- Cannabis/marijuana: what are the effects?
- Immediate effects
- Low to moderate doses
- Higher doses
- Long-term effects
- Social problems
- Taking cannabis with other drugs
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Cannabis use in the workplace
- How Marijuana Affects Your Mind and Body
- Short-Term Effects
- Long-Term Effects
- Other Problems
- Medical Use of Marijuana
- What If I Want to Quit?
- Marijuana: Effects of Weed on Brain and Body
- How marijuana affects the mind
- How marijuana affects the body
- Marijuana (cannabis): Facts, effects, and hazards
- Cannabis withdrawal
- Synthetic marijuana
- CBD in medicine
- THC in medication
Cannabis/marijuana: what are the effects?
The effects of any drug (including cannabis) vary from person to person. How cannabis affects a person depends on many things including their size, weight and health, also whether the person is used to taking it and whether other drugs are taken around the same time. The effects of any drug also depend on the amount taken.
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk—even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
- loss of inhibition
- spontaneous laughter
- quiet and reflective mood
- affected perception including sound, colour and other sensations
- altered thinking and memory
- mild paranoia
- altered vision
- reddened/bloodshot eyes
- reduced coordination and balance
- increased heart rate
- low blood pressure
- increased appetite.
Low to moderate doses
Low to moderate doses of cannabis can produce effects that last 2 to 4 hours after smoking. The effects of ingested (eaten) cannabis usually start within 1 hour. Some of the effects include:
- anxiety or panic
- detachment from reality
- decreased reaction time
Long-term cannabis use can have many effects on an individual:
Brain: Impaired concentration, memory and learning ability.
Lungs: Smoking cannabis can result in a sore throat, asthma and bronchitis.
Hormones: Cannabis can affect hormone production. Research shows that some cannabis users have a lowered sex drive. Irregular menstrual cycles and lowered sperm counts have also been reported.
Immune system: There is some concern that cannabis smoking may impair the functioning of the immune system.
Mental health: Cannabis use, especially heavy and regular use, may be linked to a condition known as a “drug-induced psychosis”, or “cannabis psychosis”.
There is some evidence that regular cannabis use increases the lihood of psychotic symptoms in people who are already vulnerable due to a personal or family history of mental illness. Cannabis also appears to make psychotic symptoms worse for people with schizophrenia, and using cannabis can lower the chances of recovery from a psychotic episode.
All areas of a person’s life can be affected by drug use.
- Disagreements and frustration over drug use can cause family arguments and affect personal relationships.
- Legal and health problems can also add to the strain on personal, financial and work relationships.
Taking cannabis with other drugs
The effects of mixing cannabis with other drugs, including alcohol, prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines, are often unpredictable.
When people drink alcohol and use cannabis at the same time, they may have strong reactions such as nausea and/or vomiting, panic or paranoia.
Some people use cannabis to come down from stimulants such as amphetamines or ecstasy. The mixing of cannabis and ecstasy has been linked to reduced motivation, impaired memory and mental health problems.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Cannabis can be passed on to an unborn baby through the placenta, or to an infant in breast milk.
Find out about the effects of cannabis during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
It is dangerous to drive after using cannabis. The effects of cannabis, such as altered perception, impaired coordination and sleepiness, can affect driving ability. It is especially risky to drive after drinking alcohol and using cannabis, as the combination can increase the effects described above.
Read more about the effects of cannabis on driving.
Cannabis use in the workplace
Under occupational health and safety legislation, all employees have a responsibility to make sure they look after their own and their co-workers’ safety. The effects of cannabis such as altered perception and impaired coordination can affect a person’s ability to work safely and effectively.
For more information, visit the Australian Drug Foundation
Australian Drug Foundation. Cannabis Facts. Last updated 25 Jan 2012. http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/drug-facts/cannabis (accessed Jan 2013).
