipation, it’s critical to meet with your physician if you’re experiencing this side effect.

How to Avoid and Manage Constipation From Medical Marijuana

Since medical marijuana-induced constipation has a slight mystery surrounding it, there’s less of an understanding of how to avoid and manage digestive issues from medical cannabis edibles or oils. However, physicians have recommended a few techniques with some success for reducing or eliminating constipation, including:

  • Modifying your diet
  • Switching your strain of medical marijuana
  • Changing your administration method
  • Updating your dosage of medical cannabis
  • Consideration of stool softeners

Engaging in regular physical activity can also be beneficial in promoting bowel motility and reducing the likelihood of constipation. Symptom trackers are helpful to use so your physician can see which changes are making symptoms better, worse, or the same between appointments.

Talk to Your Medical Marijuana Doctor About Constipation

Even though medical cannabis poses several side effects, most doctors and cannabis users find its benefits outweigh those risks. No matter what kind of experience you’re having with medical marijuana, it’s essential to seek cannabis help and consult with your medical marijuana doctor. They can provide personalized advice that considers your situation, symptoms, past treatments, and preferences. If you’re experiencing constipation or another side effect related to marijuana use, contact your medical marijuana doctor today.