Understanding the Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana refers to the parts of the cannabis plant which contain THC, a psychoactive chemical. People smoke or consume Marijuana to “get high,” or experience heightened sensations of euphoria and relaxation. When someone smokes Marijuana, the THC from the drug fills up their lungs, enters their bloodstream, and metabolizes in the liver. The mental effects of Marijuana occur because the bloodstream carries the THC to the brain. Once it reaches the brain, the THC interacts with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, which are involved in regulating memory function, learning, decision making, coordination, reaction time, emotions, and attention.
Cannabinoids are neurotransmitters (or structures in the brain which carry messages between neurons) and the brain synthesizes them naturally. THC is not a cannabinoid which exists naturally in the brain, so when THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in place of normal cannabinoid neurotransmitters, it disrupts connections between neurons and impairs the functioning of the brain and nervous system. This is the reason why smoking Marijuana quickly affects how someone thinks and acts.
The Effects of Being High on Marijuana
When someone smokes Marijuana, the effects of the drug usually last for about two or three hours and begin within minutes. When someone eats something that contains Marijuana, which is usually called an “edible,” the effects usually do not begin for at least half an hour and they could last for almost an entire day. Whether it’s smoked or eaten, Marijuana causes a “high” which most often involves altered senses and perceptions of time. Marijuana also amplifies the emotions, although this effect may vary from person to person. One person who has smoked Marijuana might find everything amusing, exciting, and inspirational, but someone else could experience sadness and fear. The emotional effects of Marijuana depend heavily on the state of a person’s mind.
Furthermore, someone who is “high” on Marijuana will have difficulty with memory and coordination as well as trouble with making decisions and solving problems. This is why driving under the influence of Marijuana is very dangerous. It is also possible to experience negative effects from using too much Marijuana. High doses of Marijuana can cause delusions, psychosis, and hallucinations which may be frightening or confusing. THC is low in toxicity and scientific research has not demonstrated that a fatal Marijuana overdose is possible. Nevertheless, too much Marijuana can raise a person’s heart rate and blood pressure to unhealthy levels, cause nausea and vomiting, and provoke panic attacks, anxiety, and paranoia.
The Effects of Long-Term Marijuana Use
The potency of the THC in the average batch of Marijuana has increased in recent decades. Using Marijuana frequently, perhaps everyday, is likely to have long-lasting consequences. For example, Marijuana may permanently damage the brain. This is especially true for teenagers and young adults whose brains are still developing. The human brain continues to build itself until the age of 25, but regular Marijuana use stunts brain development. On average, adults who smoked Marijuana heavily as teenagers are eight IQ points less intelligent than adults who did not. Additionally, mothers who use Marijuana while pregnant expose their unborn babies to THC. This increases the likelihood that their children will be born with learning deficiencies and behavioral problems. Adults who regularly smoke Marijuana may also experience weakened cognitive abilities which set them behind at work or in school.
Since people smoke Marijuana, the drug also impacts their lungs. Regularly inhaling Marijuana smoke may scar lung tissue, damage pulmonary blood vessels, aggravate coughing, and increase the risk of bronchitis. Marijuana smoke also contains some of the carcinogens and harmful chemicals which are present in cigarette smoke.
It is also important to understand that regular Marijuana use can have negative effects on a person’s mental health. This is unsurprising since the drug interferes with the normal operations of the brain. There is evidence that frequently smoking Marijuana places a person at risk for persistent anxiety and paranoia. Some studies have also correlated heavy Marijuana use to the development or intensification of schizophrenia.
Addiction to Marijuana
Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. Every year, between 30-40 million Americans smoke Marijuana. Surveys show that about 43% of Americans have admitted to using the drug at least once in their lives. Approximately one out of every ten Marijuana users will develop an addiction to Marijuana. This ratio escalates to one out of every six users for people who are below the age of 18. Addiction is perhaps the most significant long-term mental health effect of using Marijuana.
A person begins to develop an addiction to Marijuana once they develop a tolerance to the effects of the drug at a certain dose. Tolerance causes them to continue using the drug more often and in larger doses to continue experiencing the same “high.” After a period of heavy Marijuana use, a person will feel cravings to smoke Marijuana to feel normal and avoid withdrawal. Someone with a Marijuana addiction is at greater risk for suffering the negative physical, mental, legal, and social consequences of using Marijuana regularly. Fortunately, Marijuana addiction can be treated at a recovery center with detox, medication, and therapy.
The Unproven and Controversial Effects of Marijuana
Since Marijuana is so popular and well-known, many people believe that it has effects (both positive and negative) which haven’t been proven scientifically. For example, there is no evidence that Marijuana actually makes someone more creative or insightful. Additionally, scientists have not proven that Marijuana provides effective treatment for any form of chronic pain besides damaged nerve pain. There is also little evidence that Marijuana either causes or cures cancer or that it increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.
There is growing acceptance that certain cannabinoids which come from Marijuana have medical value. Many states have legalized “medical Marijuana” and the FDA has approved several medications which contain chemicals which originate in Marijuana. However, the FDA has not approved the Marijuana plant for medical purposes. There is still a debate on whether smoking Marijuana actually has any beneficial medical effects.
Is Marijuana Actually a “Gateway Drug?”
There is a widespread belief that people who smoke Marijuana will go on to experiment with more dangerous and intense drugs, such as Methamphetamine and Heroin. Research indicates that this might be somewhat true. Persistent Marijuana use builds tolerance in the brain to THC and also increases the brain’s sensitivity to other substances. These two effects might cause a frequent Marijuana user to try other drugs. This may be why most people who try “harder” or “worse” drugs are likely to have already used Marijuana. However, while there is a correlation between using “hard drugs” and smoking Marijuana, studies also show that most people who smoke Marijuana do not actually try other drugs later in their lives. They either continue to use Marijuana or stop using drugs completely. The question of whether Marijuana is a gateway drug has not yet been settled.
How to Find Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
As Marijuana becomes increasingly legal throughout the United States, it is more important than ever to understand the risks of Marijuana and know the options for treating Marijuana addiction. If you or someone you know is regularly smoking Marijuana and can’t stop, please contact a dedicated treatment specialist today to learn more about rehab facilities and recovery centers which help people break free from Marijuana addiction.
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