The Effects of Marijuana on Your Body
Marijuana is made from the shredded and dried parts of the cannabis plant, including the flowers, seeds, leaves, and stems. It’s also known as pot, weed, hash, and dozens of other names. While many people smoke or vape it, you can also consume marijuana as an ingredient in food, brewed tea, or oils.
Different methods of taking the drug may affect your body differently. When you inhale marijuana smoke into your lungs, the drug is quickly released into your bloodstream and makes its way to your brain and other organs. It takes a little longer to feel the effects if you eat or drink marijuana.
There is ongoing controversy around the effects of marijuana on the body. People report various physical and psychological effects, from harm and discomfort to pain relief and relaxation.
Here’s what happens to your body when this drug enters your bloodstream.
Marijuana can be used in some states for medical reasons, and in some areas, recreational use is legal as well. No matter how you use marijuana, the drug can cause immediate and long-term effects, such as changes in perception and increased heart rate. Over time, smoking marijuana may cause chronic cough and other health issues.
The effects of marijuana on the body are often immediate. Longer-term effects may depend on how you take it, how much you use, and how often you use it. The exact effects are hard to determine because marijuana has been illegal in the U.S., making studies difficult and expensive to conduct.
But in recent years, the medicinal properties of marijuana are gaining public acceptance. As of 2017, 29 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana to some extent. THC and another ingredient called cannabidiol (CBD) are the main substances of therapeutic interest. The National Institutes of Health funded research into the possible medicinal uses of THC and CBD, which is still ongoing.
With the potential for increased recreational use, knowing the effects that marijuana can have on your body is as important as ever. Read on to see how it affects each system in your body.
Much like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is made up of a variety of toxic chemicals, including ammonia and hydrogen cyanide, which can irritate your bronchial passages and lungs. If you’re a regular smoker, you’re more likely to wheeze, cough, and produce phlegm. You’re also at an increased risk of bronchitis and lung infections. Marijuana may aggravate existing respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.
Marijuana smoke contains carcinogens, so it may increase your risk of lung cancer too. However, studies on the subject have had mixed results. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana smoke causes lung cancer. More research is needed.
THC moves from your lungs into your bloodstream and throughout your body. Within minutes, your heart rate may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute. That rapid heartbeat can continue for up to three hours. If you have heart disease, this could raise your risk of heart attack.
One of the telltale signs of recent marijuana use is bloodshot eyes. The eyes look red because marijuana causes blood vessels in the eyes to expand.
THC can also lower pressure in the eyes, which can ease symptoms of glaucoma for a few hours. More research is needed to understand the active ingredients in marijuana and whether it’s a good treatment for glaucoma.
In the long term, marijuana has a possible positive effect on your circulatory system. Research isn’t conclusive yet, but marijuana may help stop the growth of blood vessels that feed cancerous tumors. Opportunities exist in both cancer treatment and prevention, but more research is needed.
The effects of marijuana extend throughout the central nervous system (CNS). Marijuana is thought to ease pain and inflammation and help control spasms and seizures. Still, there are some long-term negative effects on the CNS to consider.
THC triggers your brain to release large amounts of dopamine, a naturally occurring “feel good” chemical. It’s what gives you a pleasant high. It may heighten your sensory perception and your perception of time. In the hippocampus, THC changes the way you process information, so your judgment may be impaired. The hippocampus is responsible for memory, so it may also be difficult to form new memories when you’re high.
Changes also take place in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, brain areas that play roles in movement and balance. Marijuana may alter your balance, coordination, and reflex response. All those changes mean that it’s not safe to drive.
Very large doses of marijuana or high concentrations of THC can cause hallucinations or delusions. According to the NIDA, there may be an association between marijuana use and some mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. More research is needed to understand the connection. You may want to avoid marijuana if you have schizophrenia, as it may make symptoms worse.
When you come down from the high, you may feel tired or a bit depressed. In some people, marijuana can cause anxiety. About 30 percent of marijuana users develop a marijuana use disorder. Addiction is considered rare, but very real. Symptoms of withdrawal may include irritability, insomnia, and loss of appetite.
In people younger than 25 years, whose brains have not yet fully developed, marijuana can have a lasting impact on thinking and memory processes. Using marijuana while pregnant can also affect the brain of your unborn baby. Your child may have trouble with memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills.
What happens when you smoke or ingest marijuana? Learn the effects it has on your body with this interactive graphic.
How Marijuana Suppresses The Immune System
By Live Science Staff 29 November 2010
Smoking marijuana can suppress the body’s immune system, which explains why pot-smokers are more susceptible than non-smokers to certain cancers and infections, according to a new study.
This effect of marijuana is due to chemicals in the drug that fire up the body’s production of immune system cells called myeloid-derived suppressor cells. While most immune system cells are protective — fighting infections and cancers to keep a person healthy — these cells suppress the immune system, keeping it in check, according to the study.
“Cannabis is one of the most widely used drugs of abuse worldwide, and it is already believed to suppress immune functions, making the user more susceptible to infections and some types of cancer,” Prakash Nagarkatti, a microbiology and pathology professor at the University of South Carolina, said in a statement.
Nagarkatti and his colleagues focused their study on cannabinoids, compounds found in the cannabis plant, to see how they affected immune suppression and tumor growth. Their study included the pain-relieving compound delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The researchers injected one group of mice with THC and compared them with a group not injected with the compound.
The mice injected with THC had more of the immune-suppressing cells than the mice who didn’t receive THC, according to the study.
The researchers found that marijuana triggered the production of a massive number of myeloid-derived suppressor cells — leading to immune suppression and cancer growth — by activating cells that respond to the cannabinoids found in marijuana, researchers said.
Cancer patients have more of these cells than healthy people. The suppressor cells can even hinder cancer therapy and promote cancer growth, the study said.
“Marijuana cannabinoids present us with a double edged sword,” Nagarkatti said, because they can cause increased susceptibility to cancer and infections, but they can also open the door to opportunities to treat disorders where a suppressed immune system is beneficial, such as arthritis , multiple sclerosis, lupus and hepatitis.
The study is published in the December issue of the European Journal of Immunology.
This article was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.
Study reveals why pot-smokers are more susceptible to certain cancers than non-smokers.