Made from the dried flowers, leaves and stem of the Cannabis sativa hemp plant, marijuana is one of the most widely abused drugs in the world. It can be smoked, mixed with food or brewed like tea. Many people mistakenly assume that marijuana is completely harmless because some jurisdictions have approved its medicinal and recreational use. The drug is touted for its ability to create a sense of euphoria and relaxation. While these effects are common, it is also likely that some users will experience life-changing, long-term side effects. There are several known side effects of marijuana.
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Short-term Effects of Marijuana Use
Responsible for the psychoactive effects of the drug, THC moves rapidly from your lungs into your bloodstream when smoked. The substance reaches and affects other organs and systems in your body. It may take a little longer to experience the effects of marijuana if you eat or drink the drug. One of the most commonly reported side effects of the drug is its ability to cause a sudden increased desire to eat junk food.
Other short-term effects include:
- Dry mouth caused by a drop in saliva production
- Red eyes and dilated pupils
- Dizziness when standing caused by a drop in blood pressure
- Short-term and potentially long-term memory problems
- Severe anxiety and possibly paranoia
- Inability to distinguish between imagination and reality
- Panic attacks
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Diminished reaction time
- Coordination problems that interfere with safe driving or playing sports
- Loss sense of personal identity
- Predisposed individuals may experience long-lasting psychotic disorders like schizophrenia
Male users may also experience sexual dysfunction. Women users are up to seven times more likely to be infected by a sexually transmitted disease than women who do not use the drug. Marijuana smokers suffer increased risks of respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing and bronchitis. In addition to aggravating preexisting conditions like asthma and cystic fibrosis, the smoke increases the rate of colds and lung infections. Users may experience depression after coming down from the high.
Long-term Effects of Marijuana Use
Long-term consequences of marijuana abuse depend on how often you use the drug, how much you use and how you take it.
Problems associated with long-term abuse include:
- A decline in IQ of up to 8 points if prolonged use began during adolescence
- Poor school performance and a higher risk of dropping out
- Impaired thinking and judgment as well as a lower ability to learn and perform complex tasks
- A lack of motivation
Approximately 9 percent of adults and 17 percent of individuals who smoked the drug during their teenage years became addicted to marijuana. Studies indicate that marijuana use increase the risk for future addiction to tobacco, alcohol and other drugs like cocaine and opiates.
The long-term use of marijuana can lead to financial difficulties, which can result in destructive behaviors, including lying and theft. The addiction increases dependence on public assistance because of chronic unemployment and the inability to keep a good job. Long-term use can also lead to relationship problems with family members and friends.
Is Marijuana Deadly?
In light of marijuana’s potential side effects, researchers are evaluating the risk for death among those who use the drug. While sudden death is an unlikely issue for the vast majority of marijuana users, the drug is associated with serious, long-term consequences. The amount of THC present in marijuana has steadily increased over the past few decades. This makes the drug more potent. Using marijuana can significantly raise your heart rate for several hours after you smoke the drug. You may also experience an irregular heartbeat and lower blood pressure. This raises the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Research indicates that smoking marijuana may lead to lung cancer. Smoking synthetic marijuana poses even greater risks.
Getting Help for an Addiction
Although marijuana may not have the same risk of an overdose as other drugs, long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction. Reliance on any drug can harm your personal, professional and social life. It can be difficult to stop using marijuana without professional assistance because of withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, anxiety and depression. If you or a loved one needs help with a marijuana addiction, treatment is just a phone call away. You can take the first step on the road to recovery by contacting Ocean Hills Recovery today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.