Marijuana Side Effects
Marijuana Side Effects: The Impact on the Body
Marijuana Side Effects on the Mind:
Marijuana use reduces learning ability. Research has been piling up of late demonstrating clearly that marijuana limits the capacity to absorb and retain information. A 1995 study of college students discovered that the inability of heavy marijuana users to focus, sustain attention, and organize data persists for as long as 24 hours after their last use of the drug. Earlier research, comparing cognitive abilities of adult marijuana users with non-using adults, found that users fall short on memory as well as math and verbal skills. Although it has yet to be proven conclusively that heavy marijuana use can cause irreversible loss of intellectual capacity, animal studies have shown marijuana-induced structural damage to portions of the brain essential to memory and learning.
Marijuana Side Effects of Marijuana on the Brain:
Researchers have found that THC changes the way in which sensory information gets into and is processed by the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a component of the brain's limbic system that is crucial for learning, memory, and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivations. Investigations have shown that neurons in the information processing system of the hippocampus and the activity of the nerve fibers in this region are suppressed by THC. In addition, researchers have discovered that learned behaviors, which depend on the hippocampus, also deteriorate via this mechanism.
Recent research findings also indicate that long-term use of marijuana produces changes in the brain similar to those seen after long-term use of other major drugs of abuse. Cannabis is commonly regarded as an innocuous drug and the prevalence of lifetime and regular use has increased in most developed countries. However, accumulative evidence highlights the risks of dependence and other adverse effects, particularly among people with pre-existing psychiatric disorders. An appreciable proportion of cannabis users report short-lived adverse effects, including psychotic states following heavy consumption, and regular users are at risk of dependence. People with major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are especially vulnerable in that cannabis generally provokes relapse and aggravates existing symptoms. Health workers need to recognize, and respond to, the adverse effects of cannabis on mental health.
Marijuana also affects hormones. Regular use can delay the onset of puberty in young men and reduce sperm production. For women, regular use may disrupt normal monthly menstrual cycles and inhibit ovulation.
Marijuana Side Effects on the Lungs:
Chronic marijuana smokers are prey to chest colds, bronchitis, emphysema, and bronchial asthma. Persistent use will damage lungs and airways and raise the risk of cancer. There is just as much exposure to cancer-causing chemicals from smoking one marijuana joint as smoking five tobacco cigarettes. And there is evidence that marijuana may limit the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease. Continuing to smoke marijuana can lead to abnormal functioning of lung tissue injured or destroyed by marijuana smoke.
Regardless of the THC content, the amount of tar inhaled by marijuana smokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed are three to five times greater than among tobacco smokers. This may be due to the marijuana users' inhaling more deeply and holding the smoke in the lungs and because marijuana smoke is unfiltered.
Marijuana Side Effects on Pregnancy:
When pregnant women use marijuana, they run the risk of having smaller babies with lower birth weights, who are more likely than other babies to develop health problems. Some studies have found that babies born to mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy were smaller than those born to mothers who did not use the drug. In general, smaller babies are more likely to develop health problems. Studies have also found indications of developmental delays in children exposed to marijuana before birth.
Any drug of abuse can affect a mother's health during pregnancy, making it a time when expectant mothers should take special care of themselves. Drugs of abuse may interfere with proper nutrition and rest, which can affect good functioning of the immune system.
A nursing mother who uses marijuana passes some of the THC to the baby in her breast milk. Research indicates that the use of marijuana by a mother during the first month of breast-feeding can impair the infant's motor development (control of muscle movement).