How Marijuana Affects Your Mind and Body
- Marijuana Abuse
- Marijuana Effects
- Recreational Marijuana
Marijuana, weed, pot, dope, grass.
They’re different names for the same drug that comes from the cannabis plant. You can smoke it, vape it, drink it, or eat it. Most folks use marijuana for pleasure and recreation.
But a growing number of doctors prescribe it for specific medical conditions and symptoms.
Marijuana has mind-altering compounds that affect both your brain and body. It can be addictive, and it may be harmful to some people’s health. Here’s what can happen when you use marijuana:
It’s why most people try pot. The main psychoactive ingredient, THC, stimulates the part of your brain that responds to pleasure, food and sex. That unleashes a chemical called dopamine, which gives you a euphoric, relaxed feeling.
If you vape or smoke weed, the THC could get into your bloodstream quickly enough for you to get your high in seconds or minutes.
The THC level usually peaks in about 30 minutes, and its effects may wear off in 1-3 hours. If you drink or eat pot, it make take many hours for you to fully sober up.
You may not always know how potent your recreational marijuana might be. That also goes for most medical marijuana.
Not everyone’s experience with marijuana is pleasant. It often can leave you anxious, afraid, or panicked. Using pot may raise your chances for clinical depression or worsen the symptoms of any mental disorders you already have. Scientists aren’t yet sure exactly why. In high doses, it can make you paranoid or lose touch with reality so you hear or see things that aren’t there.
Marijuana can cloud your senses and judgment. The effects can differ depending on things how potent your pot was, how you took it, and much marijuana you’ve used in the past. It might:
- Heighten your senses (colors might seem brighter and sounds might seem louder)
- Distort your sense of time
- Hurt your motor skills and make driving more dangerous
- Lower your inhibitions so you may have risky sex or take other chances
About 1 in 10 people who use pot will become addicted. That means you can’t stop using it even if it harms your relationships, job, health, or finances. The risk is greater the younger you start marijuana and the more heavily you use it. For instance, the odds of addiction are 1 in 6 if you use pot in your teens. It might be as high as 1 in 2 among those who use it every day.
You could also grow physically dependent on marijuana. Your body could go into withdrawal, leaving you irritable, restless, unable to sleep, and uninterested in eating.
Marijuana can make it harder for you to focus, learn, and remember things. This seems to be a short-term effect that lasts for 24 hours or longer after you stop smoking.
But using pot heavily, especially in your teen years, may leave more permanent effects. Imaging tests with some — but not all — adolescents found that marijuana may physically change their brains. Specifically, they had fewer connections in parts of the brain linked to alertness, learning, and memory, and tests show lower IQ scores in some people.
Pot smoke can inflame and irritate your lungs. If you use it regularly, you could have the same breathing problems as someone who smokes cigarettes. That could mean ongoing cough with colored mucus. Your lungs may more easily pick up infections. That’s partly because THC seems to weaken some users’ immune systems.
Medical marijuana is legal in some form in a majority of states. And more than 10 states and Washington, DC, have legalized recreational pot. But the federal government’s ban on marijuana has made it hard to study its effects on humans. Limited research shows that medicinal pot might help:
Many people who use weed regularly notice that it boosts their appetite. They call this “the munchies.” Some research suggests that might help people with AIDS, cancer, or other illnesses regain weight. Scientists are studying this and whether it’s safe.
Marijuana makes your heart work harder. Normally the heart beats about 50 to 70 times a minute. But that can jump to 70 to 120 beats or more per minute for 3 hours after the effects of pot kick in. The added strain plus tar and other chemicals in pot may raise your chance of heart attack or stroke. The danger is even bigger if you’re older or if you already have heart problems.
More than 1 in 10 drinkers say they have used marijuana in the past year. Combining alcohol and pot at the same time roughly doubled the odds of drunk driving or legal, professional, or personal problems compared to drinking alone.
