Weed, dope, pot, grass, herb-Marijuana goes by many names, and the opinions people hold concerning its use (whether legal or otherwise) differ significantly. Debates surrounding right or wrong, harmful or not, and legal or illegal continues to rage across the nation. Those who support legislation to legalize marijuana will often point to a collection of noteworthy articles in various journals that “show” weed to be safe or, at the very least, less harmful than other street drugs. Supporters of marijuana also note marijuana is a naturally occurring substance found in nature as opposed to some of the chemically created substances people sometimes choose over weed. While marijuana or weed is indeed a substance that occurs in nature, this does not guarantee safety. Indeed, there are many naturally occurring plants, fungi, and similar that have toxic, sometimes fatal effects.
Marijuana can be consumed in many ways. It can be smoked, vaped, eaten, and blended into liquid beverages. While most marijuana consumption is for pleasure or recreation, a growing number of medical professionals are prescribing medical marijuana for specific conditions and symptom mitigation related to chronic diseases. Marijuana continues to have a reputation as a relatively harmless drug. Therefore, in recent years there has been a significant push to legalize its use throughout the United States. As the push to legalize marijuana continues, researchers are beginning to learn more about the effects that marijuana has on the brain and body.
Marijuana-Legal for Some
Beginning in 2012, there was a significant push across the United States to legalize marijuana. Since that time, sixteen states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for adults over the age of twenty-one. Additionally, thirty-six states have legalized marijuana for medical use. In addition to states where marijuana use in possession has already been legalized, other states have bills progressing through legislation or have passed legislation regarding marijuana legalization that has yet to take effect. Currently, marijuana reform and the laws surrounding the federal decriminalization of marijuana have been indicated as priorities for the United States Senate in the coming year.
Why Marijuana May Not Be Entirely Safe
As more and more states decriminalize both medical and recreational marijuana use, it is important to understand the adverse effects that marijuana can and often does have on one’s physical and psychological help. As with many drugs, the impacts one may experience are unique to the individual. However, the chemical elements of marijuana and the psychological effects related to its use are often similar across the board. Despite its perceived safety, chronic ongoing use of marijuana can have long-term and potentially dangerous effects on the human body. In some cases, the ability to give up weed voluntarily becomes difficult. If you are concerned about your marijuana use, it may be time to consider reaching out to a substance abuse treatment program here at The Hills in Los Angeles, CA.
The Physical Effects of Marijuana (The Good & The Bad)
The effects of marijuana go far beyond temporary happiness or a feeling of “being high.” Ongoing use of marijuana eventually leads to detrimental impacts on every system in the body. Below is a brief description of how chronic marijuana use can be problematic for many.
Your circulatory system is responsible for moving blood throughout your body. Once in your system, THC travels from your lungs into your bloodstream and throughout your body. Within a short time (only minutes in most cases), your heart rate can increase by as many as 50 beats per minute. An elevated heart rate related to marijuana use can continue for up to three hours after using. Someone who struggles with a pre-existing heart condition or heart disease is that an increased risk for cardiac arrest or heart attack resulting from marijuana’s impacts on their heart rate. Also, research shows that marijuana use can cause changes to the blood vessels in the eyes. There remains significant debate about whether this is positive or negative. In some cases, expansion of the blood vessels in the eyes results in the visual effect of bloodshot eyes. However, some research has shown that THC can lower the pressure in the eyes, which can ease symptoms of glaucoma for a brief period.
Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is comprised of various toxic chemicals, including ammonia and hydrogen cyanide. Smoking weed regularly increases one susceptibility to wheezing, coughing, and production of excessive amounts of phlegm. In addition, frequent marijuana use increases one’s risk for bronchitis and frequent lung infections, as well as worsening symptoms related to chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma and cystic fibrosis. Currently, there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana smoke leads to lung cancer; however, there is evidence that its use puts you at an increased risk.
