Updated on January 28, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
While medical marijuana can treat constipation and diarrhea, it can also cause either one. For patients who smoke or vaporize medical weed, these side effects are often non-existent. If you use edibles or oils to treat your condition, however, you may experience these side effects of medical cannabis.
Like other medications your doctor may prescribe, medical marijuana can cause several different side effects. For physicians, their goal is to provide you with medicines that offer you the best benefits and the least side effects.
Unlike prescription drugs, some medical cannabis doctors may recommend medical weed because of its side effects. If you cope with insomnia, for instance, your doctor might suggest medical pot because it can cause drowsiness and doesn’t pose the long-term risks of prescription sleep aids like Ambien.
The cause behind diarrhea and constipation due to medical weed, is an area that’s gone unstudied. Some early studies suggest tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of several cannabinoids, slows down the digestive tract.
Another possibility is that edibles, as well as oils, may contain additional ingredients that affect how fast or slow your digestive system processes food. Another cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), is considered a potential motivator for diarrhea.
With time, researchers may discover why medical weed causes diarrhea and constipation in some instances. While the legal standing of medical marijuana is one reason this topic has gone unresearched, another is due to the rarity of this side effect.
If you begin to experience diarrhea or constipation, it’s critical to visit your physician.
When they occur for brief periods, diarrhea and constipation don’t result in long-term side effects. If they last for weeks, however, you may need to change your treatment plan. Or, the symptoms could indicate a more serious problem.
Long-term side effects of not treating your constipation include anal fissures, impaction, and rectal prolapse. The most substantial risk of untreated diarrhea is dehydration. No matter which symptom you’re experiencing, notify your physician as soon as possible.
Because the medical community doesn’t have a complete understanding of why medical marijuana can cause diarrhea and constipation, there is no tried-and-true recommendation for avoiding or managing either cannabis-induced symptom.
In most cases, your medical marijuana doctor may recommend adjusting:
Keeping a symptom tracker as you and your physician change your treatment plan is often helpful, as well.
Whether you or a loved one is using medical weed, it’s essential you work with your medical marijuana doctor to ensure your treatment is offering you the maximum benefits — in most cases, medical pot does. If you’re experiencing unwanted side effects, schedule an appointment to discuss them with your physician, as they may be able to recommend useful changes.