When we say “marijuana” we usually talk about two spicies of the cannabis plant family: Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. Both of them contain many active ingredients, but two major ones are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The former one is the psychoactive agent of weed that seriously affects your physical and mental health. Moreover, THC abuse leads to addiction, especially in young people.
According to the latest surveys, the rising popularity and legalization of medical and recreational marijuana leads to the rise of the number of teenagers who smoke or vape weed daily. The frightening trend is the decreasing number of those who try weed for the first time and know about the dangers and risks of cannabis abuse. In this article I’ll try to warn our readers and help everyone avoid adverse effects of marijuana.
What THC-High Marijuana Does to Your Mind And Body
Lately, we get an earful of various info about the remedial powers of cannabis, which is mostly true. However, let’s not forget that even the best medicine can be dangerous when used incorrectly. The ways people use cannabis vary from inhaling smoke to eating cookies, but all of them do not differ a lot in terms of risks to develop any of the negative side effects of THC. Doctors divide them into two major groups — short and long term side effects of cannabis.
Short term ones are:
- you can get high. Your perception and senses change, the colors seem brighter, the music is nice, you feel relaxed and enjoy everything, and life brings you more pleasure than usual. This euphoric state may last for about four hours;
- your mood and behavior change. You can laugh with no reason or feel panicked, become overactive or vice versa lethargic;
- THC affects your thinking and judgement. It may alter your sense of time and space, impair your memory, motor skills, and ability to make well-considered decisions. You can feel disoriented, clumsy, and unable to keep conversation. This is why you should not drive when smoking weed, and this is how pot becomes a so-called gateway drug — when you are on it, there are more chances that you’ll drink alcohol or use other illicit substances;
- marijuana and fainting often walk hand in hand, as THC may drop your blood pressure critically. It dilates blood vessels, thus decreasing BP and increasing the heart rate. This is especially dangerous when you smoke or vape weed, as this way it works much faster;
- THC-induced hallucinations and delusions. Smoking marijuana can make you see and hear things that do not exist and lose your grip on the reality;
- red dry itchy eyes and cottonmouth seem not even worth mentioning in the midst of other unwanted THC consequences.
Long term side effects of cannabis include:
- high risk of addiction. 10% of people who try weed get hooked, the CDC says. In teenagers the rates are much higher, every sixth cannabis user will get addicted;
- IQ decline. Regular use of weed leads to memory impairments and other mental issues. People who smoke weed heavily have problems with learning and focus. Cannabis also distorts brain development in children. Those kids who smoke weed in their early teens are less successful at school. Cognitive functions do not restore even after they quit pot as adults;
- marijuana and nausea. Most of us know that weed helps with appetite, and treats vomiting and nausea. However, regular cannabis use may lead to the cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, this is when people vomit and feel sick. The mechanisms are still unclear, there is a theory that marijuana negatively affects the liver, thus causing CHS.
Regular cannabis use may also lead to serious psychiatric problems, such as anxiety, suicidal thoughts, psychosis, and even schizophrenia. However, there is a limited evidence of the link between marijuana and such serious mental diseases.
How THC Works In Our Bodies
The mechanism of THC performance is very complex, but I’ll try to explain it in layman’s terms:
- our nerve cells communicate with each other with the help of the special molecules that carry various signals and messages from the brain to all regions of the body. They are called neurotransmitters;
- there is a natural system in our body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the main function of which is to look after the balanced functioning and homeostasis. Simply put, this system sends its own signals in the opposite direction with the message to stop producing neurotransmitters. For example, you like ice-cream, and your brain produces some dopamine and serotonin so that you feel pleasure. But you don’t get high from it, because the production of those two stops when it’s necessary;
- THC disturbs the performance of ECS blocking the cannabinoid receptors, and neurotransmitters keep going.
ECS works in almost all parts of our organism — central neural system, immune system, heart and lungs, etc. Now you can imagine how bad marijuana can be when used thoughtlessly.
Tips To Avoid Unappealing Consequences of THC
Yet, there are some simple tips that help marijuana lovers avoid any bad effects of THC:
- drink enough water, more than usual, when smoking weed. Dehydration is one of the most common signs of the THC overuse;
- choose the way to consume cannabis that is best for you. For example, some do not accept edibles or feel sick when smoking. There are vape pens, patches, oils, etc.;
- being a newbie, do not use THC-high strains of pot, and do not smoke a lot at once. Increase your dose gradually and slowly. You’ll still have fun.
My own recommendation is to use CBD-high strains that contain negligible amounts of THC. Medical marijuana includes such varieties as Elektra, Remedy, Harlequin, Pennywise, etc. They provide all medicinal powers of weed without any negative outcomes.
As any drug, marijuana has to be used with caution and care. There are strains of cannabis that do not bear any risk of addiction, or any other severe short and long term side effects. But at the same time, they do not produce much of the psychoactive action, which is one of the main reasons why people use pot recreationally. Everyone has to make their own decisions, but you should never forget to be careful and let weed damage your health.