It shouldn’t be any news to you by now that a couple of studies have identified some health benefits attached to marijuana use. However, on the flip side is a plethora of studies associating marijuana use with negative effects on human health. There’s a list and there’s quite a number on it.
Immediately after marijuana hits the bloodstream, there are short term effects. These include:
- Distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch)
- Problems with memory and learning
- Loss of coordination
- Trouble with thinking and problem-solving
- Increased heart rate, reduced blood pressure.
However the bigger problems come with long term use, which usually results in addiction and dependence. About 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. For people who begin using before the age of 18, that number rises to 1 in 6.
The brain happens to be a major site of action for marijuana. When marijuana users begin using as teenagers, the drug may reduce attention, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. Developing brains, like those in babies, children, and teenagers are especially susceptible to the hurtful effects of marijuana. Researchers have also found links between cannabis use and bipolar disorder, major depression, and childhood anxiety. What’s hard to untangle is if marijuana use leads to mental illness, or if it is the other way around.
The tales the lungs have to tell about marijuana’s effect don’t get any better. Smoked marijuana, in any form, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to small blood vessels. Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and phlegm production. These symptoms generally improve when marijuana smokers quit. The association between lung cancer and marijuana use is however inconclusive for the most part of it. Marijuana contains more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke and because marijuana smokers typically inhale deeper and hold the smoke in their lungs longer than tobacco smokers, their lungs are exposed to those carcinogenic properties longer, when smoking.
It should be noted here that secondhand marijuana smoke isn’t likely to cause any effect as very little THC is released in the air when the person smoking it breathes out.
Evidence linking marijuana to cancer is not definite yet. Some evidence however suggests an increased risk for the slow-growing seminoma subtype of testicular cancer. Although no such link has been proven yet, since marijuana smoke contains three times the amount of tar found in tobacco smoke and 50 percent more carcinogens, it would seem logical to deduce that there is an increased risk of lung cancer for marijuana smokers.
Lastly, research indicates that THC impairs the body’s immune system from performing its function. One particular study found that marijuana actually inhibited the disease-preventing actions of key immune cells.
Marijuana is probably more good than bad. But it most certainly will be better to be safe than sorry.