Mothers who smoke pot while pregnant face a higher risk of giving birth to underweight or premature babies. But researchers don’t know enough to say if those infants are more ly to grow up to struggle in school, use drugs, or have other problems in life.
Researchers haven’t found any links between smoking weed and cancers in the lung, head, or the neck. Limited evidence suggests that heavy marijuana use may lead to one type of testicular cancer. We don’t have enough information whether cannabis may lead to other cancers, including:
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
It’s short for cannabidiol, a substance found in both marijuana and hemp plants. It doesn’t make you high. CBD can be made into CBD oil and sold as pills, gels, creams, and other formulas.
Some people use CBD to treat pain, seizures, and other health problems. But scientists aren’t yet sure how well it works or if it’s safe over the long term.
Lack of regulation means you can’t always know exactly what you’re buying.
You can use pot in a variety of ways. Smoking usually offers the quickest way to feel its effects:
- Rolled cigarettes
- Small handheld pipes
- Water pipes, called a bong
- A cigar that has been hollowed out and refilled with marijuana, called a blunt
- Sticky resins drawn from the cannabis plant. Resins often are loaded with much higher amounts of THC than regular marijuana
You also can mix pot into brownies, cookies, candy, tea, and other foods. Eating and drinking the drug delay the high because it has to travel through your digestive system before the THC gets into your bloodstream. So it may take 30 minutes to 2 hours before you feel anything. But edibles give you a high that lasts much longer — up to 8 hours — than if you smoke or vape weed.
American Cancer Society: “Marijuana and Cancer.”
National Health Service (UK): “Cannabis: the facts.”
Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research: “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.”
CBD.org: “The Care By Design product family.”
CDC: “Marijuana and Public Health.”
Colorado Department of Public Health: “FAQ — Health Effects of Marijuana.”
Consumer Reports: “What Is CBD? What to Know Now About This Cannabis Product.”
Epilepsy Currents: “Cannabidiol: Promise and Pitfalls.”
European Journal of Pain: “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis.”
Government of Canada Department of Public Health: “Health effects of cannabis.”
Harm Reduction Journal: “Cannabis and tobacco smoke are not equally carcinogenic.”
Journal of Epilepsy Research: “Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?”
Journal of Experimental Medicine: “Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors.”
Mayo Clinic: “Marijuana,” “Medical marijuana.”
National Academies Press: “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.”
National Cancer Institute: “Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version.”
National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Marijuana,” “What is marijuana?” “How does marijuana work?” “Secondhand Marijuana Smoke?” “What are marijuana's effects on lung health?” “What are marijuana's long-term effects on the brain?” “Researching Marijuana for Therapeutic Purposes: The Potential Promise of Cannabidiol (CBD).”
Nemours Foundation: “Marijuana.”
New England Journal of Medicine: “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use.”
Michele Baggio, University of Connecticut; Alberto Chong, Georgia State University: “Recreational Marijuana Laws and Junk Food Consumption: Evidence Using Border Analysis and Retail Sales Data.”
University of Mississippi: “Marijuana Research.”
FDA: “FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy.”
World Health Organization: “Cannabis.”
Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research: “Simultaneous vs. concurrent use of alcohol and cannabis in the National Alcohol Survey.”
Annual Review of Clinical Psychology: “Medical Marijuana and Marijuana Legalization.”
© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. Recreational Marijuana
Marijuana is a shredded, green-brown mix of dried flowers, stems, and leaves from the plant Cannabis sativa. A stronger form of marijuana, called hashish (hash), looks brown or black cakes or balls. The amount of THC (the active ingredient) in marijuana and marijuana products has increased greatly over the years.
Marijuana is usually rolled and smoked a cigarette (joints or doobies), or put in hollowed-out cigars (blunts), pipes (bowls), or water pipes (bongs). Recently, it has become increasingly popular for people to inhale marijuana or stronger marijuana extracts using a vaporizer (called “vaping” or “dabbing”). Some people mix it into food or brew it as a tea.
