Are you addicted to marijuana or just a casual user?
The statistics on drug use in the last ten years show that marijuana is increasing in popularity, especially among young people. Various factors lead to its increasing popularity, but two of them particularly stand out – the widespread legalization of the drug, and the apparent perception that it is not as harmful as other drugs.
Many people may think marijuana is not so bad, just because it does not seem to have the harmful effects of other drugs like tobacco, alcohol, heroin or cocaine, but people also forget it is a drug that is completely capable of changing how your mind functions, as well as your body. The long term effects it brings makes it dangerous to many people, as it results in outcomes that do not begin to show until many years later.
The effects of Endocannabinoids
Marijuana long term effect are difficult to understand, unless you look at and study the workings of the drug on the brain. The active component of the drug is what makes it so dangerous, and this is known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
This ingredient works by mimicking certain substances the body produces called endocannabinoids. Their work is to control the production of neurotransmitters, which are chemical substances that allow communication between the CNS (Central Nervous System) and your brain. They also have important functions in the rest of the body – they regulate metabolism and appetite, they relax the muscles, they reduce inflammation in cells, take care of and protect damaged tissue, among many other functions.
They are therefore essential to the optimal functioning of the body, and this makes the brain have readymade receptors for them. The THC in marijuana copies these endocannabinoids, making it unique in this regard – other drugs tend to block or interfere with opioid receptors in the brain.
The physiological effects that arise from endocannabinoids and their work in the body is also mimicked by THC, particularly in the brain. That leads to the effects among users – they experience memory issues, impaired control of body movement, changing levels of pain sensation, as well as altered perceptions of pleasure, pain and emotional control. The main symptoms of using marijuana include:
This is directly due to the influence of marijuana on the hippocampus, the region of the brain that is responsible for regulating short-term memory. Cannabis will interfere with this region, causing the brain to stop making new memories or learning new things, which are essential to short term memory.
In fact, several studies confirm this effect. In a study conducted by several researchers and published in the Molecular Psychiatry journal, they found out that heavy users of cannabis are at higher risk of developing false memories, even if the users had not smoked pot in over a long period like a month.
This also means that teenage smokers of marijuana are more likely to develop issues with their memory as adults. A certain study that the Hippocampus journal published revealed that teens who smoked pot every day for three years got hippocampal regions that were abnormally shaped by the time they reached their early 20s. They also had the additional problem of performing worse in memory related tests, compared to their peers who never smoked the substance.
In addition, many other scientific tests reveal that regular smokers of marijuana will tend to struggle with cognitive tasks for a number of years, compared to their peers who do not use the substance, or who use it infrequently. However, it is important to remember that marijuana is still a drug, and it will cause you a degree of harm, regardless of how frequently you consume it or not.
Marijuana consists of several toxic ingredients such as hydrogen cyanide and ammonia, all which have damaging effects on the lungs and bronchial passages. For instance, you will find that a regular marijuana user tends to experience persistent coughing, some have issues with their breathing, and others produce excessive amounts of mucus and phlegm from their throats. This makes it effects similar to those of tobacco smokers.
THC has even greater effects, as it leaves the lungs and enters your bloodstream, therefore accessing other regions of the body. When it enters the heart, it can increase the heartbeat rate by as much as 50 beats per minute, and this effect is long lasting – it can last for up to three hours.
A regular marijuana smoker can have their risk of getting a heart attack increase by a large percentage, as well as strokes and rhythm disorders. In addition, young smokers are not exemptions from this either – they are also prone to such occurrences, regardless of whether they have risk factors for heart disease or not.
Effect on pregnant women
The effects of the drug on pregnant women are even more distressing than the others, because of the effect on the fetus or infants. The child’s memory is at a high risk of long-term damage, and cannabis toxins also appear in breast milk – so they can pass on to the infant as you breastfeed them.
Even though current research is scarce on the effects of the drug on babies and unborn children, an assistant professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine from Washington University cautioned that foreign substances that may cause harm to the fetus or mother should always be avoided as much as possible. Women who are [pregnant or nursing should therefore resist marijuana, at least for the sake of their child.
Getting testicular cancer
Marijuana has long proved to have a very complicated relationship with sexual functioning. Certain studies saw that the drug facilitated aggressive sexual behavior, while others are discovering that sexual activity in animals is hindered after the drug is consumed. A study conducted by BMC Cancer in 2015 also revealed that chronic use of cannabis is heavily associated with development of testicular cancer, even though this may be rare.
Whether you believe marijuana is dangerous or not, the truth is it carries a multitude of long term risks to your health and wellbeing. It is therefore important to avoid using it, and if you are, consider reducing its usage or get help in quitting the substance.