Before we talk about the side effects of marijuana, let’s get to know what this most commonly used illicit drug in America actually is and how it works.
One of most active ingredients of marijuana is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, which has the potential for making humans high. When THC enters the blood, its mind-altering capabilities come into action pretty quickly. THC and some other compounds can affect the way your body works.
Marijuana is so popular that at least one in every three Americans has used it once, and as the stigma attached to it is declining because of the modern scientific researches, it’s popularity is at an all-time high. It’s being legalized for medical or even recreational use in some states. Most users feel relaxed and happy, and it has been reported to ease certain pains, eliminate nausea and is also considered to be helpful in stopping vomiting in advanced cases of cancer or AIDS. People suffering from serious illnesses who lose appetite are also reported to find weed helpful in improving and augmenting their appetite.
Although occasional use isn’t believed to be harmful, negative side effects of marijuana can impact your body as well as the mind, can slow down reflexes and impair decision-making capabilities. It’s so potent that it can be detected in urine up to seven days after casual use and up to 30 days after regular, heavy use.
Common Terms for Marijuana
Hemp: it’s just a plant like any other. The leaves, flowers, stem and seeds of Cannabis Sativa hemp plant are used as weed.
Cannabis: scientific term to describe hemp plant.
Marijuana or weed: slang for cannabis leaves and flowers
Hashish: it’s an extract of weed, usually pressed resin from marijuana. Just like any other extract, hashish is more potent than regular weed.
Negative Side Effects of Cannabis
Like any other drug (including alcohol), the side effects from marijuana vary from person to person. One person might feel stressed and even disoriented while other might feel relaxed and focused. In addition to your body, several other factors including type and amount of cannabis, your mood or the current state of mind, your circumstances, environment/settings, your diet, and many others, can also play a huge rule in determining the effects of weed you’ll experience.
The most common and obvious side effects of THC are bloodshot eyes and dry mouth. And that’s why you’ll see that most potheads carry some sort of eye washing product with them. Other commonly reported side effects include, but not limited to, pointless giggling, sloth-like reflexes, loss of inhibitions, an enhanced appreciation for things like colors, music etc. you wouldn’t pay much attention to normally.
Most types of cannabis are mild, however, strong cannabis (e.g. skunk or purple haze) or too much usage can have stronger effects such as hallucination while some people also report increased anxiety and paranoia. Although it doesn’t augment risk-taking behavior like alcohol does, weed does impair mental functions such as memory, attention, and performance, which makes driving or operating heavy machinery risky.
Health Risks of Cannabis
While many believe marijuana to be extremely dangerous, it’s actually considerably less harmful than other substances in the same class such as barbiturates, amphetamines etc. In fact, occasional use of weed is hardly ever associated with any health issues. Even for serious users, science has yet to prove any solid evidence of major health problems for the users or the society. Especially in individuals who are otherwise healthy, the biggest real harm marijuana can do is impaired control of movements.
However, for people who have heart and circulation disorders, low blood pressure, diabetes, or schizophrenia, weed can pose significant threats. No matter how weed enters your body, it impacts pretty every major organ in your body in one way or another, though not always negatively. Smoking and vaporizing yield instantaneous high as THC is absorbed immediately by your body, and you can be under the influence for up to four hours. For those who eat pot-laced brownies or cookies, the effects appear after quite. Here are a few issues that weed is commonly believed to trigger or augment.
The biggest health issue of weed is dependence. Regular heavy usage might make you dependent, however, it’s far less addictive than tobacco as well as alcohol. In fact, it’s reported that only 10% people who use weed become addicted to it.
Higher Chances of Cardiac Arrest
When smoked, marijuana can increase your heart rate up to two times from the normal rate. The increased heartbeat rate is often linked to increased chances of heart attack, and that’s why doctors recommend heart patients to stay away from any form of cannabis.
Modern scientific studies confirm that unlike tobacco cigarettes, smoking cannabis isn’t linked to higher chances of getting lung cancer. But it can cause a cough and chest colds, and extended heavy use is also associate with lung irritation.
Some people believe they achieve better concentration and mental stability after smoking weed, but THC in cannabis can have both short-term and long-term effects on the human brain.
When THC is absorbed by the body into the bloodstream, all the chemicals are carried to brain in addition to other organs. When THC reaches the brain, it’s supposed to impact certain brain cell receptors that contain chemicals similar to THC itself. These THC-like chemicals control brain development and other functions.
As for short-term effects of weed on the brain, it over-activates the receptor cells and the person feels the “high” and gets into a relaxed mood. The person’s senses of seeing colors or listening and even sense of time are altered. Heavy use can reduce thinking capabilities and can even cause memory loss for the short term.
As for long-term effects, the overall brain development of heavy weed users is believed to be affected, especially if they started using weed in teenage. A study suggested that teenage marijuana smokers lost on average eight IQ points between ages 13 and 38, and most of them never fully recovered even after quitting weed. On the flip side, those who started smoking weed in adult age didn’t lose any IQ points.
Impact on Sexual Health and Reproduction
For men, frequent heavy use of marijuana can affect sexual health by lowering their testosterone levels and sperm count, which could result in reduced fertility. Likewise, pregnant women, as well as babies in their womb, can be affected by marijuana use. For instance, because of the high levels of carbon monoxide in the smoke, birth weight could be lower than normal of the children whose mother has been smoking weed during pregnancy.
Other Health Risks of Cannabis
Some other common physical effects of weed are short-term forgetfulness, depression, dizziness, increased appetite, and slowed down reflexes. Heavy users who have been using weed for long periods of time can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug.
Increasing Levels of THC
Marijuana has been in use for centuries, however, in the past few years, the THC levels in cannabis are believed to be going up. Cannabis used to contain a maximum of 4% THC, but now this has gone as high as 7%. The increased levels of THC worries many health professionals who believe that now it might become more addictive and more potent for producing mind-altering impacts. It’s very hard to know the exact level of THC or other chemicals in cannabis, so even if you’re buying from a regulated dispensary, it’s difficult to have an idea how much THC your body will absorb and thus knowing the exact effects can be difficult. But many health professionals claim that increasing levels of THC can increase the potential side effects of marijuana use.
Can we Minimize the Side Effects of Weed?
Is marijuana lethal? Maybe not. Is it very dangerous? Science has yet to figure out whether its cons outweigh its pros or not. Is it more dangerous than tobacco? No. According to American Lungs Association, marijuana has four times more tar than tobacco, but the largest study of its kind shows it’s not linked to lung cancer, even in a case of heavy, regular smokers.
But at the end of the day, there are some side effects of marijuana. Tar, as well as other carcinogens, are released when weed or tobacco undergo combustion. So, people use alternative methods such as eating or drinking weed with food. But these methods have their downsides; for instance, making pot-laced brownies or brewing tea that has weed, is a lengthy and complicated process.
This leaves us with the modern, high-tech method of vaporizing weed. In this method, a modern device called vaporizer is used to turn weed into vapors by bringing it into contact with a heating element. Since there is no combustion, there is no tar and many other compounds that make weed harmful. Studies show that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than tobacco, and the same goes for weed. The good thing is that new vaporizers are refining the technology to further minimize or eliminate the risks involved, and the prices are also coming down. But don’t forget that there are a couple of hassles, like setting up the device and clean up the process, attached to vaping weed, which can be off-putting for someone who is used to instantly rolling and smoking a joint.
Remember, knowing the potential weed side effects and how to minimize them can go a long way for a healthy living, no matter you use marijuana for medical purposes or just for medical reasons.