Last updated: October 2, 2023
Back in the 1930s, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics conducted an anti-marijuana campaign promoting marijuana as a menace to society. It was proclaimed an evil drug that turned men’s hearts toward the occult, and women were proclaimed to “do anything for it.”
The campaign was called “reefer madness.” Propaganda films and ads were spread across the nation. Of course, we know where that led. By the 1960s, college students and “hippies” had made marijuana a symbol of rebellion against authority.
Today, medical marijuana is legal in thirty-five states and recreational use is allowed in fifteen proving that society has totally reversed its stance on the drug. According to a Gallup poll released in January 2020, an estimated 12% of adults in the United States smoke marijuana. Those that do look forward to the pleasant effects they experience. They include feeling very calm and relaxed—a condition often referred to as being “mellow.”
However, the ill effects related to smoking marijuana exist—whether the user will admit it or not.
It can affect job performance
Employers, in states where marijuana is legal, are choosing to keep it on the company drug test despite advocates protesting that it should be removed entirely. They won’t because marijuana causes the user to have difficulty thinking and issues with problem-solving. Both of these side-effects can result in someone being involved in an accident.
Furthermore, that oh, so “mellow” feeling doesn’t bode well for productivity or remaining focused on what’s going on around them. It also affects memory and the ability to learn new things.
Lastly, marijuana users can experience an increased heart rate, distorted perception of sight, sounds, time, and touch, and loss of coordination. At times, marijuana users may experience periods of anxiety, panic, fear, or distrust.
Adverse effects on the brain
The active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It attaches to the cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells which are scattered to varying degrees throughout the brain. They are all mentioned above, of course, we’re just reiterating the fact.
Many of those receptors are found in these parts of the brain:
- Sensory and time perception
- Coordinated movement
High doses of the drug may cause delusions, disorientation, disorganization, and hallucinations.
Hard on your heart
Marijuana produces a calm and relaxed state in the user but the heart rate increases just a few minutes after smoking the drug. This, of course, can cause blood pressure to rise which puts the user at higher risk of experiencing a heart attack.
The risk increases if the user smokes cigarettes, even excessive physical activity within a few hours of consumption may pose a higher risk to some.
Ignoring the effect on the lungs
It’s hard for marijuana users to overlook the fact that they’re harming their lungs. That’s because it’s common knowledge that smoke inhalation damages the lungs. Of course, anyone who smokes may subconsciously rationalize that it’s a long-term effect—until they experience symptoms.
Over time, regular users can experience the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers do which include:
- Daily cough and phlegm production
- Increased risk of lung infections
- Acute chest illnesses occur more frequently
Granted, marijuana consumers don’t partake as often as cigarette smokers light up—still, the ill-effects of marijuana smoke on the lungs shouldn’t be ignored.
Moreover, marijuana contains roughly the same amount of carcinogenic hydrocarbons as tobacco smoke. Pot smokers typically deeply inhale smoke into their lungs and, then, intentionally hold it. This practice exposes the lungs to harmful carcinogens longer which needs to be taken into consideration.
It might cause cancer
While it hasn’t been determined to be conclusive evidence yet, studies are showing that using marijuana over a long period of time may put the user at a higher risk of cancer. Further research is needed to prove there is an irrefutable link between smoking marijuana and lung cancer.
Until that is the case, it’s easy for marijuana users to sweep that possibility under the rug—something they may come to regret later.
Why risk it?
It’s easy for people who use marijuana for medical purposes to treat the list of known side-effects in the same way many of us do when we see the tiny print scrolling by at hyper-speed during commercials promoting the latest and greatest medication. If it is something that helps a condition from which we suffer, we tend to look the other way.
It’s human nature to put the immediate benefits we can experience over the “may cause” risk of the possible side-effects.
The same can be said for those who smoke marijuana recreationally.
Marijuana has become widely accepted as a “harmless” drug in our society but the fact remains that it causes impairment in the short-term that can put someone in harm’s way. If someone is under the influence while at work, they’re putting everyone around them at risk too.
Studies are also underway regarding smoking marijuana during pregnancy, the effects of second-hand smoke, and the effect of marijuana on young children.
Legalization has spawned the production of edibles that are sometimes left within a child’s reach. There have been instances in which a child was reported to have nearly died after consuming an undetermined amount of marijuana edibles.
That’s an extremely sobering thought—especially for parents of young children.
The dangers of marijuana may not outweigh someone’s decision to use the drug, but we need to continue to get the word out. Even though it can take many years for cancer or lung problems to manifest, time passes quickly—and habits are hard to break.
Continuing to educate people about the ill-effects of smoking marijuana is the best way to handle the issue. Education enables people to make informed decisions on their own which means they will weigh the options.
Let’s hope they opt-out.