The surprising consequences of marijuana
The more common side-effects of smoking marijuana include increased appetite, laughing, scrambled senses and, in some cases, heightened anxiety. But did you know there are some lesser known effects of the drug as well?
The type and severity of these effects depend on a number of factors. Anything from the composition of the drug and how often a person takes it, to the user’s disposition and how much they’ve consumed at that particular time can all have an impact on how you react to drugs.
Below we have highlighted some of the impacts taking marijuana can have.
Even recreational cannabis use can have serious consequences
Marijuana isn’t a Class A drug, leading people to assume it’s not as harmful as the likes of cocaine and heroin. Yet recreational use has been found to have serious consequences on our mental state and can result in psychotic symptoms, panic attacks, deficient attention and impaired concentration.
Marijuana can produce many physical symptoms
Bloodshot eyes are the most obvious sign of smoking marijuana. However, there are other physical symptoms;
- Inflammation in the mouth
- Excessively fast heartbeat
- Irritation of the respiratory system
Some people are more vulnerable to the health effects of marijuana
Some of us are more prone to the effects than others. Those who are particularly vulnerable include children and adolescents, people with a history of psychosis, depression, anxiety or other mental disorders, pregnant women and those with pre-existing cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
It has short-term effects on our health
Aside from the initial ‘high’ that users feel, cannabis can also cause:
- Our senses to be altered
- Changes in mood
- Impaired body movement
- Difficulty with thinking and problem solving
- Impaired memory
- Panic and anxiety, fatigue and feelings of depression
- An altered sense of time
- Increased chance of heart attack
- Red and bloodshot eyes
It irritates the respiratory system
Marijuana smoke is made up of a variety of toxic chemicals which can irritate the bronchial passages and lungs. Smoking it on a regular basis means you’re more likely to suffer from wheezing, coughing and producing phlegm. You’re also at increased risk of contracting bronchitis and lung infections and it can also aggravate existing respiratory illnesses such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.
One of the main ingredients in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) this chemical can cause your heart rate to increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute. This rapid heartbeat can continue for up to three hours and for those with heart disease, it can increase your risk of a heart attack.
Central nervous system
THC causes your brain to release large amounts of dopamine. While this allows us to feel a temporary pleasant high, it can also heighten our sensory perception and perception of time. It also changes the way we process information so our judgement may be impaired.
Changes also take place in the brain which upset our balance, coordination and reflex response. Large doses of marijuana can cause hallucinations or delusions.
In a study carried out by scientists at Northwestern University, it was found that former marijuana smokers had developed brain abnormalities in the regions which are associated with short-term memory. Study participants also demonstrated reduced performance on memory-related tasks and the brains of marijuana smokers were abnormally shaped and looked similar to brains damaged by schizophrenia.
Marijuana and anxiety
While many people smoke marijuana because they feel it helps to calm them down, in recent years a lot of questions have been raised about whether or not the drug does in fact contribute to or even cause anxiety.
There are many arguments to support the notion that marijuana can be used to calm the mind and body. It’s often cited as a natural painkiller and it’s increasingly being used by people to self-medicate. Whilst this may be true in some cases, many studies have linked marijuana use to heightened anxiety.
Why marijuana use can contribute to anxiety:
- It may be laced with other chemicals which can cause anxiety
- The act of buying illegal drugs can add considerable stress and anxiety
- How and when you take drugs can affect anxiety. For example, if you’re around someone who disapproves of it or you’re worried about getting caught, you will experience a less pleasant high
- Withdrawal – one of the biggest side effects of withdrawal from marijuana is anxiety. As a result, it’s possible that even those without anxiety problems can develop at least temporary anxiety during the withdrawal phase
- Fear of marijuana addiction can increase anxiety levels