There is also “synthetic marijuana” — manmade drugs that are chemically similar to THC — that can be dangerously strong. Names for these drugs include “K2,” “Spice,” and “Herbal Incense.” They can be so potent that overdose deaths have happened.
The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). When someone smokes marijuana, THC goes from the lungs into the bloodstream. From there, it ends up in the brain and other organs.
THC connects with a receptor on nerve cells in the brain. The marijuana “high” results from THC's effects on the nerve cells that control sensory perception and pleasure.
THC also connects with receptors on nerve cells in other parts of the brain that affect thinking, memory, coordination, and concentration. This can cause unwanted side effects, including:
- trouble thinking and problem solving
- problems with memory and learning
- loss of coordination
- distorted perception
These side effects are temporary, but they can make it dangerous to do things drive while under the influence of marijuana.
People also might notice other short-term side effects of using marijuana, such as:
- an increased appetite
- feeling lightheaded or drowsy
- a decrease in inhibitions
Research has found that people who use marijuana over a long period of time can have more lasting side effects. For example:
Changes in the brain. Marijuana can affect the parts of the brain that play a role in our ability to remember, multitask, and pay attention.
Fertility issues. Animal studies suggest that using a lot of marijuana might be linked to decreased sperm count in men and delayed ovulation in women. Pregnant women who use marijuana might be more ly to have babies with developmental and behavioral problems.
Respiratory problems. People who smoke marijuana a lot can develop problems with the respiratory system — more mucus, a chronic cough, and bronchitis.
Immune system problems. Using marijuana a lot might make it harder for the body to fight off infections.
Emotional problems. People who use a lot of marijuana are more ly to say they notice signs of depression or anxiety. If someone has a condition schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, marijuana can sometimes make symptoms worse.
Here are a few ways marijuana use could affect you:
Criminal charges. Marijuana laws can be confusing. Some states are changing their laws to make it legal to have small amounts of marijuana in some situations ( when it's prescribed for medical use).
Some have even made recreational use of marijuana by adults (over 21) legal.
But there are conflicting federal laws against using, growing, or selling marijuana — and people caught with it could face charges, including jail time.
Career problems. People charged under marijuana laws may end up with criminal records that hurt their plans for college or finding a job.
Drug testing. These days, employers often test for drug use as part of the hiring process. Marijuana can show up on a drug test for several weeks after it was last used. So people who use marijuana may find they don't get a job they want. Some companies do routine drug tests on employees, so people who use marijuana can lose their jobs.
Medical Use of Marijuana
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved pills containing THC or other cannabinoids (chemicals similar to THC) as a way to help relieve pain, nausea, muscle stiffness, or problems with movement.
There's still a lot of discussion about the medical use of marijuana, though. THC and other cannabinoid pills are only available in some states and require a doctor's prescription.
At the moment, there's not enough research to say for sure if smoking marijuana is any more helpful than taking THC or other cannabinoids as a pill. Scientists are still studying this.
What If I Want to Quit?
People who use marijuana for a while can have withdrawal symptoms when they try to give it up. They may feel irritable, anxious, or depressed; have trouble sleeping; or not feel eating.
Marijuana withdrawal can be a bit caffeine withdrawal: It's usually worse a day or two after someone stops using marijuana. After that, withdrawal symptoms gradually decrease. They're usually gone a week or two after the person no longer uses the drug.
Marijuana can be addictive. About 1 in 10 people who use the drug regularly can develop a “marijuana use disorder.” These people can't stop using marijuana even though it causing problems in their lives. This is much more ly to happen in people who start using marijuana before age 18.
If you or someone you know wants to stop using marijuana but has trouble quitting, it can help to talk to a counselor. Studies suggest that a combination of individual counseling and group therapy sessions is the best approach for stopping marijuana use.
