Ranked as one among the most popular and widely used recreational drugs, marijuana use in the US is clocked at around 22 million users every month. Use of the drug is reportedly higher among men than women, with the younger generation known to take the illegal drug more casually than older generations. The drug is used casually and statistics reveal that more than half the adults in the US have taken the drug at least once in their lives. Known by different names, the drug is responsible for the manifestation of various side effects. Here is an in depth look at the side effects of weed and its impact on behaviour of individuals looking for a high or a fix with marijuana.
Overview and side effects of weed
Before we look at the side effects of weed here is an overview of the drug. Known commonly in drug lingo as weed, or dope or pot, marijuana is a product of the plant specie cannabis. It is either smoked, vaped, mixed in a drink or eaten. Individuals trying the drug for the first time invariably take it for recreational purposes. Of late, there has been an increasing number of prescriptions of the weed by specialists to treat or manage various conditions. There has been a slight shift in perceptions towards the drug, resulting in relaxations. However, the effects of the drug continue to remain the same – impact on the mind and body that is attributed to the presence of compounds that are known to alter the mind.
Among the primary side effects of weed, the addictive psychotropic properties are regarded as harmful. The reason why individuals take to marijuana is the need for a high. The primary psychoactive ingredient THC, acronym for Tetrahydrocannabinol, is known to stimulate the brain in a manner that brings immense pleasure. For instance, the reward pathways of the brain give individuals an euphoric feeling after consuming food and after indulging in sex. Marijuana, specifically, THC triggers the same reward pathways and sensations, through the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is responsible for the euphoric signals and feeling.
First time users of the substance enjoy this feeling within a short time of ingesting the drug, and this pushes the individual to take it repeatedly/frequently. THC works through the bloodstream, and in a short period gives the individual a high that could last for as long as three hours. Individuals who either drink substances with marijuana or consume it in some form may experience the effects for a longer period. Now that we have a better, lucid understanding of the manner in which the substance works, it is time to learn more about the side effects of weed.
Impact of marijuana on mental well-being of users
While the substance is primarily considered as mood uplifting, it is also possible that it could have a negative impact on mental health. The effect of psychotropic substances is unpredictable, and could act differently on different individuals. For instance, one of the side effects of weed is the possibility of individuals ending up with anxiety or experiencing panic. Individuals going through depression for other reasons may actually end up with amplified emotional distress as a result of the weed. One of the strongest effects of marijuana is its mind-altering ability that distances the user from reality. Consequently, individuals may turn paranoid, may imagine objects or situations or hear voices that are not real. This could impact the behaviour of individuals in social settings.
Impaired judgement – impact of marijuana
As mentioned above, the side effects of weed include mind-altering properties of chemical substances. Consequently, individuals who either smoke or consume weed in some form are more likely to have impaired judgement with distorted thinking abilities. The effects, however, entirely depends on various factors – the amount of weed smoked/consumed, the strength of the substance and the amount of time the weed has remained in the body. Many reported side effects of weed include an amplification of sensual inputs. For instance, individuals may find colors to be more bright than the actual colors. The possibility of losing one’s sense of timing is extremely high, in addition to the feeling of disorientation. These effects are responsible for the poor abilities of judgement of users, with disastrous consequences on the road. Many fatalities and accidents are attributed to drivers being under the influence of psychotropic substances. Individuals are also known to take risky, spur of the moment decisions under the influence of marijuana. For instance, women are more likely to have consensual sex under the influence of the drug, whereas the opposite may have been true when sober. Similarly, the probability of indulging in certain unnatural or unsafe sexual acts also increase when on weed.
