Marijuana Health Effects

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the nation.  With the low stigma marijuana use carries, it is freely accepted by a large percentage of the public, and not generally considered to be a dangerous drug, especially in comparison to other illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, crack, and methamphetamine.  The fact is that marijuana can be extremely dangerous and destructive, and its use can have very harmful effects on a users brain and body.

Marijuana abuse affects the mind and body

The feeling that occurs from smoking or ingesting marijuana is similar to that of alcohol, in that they are both central nervous system depressants. Within 10-30 minutes of ingesting marijuana, the user will fall into a sense that all is right with the world, and a dreamlike relaxation state that encourages fantasies and makes one highly susceptible to persuasion.  While under the influence of marijuana, operation of machinery and vehicles can be extremely dangerous.  Marijuana delays the reactions of its user, severely inhibiting their ability to make quick decisions and maneuvers. 

In addition to delayed reactions, marijuana alters an individual’s state of mind and perception of reality.  Often, users will feel happy, introspective, paranoid, silly, and tired.  Marijuana is most often smoked either in bongs, pipes, or rolling papers legally sold to roll cigarettes and cigars.  As with any smoke being inhaled into the lungs, chronic marijuana smokers run a significant risk for lung and chest ailments.

Short-term side effects usually fade within 2-3 hours of ingesting marijuana, but it will linger in the body’s fat cells for up to 2-3 days, revealing traces of its active ingredient, THC in drug tests.  Some employers require blood or urine drug tests to be eligible for employment, while other employers have gone so far as to test hair follicles since traces of marijuana can remain in hair for several months.

Even more detrimental to school aged youths, marijuana can inhibit one’s ability to learn, absorb, and retain information for up to 24 hours after its last use. Short-term memory becomes diminished, as do math and verbal abilities.

Tests on animals have also shown that marijuana can cause permanent damage to the parts of the brain that are required for memory and learning.   Although modern society often looks at marijuana as a relatively innocuous drug, it can have devastating effects on the brain.  

Physical complications from marijuana use

Considering the damage marijuana can do to the brain, the most common form of marijuana consumption – smoking – wreaks havoc on otherwise healthy bodies. Some common symptoms affecting chronic smokers are:

  • Chest colds
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • Bronchial asthma

As is the case with traditional cigarettes, chronic smoking of marijuana will damage the lungs and increase the risks of developing cancer. Smoking one marijuana joint can be just as damaging as smoking 5 tobacco cigarettes.

Additionally, some studies have shown regular marijuana consumption to weaken various immune mechanisms, making its consumption particularly dangerous for people enduring HIV/AIDS, cancer chemotherapy, or a recent organ transplant.

Puberty can be delayed in some cases of marijuana addiction in children, which can lead to numerous issues throughout life including problems with impulse control, maturity, responsibility, focus, selfishness, and self esteem – all general characteristics of addiction .

There are also certain hormonal disruptions that can be caused by marijuana use.

For example, frequent use can reduce sperm production in older males. For women who are using marijuana on a regular basis, monthly menstrual cycles can be disrupted and ovulation may be decreased.

Pregnant women using marijuana have an increased risk of giving birth to smaller, low-weight babies who may be susceptible to health problems as infants. These infants may also have developmental and behavioral problems as they age. 

While pop culture pays homage to the marijuana leaf, its actual use can be detected by watching closely: Look for immediate signs such as bloodshot eyes, fatigue, and lethargic appearance.  Over time users may experience failing memory or loss of interest in activities. There are numerous other warning signs that can be used to help determine marijuana abuse.

While withdrawal from marijuana is not as severe as other drugs, it can be difficult for some, and may require the guidance and support of an addiction treatment program.

Learn more about marijuana abuse treatment.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a marijuana addiction, Let our trained counselors help. Call now.