Marijuana: Effects of Weed on Brain and Body
Marijuana is a combination of shredded leaves, stems and flower buds of the Cannabis sativa plant. Marijuana can be smoked, eaten, vaporized, brewed and even taken topically, but most people smoke it.
The intoxicating chemical in marijuana is tetrahydracannabinol, or THC.
According to research from the Potency Monitoring Project, the average THC content of marijuana has soared from less than 1 percent in 1972, to 3 to 4 percent in the 1990s, to nearly 13 percent in 2010.
Today, some retail marijuana has 30 percent THC or more. The increased potency makes it difficult to determine the short- and long-term effects of marijuana
In a 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 17.4 million people in the United States said they had used marijuana in the past month. Since then, many states have made it legal to use marijuana recreationally or medically. As of early 2017, 26 states and the District of Columbia have made the use of pot legal in one form or another.
A 2016 Gallup poll found that one in eight people smoke marijuana and 43 percent of U.S. adults admit to trying it.
Marijuana is usually smoked, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The Cannabis (called “pot,” “weed,” “grass,” etc.
) is typically spread on rolling papers and formed into a cigarette, often referred to as a joint, or a cigar- blunt. Smoking releases the THC, which is absorbed into the blood stream through the lungs.
Glass pipes, bubblers and bongs are other ways to smoke marijuana.
Marijuana can also be ingested in food, often a choice of those who are using medical marijuana. Aside from the popular “pot brownie,” edible marijuana can be added to a number of foods, including candy, ice cream and butter. Some states that have legalized marijuana have issued rules for packaging and labeling “marijuana edibles.”
Cannabis can be taken in liquid form, by brewing it as a tea. It can also be added to other beverages, including soda, milk and alcohol. Hashish is a resin made of the concentrated plant material. Other forms include capsules, oral sprays and topical oils.
A relatively new method of inhaling marijuana is vaporization, a “smokeless” delivery system using devices such as e-cigarettes. By heating the Cannabis at lower temperatures, the plant's oils or extracts are released.
Several studies suggest that “vaping” is better for health than smoking pot. Vaporized marijuana contains little other than cannabinoids, according to a 2004 study in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics.
Users inhaled fewer toxic compounds and carbon monoxide when vaping compared with smoking marijuana, according to a 2007 study in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there hasn't been enough research to conclude how much healthier vaping is than smoking unfiltered marijuana.
How marijuana affects the mind
Marijuana reaches the same pleasure centers in the brain that are targeted by heroin, cocaine and alcohol.
Depending on the quantity, quality and method of consumption, marijuana can produce a feeling of euphoria — or high — by stimulating brain cells to release the chemical dopamine.
When smoked or otherwise inhaled, the feeling of euphoria is almost immediate.
When ingested in food, it takes much longer, even hours, for the drug to signal the brain to release the dopamine, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Other changes in mood can occur, with relaxation frequently being reported. Some users experience heightened sensory perception, with colors appearing more vivid and noises being louder. For some, marijuana can cause an altered perception of time and increased appetite, known as the “munchies.”
The impact can vary by person, how often they have used the drug, the strength of the drug and how often it has been since they have gotten high, among other factors.
“In some cases, reported side effects of THC include elation, anxiety, tachycardia, short-term memory recall issues, sedation, relaxation, pain-relief and many more,” said A.J. Fabrizio, a marijuana chemistry expert at Terra Tech Corp, a California agricultural company focused on local farming and medical cannabis.
Other effects, according to the NIH, include:
- Feelings of panic and fear (paranoia)
- Trouble concentrating
- Decreased ability to perform tasks that require coordination
- Decreased interest in completing tasks
When coming down from the high, users may feel depressed or extremely tired. While marijuana use produces a mellow experience (users are sometimes referred to as “stoners”) for some, it can heighten agitation, anxiety, insomnia and irritability, according to the NIH.
Marijuana and teens
When marijuana use begins in the teen years, it can have a significant impact on brain development, including decreased brain activity, fewer neural fibers in certain areas and a smaller than average hippocampus, which controls learning and memory functions.
