Facts About Marijuana Use and The Harm It Does To Your Body

marijuana

At some point in your life, you or someone you know would have probably smoked marijuana. Don’t deny it. It’s a statistical fact that 1 in 3 people have used marijuana at some time. 1 in 10 people would have used it in the last 12 months. But what exactly is this popular drug (yes, it’s a drug)? Is it safe? What does it do to your body?

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is a form of cannabis that is derived from the cannabis plant (cannabis sativa). The main ingredient that provides the sensation of getting ‘high’ is called delta-9 tetrahydro-cannabinol, more commonly known as THC. Depending on the form of cannabis, there are varying intensities of feeling ‘high’.

facts about marijuana

There are three main forms of cannabis — the most popular of which is marijuana, followed by hashish and hash oil. Dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant is used as marijuana. Although it is the most popular of the 3 forms, it is the least potent and is commonly smoked like a cigarette (known as a ‘joint’) or in special waterpipes (bongs). We won’t go into detail about the equipment used. The focus of this article is the effects of marijuana.

facts about marijuana

Why?

Unlike other legal drugs i.e. alcohol and tobacco, marijuana is used to experience a sense of mild euphoria because it is a psychoactive drug. Users report mood changes (feeling happy) and changes in their perception of environment. If you’ve watched The 70′s Show, you’d have noticed that the walls move whenever one of them gets high. That’s an example of a change in perception.

How?

The mechanism of action of marijuana and its active ingredient, THC, is pretty well-documented. Once you understand how THC takes over the body, you’ll also understand why one feels ‘high’ or ‘stoned’.

Let’s begin.

The normal human brain has certain receptors. These receptors are known as cannabinoid receptors or CB1. They are located all over the brain and are responsible for different brain functions. Physiologically, our body produces endogenous cannabinoids that interact with the appropriate receptors to result in normal brain function. The cannabinoids that we have in our bodies do not have any psychoactive effects so we go about our daily lives without feeling ‘high’.

CB1 receptors in a specific part of the brain are responsible for a specific chain of events that result in a specific action. For example, CB1 receptors in the cerebral cortex are partly responsible for sensory perception (that’s touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell).

CB1 receptors are also found in the:

  • hippocampus — which is responsible for memory
  • basal ganglia — which is responsible for emotion and initiating movement
  • cerebellum — which is responsible for balance and coordination

When one smokes marijuana, THC is absorbed into the blood and is quickly delivered to the brain and interacts with the CB1 receptors all over the brain, interfering with their normal functions and providing us with distorted sensations.

Effects

Short term effects of marijuana use include a sense of euphoria (happiness), talkativeness, loss of inhibition, increased appetite, loss of coordination, bloodshot eyes, dryness of the mouth, increased heart rate, and decreased muscle strength.

Since THC is lipid-soluble, it is stored in fatty tissue and is slowly released for weeks or months.

Marijuana smoke contains carcinogens and a higher level of tar compared to cigarettes and users are at much greater risk of developing lung cancer. Marijuana also has negative effects on the reproductive system; reducing testicular size, lowering testosterone levels, decreasing libido, causing menstrual abnormalities, abnormal ova formation, impotence and changes in sperm shape and motility.

So before you light up again, think twice.

Disclaimer: I have no conflicts of interest. As with everything, you have to weigh the benefits and adverse effects of marijuana. The choice is yours.

Image by Alexandra Moss, arturo ponciarelli, mod as hell

References: CBRNE – Incapacitating Agents, Cannabinoids, Evidence that anandamide-signaling regulates human sperm functions required for fertilization., The toxicology of cannabis and cannabis prohibition, Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: a brief review, Psychiatric effects of cannabis, Cannabis use and progressive cortical thickness loss in areas rich in CB1 receptors during the first five years of schizophrenia, Identifying prenatal cannabis exposure and effects of concurrent tobacco exposure on neonatal growth.

About author
Jackson Chung, M.D. is the founder of TheDailyBuggle. He is also the Associate Editor for MakeUseOf. When he's not working, you'll find him fiddling with his camera and enjoying chai latté. Catch him (if you can) on Twitter @aenon1mus. He encourages you to join TheDailyBuggle on Facebook and Twitter.
23 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Wow. Are you honestly an MD? Have you done any research on this, at all? Your last paragraph reads like a 1950 scare campaign leaflet. I expected you to tell us about birth defects and schizophrenia, like they did in the 1950s.

    Tell me, what is the LD-50 for cannabis? Please, let us all know.

  2. Thanks for good stuff

  3. Good article, Jackson. Thanks for not holding back any punches on the truth about this drug. I’ve personally seen it mess with quite a few lives.

    • Thanks, Tim. My intent wasn’t to scare anyone but rather to shed some light on the topic.

  4. The how_stuff_works part is OK, after all there are tons of studies posted online, but the part about side effects is unsubstantiated. Of course, how could you be grounded if nearly none of the studies of long-term effects of cannabis has been proven.
    Also you forgot to point out beneficial effects of cannabis used medically, which BTW are well-documented in contrast of side effects that you mentioned.

