Effects of Marijuana Use
Marijuana is derived from the cannabis plant. Most people smoke marijuana via a pipe (bowl), water pipe (bong, bubbler, or hookah), cigarettes (joints), or out of hollowed-out cigars (blunts). Marijuana can also be ingested in solid form by mixing it into food. More recently, people have been using devices to vaporize marijuana and inhale it.2
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there were 22.2 million current marijuana users aged 12 or older in 2015.8 With the number of marijuana users growing every day, it is important to know the potential side effects.
What Happens When You Smoke Marijuana?
People consume marijuana to achieve a “high.” When people smoke marijuana, they typically inhale the smoke and hold it in their lungs for as long as they can. This maximizes the absorption of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC (the psychoactive chemical in marijuana) into the system. However, roughly one-half of the product is lost when it is smoked. 7
People can become intoxicated within minutes after smoking marijuana. The psychoactive effects of marijuana can occur within 1 to 10 minutes and peak within 10 to 30 minutes. A high from smoking marijuana typically lasts 3 to 4 hours.7
The effects of marijuana last longer if the drug is ingested orally as a food or other substance. However, it may take a few hours for the effects to peak when ingested via these other methods.
Marijuana’s Effects on the Brain
THC attaches to molecules called cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These are located in areas that influence mental and physical processes such as thinking, memory, coordination, movement, and time perception. When THC interacts with and activates these receptors, it can disrupt these processes. 9
Marijuana also triggers the release of dopamine, which stimulates pleasure centers of the brain. 7
Short-term effects include euphoria, relaxation, and heightened senses.
Short-term effects of marijuana include but are not limited to:
- Increased appetite.
- Heightened senses.
- Altered time perception. 1
Like other drugs, marijuana use can cause side effects and harm.
Some of the noted side effects include but are not limited to:
- Increased anxiety and paranoia.
- Sense of panic.
- Decreased motor control.
- Difficulty thinking or problem-solving.
- Memory problems.
- Mood changes. 1, 2, 3
As a person continues to use marijuana, they may become tolerant to its effects. Once a person develops a tolerance, they may need more marijuana to achieve the desired high. Some daily or near-daily users risk developing both physical and psychological marijuana dependence.
Marijuana use has also been linked to amotivational syndrome, which can lead to poor school performance and may cause problems with keeping a job. People who suffer from a cannabis use disorder (the clinical term for marijuana addiction) report problems with friends or partners.4
People may also be involved in automobile, recreational, or sports accidents due to being under the influence of marijuana. Additionally, marijuana smoke contains high levels of carcinogenic compounds that may place chronic users at risk for lung problems similar to those experienced by people who smoke cigarettes. 4
Cannabis use can contribute to the following long-term effects:
- The onset of acute psychosis
- Difficulties meeting work obligations/absences/job loss
- Decline in school performance/truancy/drop-out
- Mental health issues (depression, paranoia, anxiety, worsening schizophrenia symptoms)
- Problems with interpersonal relationships
- Child development problems during and after pregnancy
- Cognitive deficits, especially if use begins in adolescence (such as impaired verbal learning and some memory problems)
- Serious health problems (such as increased risk for lung cancer or heart attack) 2, 4, 5, 6
Get Help for Marijuana Addiction
If you or a loved one is trying to stop using marijuana, give us a call today at 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information . Our rehab placement specialists are available 24/7 to help you find a recovery center near you.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are marijuana effects?
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). DrugFacts: Marijuana.
. Johns A. Psychiatric effects of cannabis. Brit J Psychiatry 2001;178:116-122.
. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. Arlington, VA American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.
. Morgan CJ, Curran HV. Effects of cannabidiol on schizophrenia-like symptoms in people who use cannabis. Br J Psychiatry. 2008;192(4):306-307.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain?
. Abadinsky, H. (2010). Drug use and abuse: A comprehensive introduction. Nelson Education.
. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51).
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). How does marijuana produce its effects?
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