Semin Neurol 2024; 44(04): 430-440
DOI: 10.1055/s-0044-1787570
Review Article

Neurological Complications of Cannabinoids

Mariyam Humayun
1   Department of Neurology, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois
Jose I. Suarez
2   Departments of Neurology, Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
Vishank A. Shah
2   Departments of Neurology, Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
› Author Affiliations


Cannabinoid use, particularly for recreational purposes, is increasing exponentially across all age groups, especially in younger populations, due to its perceived low risk and legalization. While cannabinoids may be largely considered as safe, there is mounting evidence of increased risk of systemic and neurological complications through their interaction with the poorly understood endocannabinoid receptor network within the central nervous system and other organ systems. Acute cannabinoid exposure can cause neuropsychiatric symptoms in addition to altering cerebral blood flow, leading to cerebrovascular complications such as ischemic stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS). Chronic use, particularly among adolescents, may be associated with increased risk of long-term cognitive deficits, schizophrenia, and other neuropsychiatric effects. Synthetic cannabinoids have increased potency, with reports of causing profound neurological complications including coma, seizures, posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, and RCVS. Despite increasing evidence, the quality of literature describing neurologic complications with cannabinoids remains limited to case series and retrospective cohort studies, with significant confounding factors such as concomitant use of other illicit drugs, limiting interpretation. In this review, we summarize the effect of cannabinoids on the neurologic system and associated neurological complications.

Publication History

Article published online:
24 June 2024

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