According to a 2014 Northwestern Medicine study of teen marijuana users, memory-related structures in the brain appeared to shrink, a possible signs of a decrease in neurons.
These abnormalities remained two years after the teen stopped using marijuana, indicating that the drug has long-term effects and look similar to brains of schizophrenics.
Those who started using marijuana after 21 generally do not experience the same type of brain abnormalities as those who started using the drug earlier.
Long-term users report that they sometimes have trouble thinking clearly, organizing their thoughts, multitasking and remembering things. Sustained marijuana use can also slow reaction times in some individuals.
Another study by the University of Montreal published in the journal Development and Psychopathology in 2016 found similar results after researching almost 300 students.
Those that started smoking around age 14 did worse on some cognitive tests than non-smokers. The study found that pot smokers also have a higher school dropout rate.
Those that waited to start around age 17 did not seem to have the same impairments.
How marijuana affects the body
Marijuana smoke can cause many of the same respiratory problems experienced by tobacco smokers, such as increased daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses such as bronchitis, and a greater instance of lung infections, according to NIDA.
While it had been thought that there was a connection between marijuana smoking and increased risk of lung cancer, even those who are heavy marijuana users do not appear to be at greater risk for lung cancer, according to a 2013 study by Dr. Donald Tashkin, UCLA professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine.
A 2017 study by the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia found that those who used marijuana were 26 percent more ly to have a stroke than those who did not use marijuana. Those studied were also 10 percent more ly to have developed heart failure.
Marijuana can also raise heart rate by 20 percent to 100 percent shortly after smoking and the effect can last up to three hours, according to NIDA. Marijuana also can reduce sperm production in men and disrupts a woman's menstrual cycle, according to NIDA.
While it is widely thought that marijuana is not addictive, about 30 percent users may have some degree of marijuana use disorder, according to NIDA. Long-term marijuana users who try to quit experience cravings, irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite and anxiety — some of the same physical symptoms of those trying to quit other types of drugs or alcohol.
A 2016 study found a link between certain genetic markers and symptoms of marijuana addiction, suggesting that some people may have a genetic predisposition to marijuana addiction.
That same study showed some overlap between the genetic risk factors for marijuana dependence and the genetic risk factors for depression, suggesting a possible reason why these two conditions often occur together, the researchers said.
You might not think marijuana and quizzes go together, but on the assumption that you arrived at this quiz sober, we pose some serious questions that will require your utmost attention and critical thinking skills. Good luck.
Pot Quiz: Test Your Marijuana Knowledge, Dude!
Additional reporting by Alina Bradford, Live Science contributor.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.
Marijuana (cannabis): Facts, effects, and hazards
- What is marijuana?
- Medical use
Globally, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug. Classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, marijuana is a mood-altering drug that affects almost every organ in the body.
In 2017, 6 percent or about 1 in 16 high school seniors in the United States reported using marijuana (cannabis) every day. The number of 12th graders who think marijuana use is risky has halved in the last 20 years.
According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.8 million, or 80.6 percent of people who used illicit drugs in the U.S. used marijuana in the month before being surveyed.
People can smoke marijuana, inhale it through vapor, brew it as a tea, apply it as a balm, or eat it in products, such as brownies or chocolate bars.
Some people use medical marijuana to treat chronic pain, muscle spasticity, anorexia, nausea, and sleep disturbances.
Medical marijuana refers to either whole marijuana or its ingredients, such as cannabidiol (CBD), which forms the base of a limited number of approved medications.
Medical marijuana is not subject to governmental standardization, making its ingredients and potency unknown. It is not legal in all states.
- The primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabidinol (THC).
- Marijuana contains more than 120 compounds, which are ly to have different properties.
- The effects of recreational marijuana use include lightheadedness, a feeling of relaxation, increased appetite, and reduced blood pressure.
