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Marijuana is viewed by some people as a harmless drug. Although it can bring on pleasurable feelings and may have medicinal benefits, it can also have bad side effects such as interfering with thinking and perception. Marijuana use may also cause serious health problems. The damage it causes can become intense over time, leading to social and personal difficulties for the user.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Memory problems, learning difficulties, trouble with problem solving and loss of muscle activity are among the negative effects of short-term use of marijuana, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) 1. Other serious results include increased heart rate and anxiety. Marijuana smokers face the same problems as tobacco smokers, including coughing and breathing trouble.
Emotional Effects of Marijuana Addiction
The same risks smokers of tobacco face may also threaten marijuana users over a long period of time. There are cancer-causing chemicals in marijuana that can be in higher concentrations than tobacco, the PDFA says, adding that smoking five joints a week is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Smoking marijuana, like smoking tobacco, may cause lung diseases, according to the National Women’s Health Information Center. Marijuana use can reduce the immune system’s ability to fight disease.
- The same risks smokers of tobacco face may also threaten marijuana users over a long period of time.
- There are cancer-causing chemicals in marijuana that can be in higher concentrations than tobacco, the PDFA says, adding that smoking five joints a week is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, is carried from the bloodstream to the brain and other organs of the body, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) 2. It causes chemicals in the brain to bring about the pleasurable effects of marijuana. But areas of the brain that control thoughts, concentration, sensory perception and coordination are also affected. When these areas are disturbed it can impair coordination and mental abilities. The problems can continue for days or weeks after the drug effects wear off, the NIDA says. Long-term use of marijuana may have the same effect on the brain as other drugs, causing a loss of motivation and behavioral problems.
- THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, is carried from the bloodstream to the brain and other organs of the body, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) 2.
- Long-term use of marijuana may have the same effect on the brain as other drugs, causing a loss of motivation and behavioral problems.
Negative Effects From Drug Abuse
Long-term marijuana users may develop a dependency on the drug that interferes with family life, career, school and social functioning, the NIDA says. The addiction to marijuana is evident from the withdrawal symptoms a marijuana user experiences when quitting. Symptoms include irritability, anxiety, insomnia and craving for the drug. The symptoms can continue for days, but subside in one or two weeks following cessation from marijuana.
- Long-term marijuana users may develop a dependency on the drug that interferes with family life, career, school and social functioning, the NIDA says.
Anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia can result from short-term marijuana use, according to the NIDA. Chronic marijuana use may increase risks for mental illness. Long-term use may lead to anxiety disorder, depression and schizophrenia, the NIDA says. It is not entirely clear if marijuana causes these disorders, exacerbates them or is used to self-medicate existing problems in different cases.
- Anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia can result from short-term marijuana use, according to the NIDA.
- Long-term use may lead to anxiety disorder, depression and schizophrenia, the NIDA says.
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- The Partnership for a Drug-Free America: Marijuana
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: NIDA InfoFacts: Marijuana
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 2019.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. What is Marijuana? Updated April 2020.
- Meier MH, Caspi A, Ambler A, et al. Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012;109(40):E2657-2664. doi:10.1073/pnas.1206820109
- Ribeiro L, Ind PW. Marijuana and the lung: hysteria or cause for concern? Breathe (Sheff). 2018;14(3):196-205. doi:10.1183/20734735.020418
- Huang YH, Zhang ZF, Tashkin DP, Feng B, Straif K, Hashibe M. An Epidemiologic Review of Marijuana and Cancer: An Update. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015;24(1):15-31. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-1026
- Patrick ME, Bray BC, Berglund PA. Reasons for Marijuana Use Among Young Adults and Long-Term Associations With Marijuana Use and Problems. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2016;77(6):881-888. doi:10.15288/jsad.2016.77.881
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: the Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: the National Academies Press; 2017.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Is marijuana a gateway drug? Updated July 2019.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marijuana: How Can It Affect Your Health? Updated February 27, 2018.
- Colizzi M, Bhattacharyya S. Cannabis use and the development of tolerance: a systematic review of human evidence. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018;93:1-25. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.07.014
- Hasin DS, Saha TD, Kerridge BT, et al. Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(12):1235-1242. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1858
- Winters KC, Lee CY. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: Association with recent use and age. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;92(1-3):239-247. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005
- Bonnet U, Preuss UW. The cannabis withdrawal syndrome: current insights. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2017;8:9-37. doi:10.2147/SAR.S109576
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders. Updated April 2020.
Jerry Shaw writes for Spice Marketing and LinkBlaze Marketing. His articles have appeared in Gannett and American Media Inc. publications. He is the author of "The Complete Guide to Trust and Estate Management" from Atlantic Publishing.