The symptoms of marijuana use vary from person to person, but here are some of the most common signs that indicate someone is high on weed, including long-term side effects.

Probably one of the most common questions many people have when it comes to drugs is how to tell if someone is high on marijuana. Many drugs may have distinguishing signs of use, but marijuana may or may not. It depends on the person and other factors.

It’s not unusual for people to wonder what the signs of marijuana use are because it’s the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S. It’s particularly common among teens and young adults. As more and more states decriminalize and legalize the use of recreational marijuana, it has become even more widespread and culturally accepted to use the drug. However, in the workplace or other environments where marijuana use is unacceptable, it can be important to know how to tell if someone is high as to ensure a safe and productive space.

Article at a Glance:  

  • Signs of marijuana use include red eyes, rambling, lack of motivation, and paranoia.  
  • You may notice a skunk-like smell from someone smoking marijuana.  
  • Drug paraphernalia may be found in the home when a person is using marijuana.  
  • Modern marijuana is much more potent than in the past.  
  • The experience of using marijuana varies greatly from one person to the next.  

Signs of Marijuana Use

Because of the widely varied effects of marijuana, it can be difficult to tell if someone is high. In general, the following are some of the most common signs that someone is on marijuana:

  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Laughing inappropriately or uncontrollably
  • Seeming confused or unable to maintain a conversation
  • Talking about things unrelated to a conversation
  • Increased appetite including binge eating, particularly sweets
  • Lack of energy
  • Excessive sleep
  • Lack of motivation
  • Paranoia or a sense of panic
  • Poor coordination
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Altered sense perception

Unlike many other drugs, marijuana has a very potent odor that‘s hard to get rid of. Many people compare it to a skunk-like smell. It can cling to hair, clothes, bedding, furniture, and other items after smoking.

As with most other drugs, behavioral shifts due to marijuana use may seem subtle or gradual at first. As a person continues to abuse it, these may become more prominent.

Behavioral Signs of Marijuana Use

Marijuana can lead to issues like trouble in school or work or relationship problems. It can also increase the likelihood of someone participating in risky or dangerous behaviors, and there are even more severe risks associated with particular types of very potent marijuana. Long-term, heavy users of marijuana may also experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it, such as irritability and problems sleeping.

In some cases, people who are chronically using marijuana may begin to do more reckless things, such as driving while high. They might also start to experience serious relationship problems or find themselves facing legal troubles.

Marijuana Paraphernalia

If you’re unsure, another red flag to look for when you feel someone is using marijuana is drug paraphernalia. Finding these items often confirms people’s suspicions about whether or not a loved one or someone they know is using marijuana.

Some of the paraphernalia associated with marijuana include rolling papers, roach clips, cigar paper, e-cigarettes, and pipes or bongs made of glass, metal, ceramic, plastic, or bamboo.

Marijuana Potency

While marijuana might not necessarily have some of the more severe physical side effects of other drugs, it’s becoming increasingly problematic and dangerous because the potency has been on the rise for several decades.

The New England Journal of Medicine has noted an increased amount of THC in today’s weed (from 3% in the 1980s to an average of 12% in 2012), and this high potency can lead to psychiatric problems. For example, high-potency marijuana can lead to sudden psychotic symptoms, like the sense of being disconnected from reality. These signs and symptoms are more likely to occur in someone with a pre-existing mental health disorder, but they can happen to anyone.

The Effects of Marijuana

The effects of “being high” on marijuana can vary significantly from person to person. For some people, the impact may be minimal and may simply leave them feeling relaxed. Other people may have sensory perception experiences. While many people use marijuana because it allows them to experience pleasant feelings, this isn’t the case for everyone. Some people experience anxiety, a sense of panic, paranoia, or hallucinations while using marijuana.

If someone ingests marijuana in food or drink, it typically takes longer for it to affect them as the process of entering the bloodstream through the stomach is slower than through the lungs.

If you see warning signs of marijuana use such as red eyes, delayed reaction times and increased appetite, you might want to have a conversation with the person and determine whether or not a problem exists. Many people don’t feel like marijuana use is a problem.

Having a marijuana substance use disorder is similar to other addictions, but it may be easier for people who participate in treatment to overcome their use of marijuana. There are many forms of treatment available to help people stop using marijuana, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, therapeutic management of behavior, and motivational interviewing. Qualified medical or mental health professionals may also be able to help you identify potential treatment options, particularly if the person you suspect is on marijuana is a minor.

a woman wearing glasses and a blazer.
Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
a man smiling in front of a brick wall.
Medically Reviewed By – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more

Volkow, Nora; et al. “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use.” The New England Journal of Medicine, June 5, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2020.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Media Guide: Most Commonly Used Addictive Drugs.” June 3, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.