Share on PinterestMarijuana comes from the Cannabis sativa plant.
Marijuana comes from the dried flowering tops, leaves, stems, and seeds of the Cannabis sativa (hemp) plant.
Humans have used marijuana for hundreds of years for fiber (hemp), seed oils, seed, medical treatment, and recreationally.
There is some evidence that marijuana or some of its components — such as CBD — may be useful for relieving severe pain, inflammation, nausea, and chronic conditions.
However, CBD is just one of at least 120 substances (cannabinoids) found in marijuana. People have many health concerns about the use of the drug.
Another primary component of marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC is the key mind-altering (psychoactive) substance in marijuana. It acts on specific brain receptors, causing possible mood changes, depression, suicidal thinking, memory issues, and disruption to normal learning abilities. It may also produce dependency.
The compound is also known to stimulate appetite (informally known as “the munchies”) and induce a relaxed state, as well as other effects on sense of smell, hearing, and eyesight. THC can also cause fatigue. In some people, THC may reduce aggression.
Share on PinterestMarijuana has many effects on the mind and body.
The effects of the 120-plus cannabinoids present in cannabis are mostly unknown, but the most potent psychoactive agent identified to date is THC.
When a person smokes cannabis, THC is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, reaching the brain within minutes.
The body absorbs THC more slowly when it is eaten, delaying the onset of action for up to 2 hours and prolonging the duration of the effect.
THC and other cannabinoids in marijuana are similar to cannabinoids produced by the body. These natural cannabinoids act neurotransmitters that send chemical messages between nerve cells (neurons) throughout the nervous system.
These neurotransmitters affect brain areas involved in memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, sensory and time perception, as well as pleasure. The receptors that respond to these cannabinoids also react to THC, which can alter and disrupt normal brain function.
Some studies have shown that THC affects areas of the brain that control memory creation and attention.
It also disrupts other parts of the brain, adversely affecting balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time. This can make it unsafe for a person using marijuana to drive a car, operate heavy machinery, or engage in sports or other potentially dangerous physical activities.
THC also stimulates specific cannabinoid receptors that increase the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to feelings of pleasure.
People use marijuana to achieve a feeling of elation (a high), giddiness, and relaxation. Marijuana also produces sensory perception changes; colors may seem brighter, music more vivid, and emotions more profound. Some people experience feelings of paranoia.
When people consume cannabis for recreational purposes, they might experience the following effects:
- changes in perception, due to a slight hallucinogenic effect that can create a distorted illusion of time and space
- mood changes, leading to euphoria, feelings of energy, or a state of relaxation
- higher heart rate
- reduction in blood pressure
- impairment of concentration and memory
- reduced psychomotor coordination
- nausea, even though some cannabinoids may help reduce nausea
- increase in appetite
- faster breathing
Depending on the length and amount of use, some traces of THC might still be present in a person’s urine for several months after they last used marijuana.
Below are some examples of findings that suggest or demonstrate some of the negative consequences of consuming cannabis:
- Impairment of judgment: A study in the BMJ found that a person is significantly more ly to crash their car if they drive within 3 hours of smoking marijuana.
- Reproductive issues: According to a review of animal studies, cannabis use might lead to sexual dysfunction.
- Immune response: According to one study, smoking marijuana could eventually suppress the body’s immune system, making the user more susceptible to certain types of cancer and infections.
- Psychosis: Research carried out on siblings suggested that long-term marijuana use could increase the risk of developing psychosis in young adults.
- Gum disease risk: One study indicated that smoking cannabis increases the risk of developing gum disease, regardless of whether the user smokes tobacco.
- Reduced brain function: Researchers found that regular cannabis users who started before they were 15 years old did not score as well on brain tests as their counterparts who began using cannabis later in life.
- Acute memory loss: A British study suggests that smokers of potent cannabis strains (skunk, for instance) may have a higher risk of acute memory loss.
