Updated on January 28, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
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 weed, 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.
Possible Side Effects of Medical Pot
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 weed because of its tendency to cause drowsiness, which will help you fall asleep.
How Does Medical Weed 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 pot that pass through the digestive tract — like oils and edibles — can cause constipation due to their additional ingredients.
Another factor that may contribute to medical weed-induced constipation are cannabinoids — specifically, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It’s thought that while cannabidiol (CBD) can cause diarrhea, THC does the opposite.
As medical marijuana becomes increasingly integrated into healthcare and accepted by the medical community, it’s anticipated that more research will be conducted into its side effects and benefits, so patients can know 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 Includes:
- Lumpy or hard stool
- Abdominal pain
- Less than three bowel movements a week
- Straining to pass stool
- Feeling like your rectum is blocked
In extreme cases, you may be unable to use the restroom. If this happens, seek medical attention.
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
- 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 about how to avoid and manage constipation from medical weed edibles or oils. Physicians have recommended a few techniques with success, however, for reducing or eliminating constipation, including:
- Modifying your diet
- Switching your strain of medical pot
- Changing your administration method
- Updating your dosage of medical cannabis
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 Your Constipation
Even though medical cannabis poses several side effects, most doctors and patients find its benefits outweigh those risks. No matter what kind of experience you’re having with medical weed, it’s essential to meet with your doctor regularly. They can provide personalized advice that considers your situation, symptoms, past treatments and preferences. If you’re experiencing constipation or another side effect, contact your medical marijuana doctor.
Learn why some cannabis users experience constipation as a side effect and how to combat side effects to get the most out of your cannabis.