Some people refer to marijuana as a gateway drug. Others say that it’s perfectly safe, especially when used medicinally. For people with certain conditions, the benefits of using marijuana may outweigh the risks. However, with marijuana legal in California, it’s important to understand that using marijuana can have negative side effects.
Some people are concerned because marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in some states. If you’re using the substance, you might be putting your health in danger. Detrimental marijuana side effects include an increased risk of cancer and heart disease, diminished lung function, impaired judgment while driving, reduced birth weight in babies, weakened memory and attention, and mental health problems.
Does Smoking Pot Increase Your Cancer Risk?
Marijuana is often prescribed to treat the pain and nausea associated with cancer and chemotherapy. You might wonder if smoking pot can contribute to cancer because it requires you to inhale smoke through your airways.
Studies have not found conclusive links between marijuana smoke and cancer. A systematic review conducted in 2005 looked at six studies and found no association between marijuana smoking and lung cancer.
Other studies have looked into whether marijuana can increase the risk of other cancers. In one systematic review researchers found a connection between people with a particular type of testicular cancer and heavy marijuana use. However, the study had many limitations.
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Concerns About Secondhand Marijuana Smoke
With marijuana legal in California, people are smoking in public more often, eliciting concern about secondhand smoke. One study found that the harmful effects of marijuana inhalation can last three times longer than cigarette smoke.
Although cannabis smoke doesn’t contain chemicals or additives, burning and breathing in pot can constrict your arteries for up to 90 minutes. This can lead to lung and heart problems. The issue lies not with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, but with the action of inhaling the smoke itself. There has not been much research into the negative effects of edible marijuana products.
Smoking cannabis has not been linked to an intensification of asthma symptoms or other lung problems. However, one study found some evidence that lung function deteriorates in regular marijuana smokers. Other researchers have noted that long-term marijuana smokers may demonstrate symptoms of chronic bronchitis. Secondhand smoke doesn’t necessarily produce these side effects, but it’s healthier to breathe in fresh, clean air than any kind of smoke.
This Is Your Brain On Marijuana
Some of the most notable marijuana side effects occur in your brain. Some experts say that short-term use can produce issues such as:
- Impaired short-term memory
- Problems with coordination
- Compromised judgement
- Paranoia and psychosis in large doses
The effects on memory can make it hard for you to learn and remember information. When your coordination and judgment are affected, you may experience an increased risk of injury when driving or participating in potentially hazardous activities. Altered judgment can lead you to lose your inhibition and make poor choices pertaining to the use of other drugs or participation in sexual behaviors.
Heavy marijuana use affects brain development, especially in adolescence. Approximately 9 percent of overall cannabis users become addicted. That number jumps to 17 percent for people who started using the drug before they were 18. About 25 to 50 percent of people who use marijuana daily struggle with addiction to the substance.
If you’re predisposed to mental health issues, using marijuana can make the problem worse. Using the drug increases the risk of psychosis disorders. It also leads to reduced satisfaction with life, which could contribute to problems such as depression and anxiety.
The New York Times reports that several studies have established connections between marijuana and schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. People who use cannabis heavily may have more suicidal thoughts than people who don’t.
However, it’s difficult to determine causality. Are people with mental health disorders more likely to use substances or do people who use drugs have a better chance of developing psychological problems? Scientists aren’t sure.
Even though some people say that you can’t become addicted to marijuana, there is clear evidence that dependence and addiction can occur when you use the substance. Chronic cannabis users can experience withdrawal effects, such as:
- Trouble sleeping
Those who start using the drug in adolescence are up to four times more likely than those who begin using it in adulthood to experience symptoms of dependence within a couple of years.
If you’re concerned that you may be struggling with cannabis addiction, call Ocean Hills Recovery today to find out how we can help you develop your ability to find relaxation and fulfillment within yourself and enjoy a drug-free life.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.