Health Effects of Recreational and Medical Marijuana Use

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With marijuana legalization in several states for medicinal and recreational purposes, many people are starting to relax their attitudes towards the drug. It’s important to recognize that even legal substances, like alcohol and nicotine, can have incredibly harmful health hazards.

Research shows that marijuana has detrimental effects on the brain, body, and mind. Even though marijuana seems harmless because it’s from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, it is important to remember that it is still a drug and can be dangerous.

Physical

Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, contributing to issues like daily cough and phlegm, as well as lung illness including pneumonia and bronchitis. Marijuana increases the heart rate for up to three hours after smoking. This can increase the chance of a heart attack, especially in people who already have heart disease.

Marijuana has a negative impact on fertility as well. Men who smoke marijuana regularly demonstrate lower sperm count, which can contribute to difficulty conceiving a child. Smoking marijuana during pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight, and problems with attention, memory, and problem solving in the child.

Neurological

Marijuana affects the brain almost immediately after use. People experience altered senses, an altered sense of time, changes in mood, impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and impaired memory.

People who begin using marijuana as teenagers and continue to use the drug into adulthood have impaired function in the thinking, memory, and learning parts of the brain. This can be long lasting or even permanent.

Psychological

When someone is high on marijuana, they may experience temporary hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real even though they are not. They may also experience temporary paranoia, which is an extreme and unreasonable distrust of others.

Marijuana has also been linked to the development of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, especially if someone has a genetic predisposition. Schizophrenia is characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking. On the other hand, people with schizophrenia may find that their symptoms are exacerbated by marijuana use. Long-term marijuana use has been associated with other mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among adolescents.

While marijuana use can have negative health consequences, medical marijuana is frequently used to create an appetite in AIDS patients and reduce nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. It’s also been used to help relieve symptoms of other medical conditions like glaucoma, seizure disorders, and multiple sclerosis.

Despite normalization of marijuana, it is still an addictive substance. If you or someone you know is addicted to marijuana, Pyramid Healthcare provides treatment for teens and adults. Get confidential help for you or a loved one.

Written by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC

References:

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana
  2. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-health-effects-of-marijuana-from-recreational-and-medical-use-2016081910180
  3. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/medical-marijuana-uses

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