Last updated: May 25, 2020
Despite America’s continued War on Drugs, marijuana continues to be the most accessible drug.
The government has spent vast resources to fight the use of the drug, however, with dwindling law enforcement resources and some research showing that it may be able to be used for certain medicinal purposes, some states have legalized it for medicinal use, and some have even legalized it for recreational use.
Although doctors agree and sometimes prescribe its use to relieve symptoms of certain medical conditions, its use is certainly not safe and its side effects are still poorly understood.
What happens when you smoke marijuana?
Whether you take it rolled as a joint, inhale its vape or mix it with candy, cookies or tea, it significantly alters behavioral patterns. This is attributed to one of its active ingredients, tetrahydrocannabinol shortly known as THC. It mimics the structure of naturally occurring molecules in the human body called endocannabinoids that regulate a person’s mood, memory, and appetite. Once the THC strikes these molecules in the body, a domino effect is triggered resulting in mood elevation and relaxation, though irritability and paranoia are also experienced.
What are the effects of marijuana usage?
In the short-term, a marijuana user feels euphoric and their perception is significantly altered. It relieves pain, and the user finds it easy to engage in social activities. Side effects vary from user to user, and some users have reported feeling anxious as well as sense of depersonalization. Body movement is impaired, with post-accident drug testing reports showing most accidents are as a result of marijuana consumption and then driving. Reasonable suspicion drug testing exercises on employees show that marijuana consumers have trouble thinking critically and solving problems as well as impaired memory. If taken in large doses it can cause delusions, hallucinations, and in some cases, even psychosis.
Its long-term use affects the brain development leading to low IQ. Once memory and thinking is affected, the brain is unable to effectively build connections between the parts that coordinate these functions. Once a user stops, the cannabinoid receptors in the body have to adjust to the normal levels, leading to physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms such as a decrease in appetite, irritability, and difficulty in sleeping. If one is unable to deal with these symptoms they go back to using consequently becoming addicted and dependent.
Heavy and long-term cannabis use ultimately leads to Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). This condition in the hyperemesis stage is characterized by intense nausea and vomiting, severe gastrointestinal discomfort, lack of appetite, and compulsive bathing with very hot water to assuage the discomfort. This stage can be preceded by a phase with milder symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea especially in the mornings, and a consistent urge to throw up. The user’s appetite might remain unaffected during the early stages but users tend to use even more marijuana to treat nausea.
This condition has only lately been named and acknowledged by researchers, with the only known cure being to totally stop the use of marijuana. Once the user stops, the symptoms lift within days, weeks and sometimes even months.
The effects of marijuana legalization on the society are taking its toll.
For instance, in Colorado where it was legalized in 2012, data from the U.S. National Library of Medicine showed that accidents due to marijuana usage had doubled. The state records the highest number of homeless people and vagrancy with users migrating there due to ease of access. Random drug testing done on youths indicate that the use of the drug among the teens is also on the rise leading to poor academic performance as well as a drop in cognitive functioning.
The legalization has led to the increase in addiction and leads to the use of other drugs. The rise in teens aggression, rebellion, and delinquent behavior can be attributed to marijuana use. Research also shows that its use makes the youths susceptible to psychotic disorder and schizophrenia later in life.
Whether marijuana is being used for medicinal or recreational purposes, it is important that one be aware of the effects it might have. Long-term brain effects in most cases are limited to heavy marijuana users especially those who use it from childhood. Increased heart rate after use may also cause heart attacks with older people being more susceptible. Breathing problems and lung irritation are also attributed to marijuana use.