- Changes in human DNA: A British study found compelling evidence that cannabis smoke damages human DNA in such a way that the user could become more susceptible to developing cancer.
- Testicular cancer: A 2015 review and meta-analysis of three earlier studies found that frequent or long-term marijuana use may increase the risk of developing testicular cancer, but more evidence is needed to confirm this.
Share on PinterestMarijuana may be addictive, and long-term use may cause various health problems.
Cannabis, other pain relievers, can lead to dependence and addiction.
Over time, the severe, persistent overstimulation of the neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors can cause changes in the brain that result in a marijuana use disorder or addiction.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people who start using marijuana at a young age, and who are heavy users are more ly to develop a marijuana use disorder than some other users.
Abrupt withdrawal from cannabis can be uncomfortable but not life-threatening.
Withdrawal begins on the second day after stopping and may persist for up to weeks.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- stomach pain
- decreased appetite
Sleep problems can potentially persist beyond that time frame.
The full extent of the long-term health risks of chronic cannabis use is currently unknown. There is no way to determine who will develop severe physical, psychological, or other unwanted reactions.
Drugs that do not have legal status, do not have FDA approval, or both cannot be guaranteed safe.
So-called synthetic marijuana, such as K2 or Spice, is not marijuana, although it contains some of the compounds found in marijuana.
Some people may try untested and illegal synthetic cannabinoids in the belief that they are legal. This can be dangerous and possibly fatal.
Cannabis and related products, such as CBD, are legal in some states but not in others. It is important to check your state laws before purchasing marijuana, cannabis, or their derivatives.
Researchers have been looking into the possible benefits of cannabinoids for treating different health conditions.
These include autoimmune disease, inflammation, pain, seizure disorders, psychiatric disorders and substance use disorders, withdrawal, and dependence.
CBD in medicine
Many researchers are investigating the medicinal potential of cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid found in marijuana that does not have psychoactive effects.
In June 2018, following a lengthy process of research and clinical trials, the FDA approved the use of CBD to treat two rare and severe types of epilepsy that do not respond well to other treatments.
The drug is called Epidiolex, and it is a medication that derives from marijuana. It is a purified cannabidiol that does not contain THC.
Some people believe that CBD might help relieve the pain and inflammation that occurs with fibromyalgia and arthritis, for example, and possibly for treating anxiety and addiction.
THC in medication
Some studies have demonstrated that THC shows some promise for the treatment of nausea and vomiting, but its adverse effects may limit its use.
It may have antiemetic qualities that make it helpful for people undergoing chemotherapy or other treatment where nausea can be a side effect.
THC may also decrease pain, inflammation, nausea, and muscle control problems, but as yet, no medications for these conditions have approval, and more evidence is necessary to confirm their safety and effectiveness.
Some clinical trials have shown that THC has mild-to-moderate pain-relieving effects, and might be useful for the treatment of headache pain.
Studies suggest that there are specific benefits of certain types of marijuana use, and the FDA will ly approve more types of marijuana for medical applications over time.
In addition to Epidiolex, three other drugs have received FDA approval: Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet. These medications contain synthetic substances with a similar structure to THC. They are treatment options for some kinds of anorexia.
Other researchers are looking at the potential for marijuana extracts to target and kill cancer cells, in particular as a treatment alongside radiation therapy.
Results of a study published in July 2018 found no evidence that cannabis use can reduce pain or reduce the need for opioids in pain related to cancer. However, the use of cannabis was mostly illicit and did not focus on the use of specific cannabinoids.
Are some types of marijuana more dangerous than others?
In the last 30 years, the potency of marijuana has increased in an attempt to improve the effect.
THC concentration, the part of marijuana attributed to some of the “stoned” effects has increased from 3 to 4 percent (in the 1990s) up to over 12 percent when measured in 2014.
Using more potent marijuana will ly result in more potent side effects.
Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.