Marijuana and the Central Nervous System
Smoking marijuana affects all aspects of the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Although marijuana can help control spasms and seizures and ease pain and inflammation, there are still long-term adverse effects that require consideration. THC, one of the active ingredients in marijuana, triggers the brain to release significant amounts of dopamine. Dopamine, also known as the “feel-good” chemical, provides the feeling of being high from marijuana use. THC also changes how other parts of the brain process information, impacting judgment, memory function, and coordination. Frequent use by people younger than twenty-five, whose brains have not yet fully developed, may experience lasting impacts on thinking and memory processes. Excessive doses or high concentrations of THC can sometimes lead to hallucinations or delusions. Also, some research has shown a significant link between marijuana use and new or worsening mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
When taken orally, such as in food or beverages, marijuana can lead to digestive issues. For example, THC can result in nausea and vomiting due to how the liver processes the chemical. There is also some question about potential permanent liver damage. However, it is also important to note that marijuana has been used for some time by members of the medical community to ease the symptoms of nausea often related to chemotherapy.
Marijuana and Psychological Health
Not all experiences with marijuana result in happiness in pleasure. For some, chronic marijuana use increases their chances of developing anxiety or depression. Someone who struggles with diagnosed schizophrenia may experience significantly worsening symptoms. Also, marijuana can leave people feeling anxious, panicked, and fearful. To date, researchers do not understand why marijuana use results in paranoia and terror for some and happiness for others. Multiple studies have linked chronic marijuana use to a higher risk of psychosis. These same studies showed people who smoked or ingested marijuana frequently are more likely to be diagnosed with a psychotic mental health condition such as schizophrenia than someone who has never used marijuana before.
In addition to exacerbated mental health conditions, marijuana use can lead to other struggles, including reduced self-esteem, relationship problems, and self-imposed isolation. It is not uncommon for regular marijuana users to realize at some point that they have failed to reach the goals they once set for themselves. This realization often leads to feelings of inadequacy or failure. This often leads to struggles with self-esteem but also new or worsening depression and anxiety. Also, because marijuana remains illegal in many states, those who regularly use often do so in the privacy of their own home. When someone uses with frequency, they usually begin to spend a lot more time alone where they feel safe using instead of spending time with friends and family who do not use. Also, they may begin to pick and choose their friends based on who does and who does not share the desire to get high.
Marijuana and Legal Difficulties
Although more and more states have started to legalize marijuana, it remains steadfastly illegal in a large portion of America. Under federal law, marijuana (cannabis) remains a Schedule I controlled substance. Drugs that fall into this class are considered to have a high potential for abuse. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), other drugs that fall into this class include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, bath salts, MDMA, and GHB. Currently, state and federal laws remain at odds with each other as many states have decriminalized marijuana entirely; however, the federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal substance punishable with similar consequences to other schedule I drugs. Generally, the punishment for a first offense could result in a fine of up to $1000 and one year in prison. With a second possession offense, the penalty increases to a felony. Also, possession of marijuana with intent to sell carries much harsher penalties.
Marijuana use, safety, legalization are all hot-button topics for which the debate remains ongoing. As more states continue to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes or medicinal uses, the ability to study how marijuana affects the body will likely increase. Previously, it has been difficult for science to determine the positive or negative consequences of regular marijuana use on the human body because marijuana is illegal.
Therefore, the ability to research how the substance works were difficult at best. Despite the challenges with research, however, there is substantial evidence that long-term, chronic marijuana use can and does have detrimental effects on the human body in mind. Despite medical providers prescribing marijuana for medical use in symptom medication, the risk of addiction from chronic use remains. Yes, it is possible to become addicted to marijuana, making the possibility of adverse side effects and new or worsening mental health conditions all the more probable.
Choosing to quit marijuana is not without its complications. An individual’s ability to voluntarily give up using without seeking professional addiction treatment at a treatment facility like The Hills often depends significantly on the duration and severity of their use. Prolonged or excessive use often makes quitting without treatment difficult and, in some cases, impossible. At our Los Angeles rehab, we will work with you to create an addiction treatment plan that meets your specific treatment needs and goals. Our marijuana treatment plans are designed to consider your history of substance use and any pre-existing physical or mental health conditions you may struggle with. If you or a loved one have decided it’s time to quit marijuana, contact our admissions treatment team today.