Effects of Weed Use: How Marijuana Affects Your Mind and Body
Marijuana is derived from the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa. It can be smoked or made into a tea or cooked into various types of edible products. It contains a mind altering chemical called THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. It also has over five hundred other types of chemicals, including some called cannabinoids.
People usually use marijuana to get a pleasurable high feeling, as well as to treat chronic pain and other conditions. It affects the pleasure center in the brain and causes the brain to release dopamine. Marijuana is legal in some US states for both medical and recreational use, but it is still considered illegal on a federal government level.
Marijuana has several effects on the human body depending on how it is used and the length of time used, as well as the strength of the product used. Here is how marijuana or “weed” as it is sometimes called, effects various parts of the human body:
Respiratory System, including the lungs
Marijuana smoking has an effect on the lungs much the same as tobacco products since it is a throat and lung irritant. That is due to the fact it contains several toxic substances like hydrogen cyanide, tar and ammonia which irritate the lungs and bronchial tubes. It can cause coughing, wheezing or phlegm. It can also make conditions like asthma or cystic fibrosis worse.
Plus, it can cause an increase in airway resistance, and hyperinflation of the lungs. In some cases it has been seen to cause more risk of lung infections like pneumonia or other respiratory infections. Recently the FDA has alerted people to 100s of reports of problems related to vaping marijuana, including death. Tests are being done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the reasons for these issues, and they are telling people not to vape marijuana until more details are known.
Brain and Cognitive Effects
Many studies have shown that marijuana can cause lasting changes in the brain. One such study showed that rats exposed to it prior to birth had learning and memory issues later on in their lives. Plus if marijuana is used during the adolescent years, it has been shown to cause both structural and functional issues in the hippocampus of the brain, which is part of the limbic system. It regulates memory, including long and short term, as well as spatial memory.
It has also been shown to effect the area of the brain that regulates learning ability and impulse control, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse has done studies linking it with an increased risk of a person developing mental issues like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
Marijuana has also been shown to have a possible effect on a person’s circulatory system. In some cases this could actually be positive, as studies have shown it may prevent certain kinds of blood vessels from growing that feed cancer cells. More studies are being done on this topic.
Central Nervous System
Marijuana effects the central nervous system, which is why it is said to help some chronic pain patients, as well as help to control seizures or spasms. This is in part due to the dopamine that it causes the brain to release, which is a feel good hormone.
However, it also has some negative effects such as altering a user’s balance, reflexes, and coordination. This would make it so you shouldn’t do things like drive while under its influence. Plus if taken in large amounts, it has been known to cause hallucinations, which could be dangerous. It is also possible to get addicted to it, which would cause symptoms like irritability, appetite loss and inability to sleep.
Marijuana has been used to help prevent or cure stomach upset and nausea. Plus it can help increase the appetite so it has been used with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
THC in marijuana is though to affect the immune system in a negative way, but further testing is needed. In animal testing it made the animals more susceptible to developing certain illnesses.
Marijuana has been seen to have effects on cardiovascular health as it dilates blood vessels and raises a person’s resting heart rate. A study done by Harvard University showed that marijuana smokers were more at risk of having a heart attack in the hour after smoking it than if they had not smoked marijuana. Plus it has also be associated with greater risk of ischemic stroke.
Vision and the Eyes
Marijuana has many different effects on vision and the eyes. For one thing, it causes the eyes to become red, which is a classic sign of a marijuana smoker. The reason for this is because weed lowers the blood pressure, which makes the capillaries and other blood vessels in the eyes dilate. It can also cause some users to get an allergic reaction, which would include itching, tearing and dry eyes.
This ability does make marijuana a good treatment for eye problems such as glaucoma, since glaucoma sufferers have high eye pressure. The marijuana lowers this pressure. Glaucoma is dangerous since it can cause blindness.
All in all, marijuana has many effects on the various systems and organs of the body. Some are positive and some are negative. Many more studies need to be done over the next few years, especially since marijuana is becoming legal in many US states for both medical and recreational use for adults