Addictive properties of weed
The chances of individuals getting addicted to the substance is a reality. Ten percent of all smokers of weed are likely to end up with an addiction to the substance. Addiction is one among the serious side effects of weed as it has a direct and indirect impact on various dimensions of the user’s life. For instance, the individual may have total disregard for familial relationships, and this could also affect the financial condition of the entire family. The need to get high may remain the single most important desire, and this will drive the individual to neglect other areas of life, with adverse impact on health, social behaviour and the job or business. Another manifestation of addiction is the dependency angle, wherein individuals act abnormally when not under the influence of the drug. Addicts exhibit certain withdrawal symptoms, such as, restlessness and insomnia. The individual tends to get irritated easily and will not show interest in consuming food.
Side effects of weed – impact on functions of the brain
By virtue of the mechanism of action of THC, individuals on the substance will find it extremely hard to focus, with an impact on learning abilities. Learning by rote and memory of individuals will be severely affected, with consequences on academic performance or professional responsibilities. While the effects of weed on memory and learning abilities are effectively short term in nature, the frequency of use extends this impact. To put it differently, individuals are more likely than not, to take the substance periodically or frequently. As a result, the impact on memory and learning will last for a longer period.
The side effects of weed take a more dangerous or serious turn when the dependency or duration of use increases. Youngsters on the substance will have effects that are permanent in nature. For instance, certain studies on a select group of young users have revealed that the impact on the brain is more pronounced. Results of imaging carried out on participants in studies have revealed changes in the brains, with lesser connections that are responsible for specific functions. For instance, functions related to memory, focus, and learning hinge on the number of connections and new connections that develop in the brain. Individuals who smoke or consume weed over a longer period will end up with lesser connections. Consequently, users or abusers, will have lower IQ than individuals not on the substance.
Side effects of weed – phlegm and impact on lungs
The side effects of weed include the impact on the lungs with effects that are similar to smoking. The cocktail of chemicals in tobacco are high, and this affects the lungs severely. Marijuana has effects that could be slightly similar to that of tobacco – cough, phlegm, possibility of irritation in the lungs, with heightened risk of bronchitis. The irritation in the lungs could also expose the individual to the possibility of long-term lunch damage or risk of cancer. Other effects include possible burning sensation in the throat and the mouth. Users of the substance may also end up with effects that are very similar to smokers – the coughing up of colored mucus. As a result of the effect of THC on the immune system, there is the likelihood of individuals having lowered immunity, thereby being exposed to infections.
Side effects of weed – impact on weight and heart
One of the side effects of weed includes the impact on the individuals’ hunger for food. This is attributed to the lack of interest in food among addicts. However, there is another effect that is effectively contrary to this. There is the likelihood of users of marijuana going on a binge eating spree. Individuals may feel hungry most of the time, and this increase in appetite may contribute to weight gain. Therefore, one of the effects of smoking weed is possible weight gain or weight loss.
Additionally, weed may take a toll on the heart. Individuals who smoke or consume weed in some form are likely to end up burdening the heart. The heart rate of individuals who smoke weed increases by around 60 to 70 percent. This increased heart rate will typically be experienced for around 3 hours after the weed starts working in the system. As a result of this increased strain on the heart and the combination of other chemicals, individuals who soke weed end up with elevated risk of heart attack or stroke. This danger is heightened with increasing age.
Amplifies the effects of alcohol
The side effects of weed include the effect on individuals who consume alcohol. As an intoxicant it amplifies the effects of alcohol, and consequently, the abilities of individuals are severely compromised. The user is most likely to have impaired abilities of judgement, and this is one of the reasons for a large number of accidents across the US. The combination of weed with alcohol has contributed to a host of issues and complications in the lives of users. For instance, there is a possibility of encountering legal problems, or it could have an impact on professional/academic performance.
Necessary to take medical advice before medicinal use
Many supporters of weed, advocate that it has medicinal value and that it can be used for treating or managing certain conditions. It is true that marijuana has medicinal value in a limited number of cases, but it needs to be used only under medical supervision and with the specific recommendations of a specialist. This is necessary to prevent it from becoming an addiction with disastrous consequences. The amount, the form and the frequency of the substance to be used only as per medical advice. The use of marijuana as a recreational drug is often the starting point to substance abuse.