With the legalization of marijuana on the rise, it’s important to note the drug’s side effects. While weed can have significant medicinal and economic benefits, if nationwide legalization occurs, the public should be informed of any negative aspects. Read on to know more about the scary potential side effects.
Many people praise marijuana for its non-addictive qualities. However, physicians would strongly disagree with such a statement. “There’s no question at all that marijuana is addictive,” Dr. Sharon Levy, the director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Boston Globe. Right now, only one in 11 young adults who smoke weed will develop an addiction. However, with more potent products beginning to enter the market, the addiction rates will increase. With health care that doesn’t consider marijuana a serious addiction, people may have nowhere to turn.
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Heart and stroke risk
While it’s easy to picture a marijuana user mellowing out as they wish, marijuana can raise a heart rate by 20% to 100% shortly after smoking, and the effect can last up to 3 hours, according to Live Science and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This may raise the risk of heart attack.
“A 2017 study by the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia found that those who used marijuana were 26 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who did not use marijuana,” explains Live Science. “Those studied were also 10 percent more likely to have developed heart failure.”
Next: This side effect could appear by middle age.
In 2016, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study confirming that those who practiced long-term, daily marijuana use had poorer verbal memory in their middle age compared to those who didn’t smoke. The study considered “long term” to mean five years or more. The researchers examined 3,400 people’s habits over a 25-year period. Everyone in the group took a cognitive skills test at the end of the study period, which determined the results. Legalization of marijuana across the United States may result in more people smoking the drug daily for long periods of time.
Next: Not all marijuana consumption is the same.
Although there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana causes lung cancer, it does create a series of respiratory problems in frequent users, such as a prolonged cough, airway inflammation, and wheezing. According to the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, marijuana smoke contains harmful chemicals that are in similar range to those in tobacco smoke. Since marijuana requires a deeper inhalation than cigarettes, it leaves about five times the carbon monoxide concentration and three times the tar in the respiratory tract compared to cigarettes.
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Various studies on the effects of marijuana have been done through the years, but NBC recently reported that one potential risk of the drug is a serious one — mental illness. Marijuana can increase one’s risk of developing schizophrenia. This illness causes delusions, hallucinations, and unclear thinking, and greatly affects one’s ability to function properly. The drug can also increase depression and social anxiety, according to the same study. Those who use marijuana heavily are also more likely to be suicidal.
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Low testosterone levels
Some studies have shown that chronic cannabis use can result in lower testosterone levels, and even a lower sperm count. Doctors have agreed that it’s very plausible that chronic marijuana use can lower testosterone. However, researchers cannot draw a completely factual conclusion until they complete several more studies. Low levels can also result in something called gynecomastia, which is caused by a hormone imbalance between testosterone and estrogen levels in men.
Next: This side effect can last longer than most people think.
Slowed reaction time
Driving while high may seem like an obvious no, but impaired reaction time can last much longer than the high. “Visual perception and motor speed may be impaired not only while you smoke, but for up to 28 days afterward,” Marina Goldman, an addiction expert from University of Pennsylvania’s Addiction Treatment Center, told Philadelphia magazine. Slowed reaction time means that an oncoming vehicle can pose a greater danger; there could be a delay in perception time and appropriate reaction time.
Next: You need to know how marijuana edibles affect people differently.
Exposure to dangerous potencies
Today, marijuana products are much stronger than they used to be. Edible products tend to have a potency that is up to 10 times higher than that of a traditional joint, according to Steven Wright, a pain and addiction medicine specialist in Denver. Wright told USA Today that since edibles’ effects take up to an hour to set in — unlike joints, which reach the brain in just seconds — people end up consuming far more than they intended, which can cause more harm than the drug in its traditional form.
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Loss of appetite
Everyone knows marijuana can trigger a case of the munchies, but some users complain they find their appetite disappears when they aren’t using the drug.
“I find that I don’t have much of an appetite any more unless I am stoned,” wrote Reddit user oz24. “[T]hinking about eating sober gave me nausea. [Probably] the worst part of all the side effects,” echoed user newmilwaukee.
Scientists who study the relationship between marijuana and appetite have discovered that a component of the drug appears to activate hormones that produce hunger, but it’s not clear what effect that might have on a person’s desire to eat when they weren’t high. A separate study found that people who smoked weed at least three times per week were skinnier than people who didn’t use marijuana, but why that is the case isn’t clear.
Next: Science says the relationship between marijuana use and paranoia isn’t a myth.
Tales of pot-induced paranoia aren’t unusual. “I smoked weed for about 6-7 years and eventually had to quit entirely because I became SUPER anxious, paranoid and self-conscious,” one Reddit user recounted. “[A]fter about 3/4 years of semi heavy use the high just changed now it just sends me loopy with bouts of anxiety and paranoia and just completely over thinking every aspect of my life until I can put a negative spin on it,” wrote blue_skies.
Science says the relationship between marijuana use and paranoia isn’t a myth. A 121-person study conducted at the University of Oxford found that people were more likely to experience paranoid thoughts after ingesting THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, than those who took a placebo. The drug also triggered negative thoughts about the self and lowered mood.
“There’s certainly evidence that if you use cannabis — particularly when you’re young — and you use it a lot, that this can put you at risk for later problems,” professor Daniel Freeman, who led the study, told WebMD. But paranoia isn’t an inevitable side effect of smoking weed, he added. “[I]f you have greater confidence in yourself, you improve your self-esteem, and if you try not to worry or ruminate about potential threats in the world … then the effects of the THC should hopefully be less capable of inducing paranoia.”
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Really bad decision making
While marijuana isn’t the only substance to help cause bad decision making, it highlights the importance of self-control and responsibility.
Medical experts and the Drug Enforcement Agency agree that marijuana has never caused a fatal, toxic overdose. However, there have been a few reports of excessive marijuana use leading to other fatal decisions, as was the case in March 2014 when a 19-year-old college student jumped off of a balcony after ingesting five times the recommended amount of marijuana.
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