    • We’ll save the “benefits” for another discussion.

      • Why?
        I mean you already said a couple of words about it’s being a bad thing, but there’s a bride side. Don’t you think it could have been fair to bring up the whole story and not just the only piece you like the most for some reason?

        • Why are you so eager to discuss the benefits of marijuana? Don’t you think that the harmful effects should be considered as well?

          Especially when it comes to smoking weed, the majority of the people quickly jump to its defence.

  5. I eager to that because there’s a chance that some politician or another man in charge who is a fan of yours or just rely on your words after reading your fine article will conclude he should shut to prison another couple of thousands people so they won’t “harm” themselves by smoking it.
    Look, I’m not against you or anything, just you’re a public person, so your statements matter more than you sometimes can predict or want to. But I don’t share your attitude. As this wasn’t a research, with an open mind, references and all, this was a poorly masked prohibition.

    • Nobody is trying to prohibit you from smoking weed if that’s what you want to do, provided it’s legal where you are. I’m just trying to highlight a couple of points regarding its possible harms to your body. It’s a touchy subject because there are so many people in love with weed. Imagine that this article was about heroin — it’s a drug too but I’m sure we won’t be having this discussion.

      This romantic relationship with weed that everyone seems to have needs to be broken. If you want to smoke weed for “medical” reasons, so be it. But what about those who are smoking it recreationally? What do YOU think about that?

      • Well, I’m against romantic relationship with booze, that’s all.
        What else is there, right?

      • Romantic relationship with weed? Did you watch the Superbowl this year, or how about any sporting event. How many alcohol commercials did you see? People can overdose from alcohol, or pass out and choke on their own vomit. Maybe your against alcohol too? I am, not from a prohibition standpoint, but from a safety one. My uncle is an alcoholic that only drank beer, but a lot of it. At the age of forty he had the shakes so bad he couldn’t even work anymore. Lets compare that with someone like Tommy Chong, who its reasonable to think has smoked continuously for somewhere around 40 years. Chong still works in Hollywood and likely will for many years.

        If there is a reason we are passionate about MJ, it is because people are loosing their civil rights because of its prohibition. Also because south of the border drug cartels using our money are killing innocent people. All we want is the same freedoms millions of American alcohol consumers have. We would do anything to be able to pay the taxes tobacco users do.

        If your going to make it a health issue, at least admit it shouldn’t be a criminal one.

        • Did you not read the title of the article?

  6. Marijuana may be the true Panacea. Jah produced it for american so we are able to use the idea! Keep creating wealth, killing not to mention arresting innocent a person who stand inside your way. preserve saying NOT ANY to dying cancer youngsters. I guess while you are that full and successful it’s basically the performance, isn’t that? But i am stronger than you, as well as soon the reality will turn out to be known.

  7. Speaking strictly from personal experience, ( since 1967), I’ve not experienced any of the negative side effects in any anatomical or psychological way. My libido hasn’t diminished in any way and I find a nice buzz enhances the feelings and the finale. But that’s just me.

  8. thanks very much that was useful information for me

  9. “Unlike other legal drugs i.e. alcohol and tobacco, marijuana is used to experience a sense of mild euphoria because it is a psychoactive drug.”

    ….SERIOUSLY? YOU’VE GOTTA BE TROLLING ME.

    Sigh… it frightens me a bit that you obviously consider yourself a well-educated young person and yet you’re spreading drivel like this– a majority of which is antiquated propaganda– claiming you are “shedding some light on the topic.” Trying to open your eyes (as a few above me have done) to any other studies, available unbiased research, or even the ever-growing plethora of documentaries is totally futile; you’ve clearly had your blinders fully secured for quite some time.

    For everyone else: Remember, the most abundant or readily available research is NOT always the most accurate. In fact, when dealing with marijuana (a mind-bogglingly large source of revenue in the American War on Drugs), the most abundant studies are ASSUREDLY the most biased. Never underestimate the worldwide permeating power of raw capitalist greed.

    “When they own the information, they can change it all they want.”

    • Benjamin, you can argue all you want. The article plainly lists the facts of the effects of marijuana. I’m not on a mission to ban its use or to claim that it’s right to criminalise the use of weed. Anyways, inhaling any type of smoke is hazardous — it’s a scientific fact. Most marijuana use is abuse — that’s also another fact.

      Propaganda? I think not.

  10. Love the reefer madness. Dark shady looking photo of someone smoking a bong and vague warnings of increased cancer risk and “abnormalities”. Your readers should see the other side. http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=6891. The facts are marijuana is NON TOXIC meaning it is impossible to overdose. At worst it is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Recently the National Cancer Institute even acknowledged its cancer fighting potential, before the government forced them to take it back, despite the evidence. Then there are all the costs, fiscal and psychological, of locking up citizens for nothing more than possession of said plant. What a person does to their body is no business of the governments, unless they harm another person or property. We have laws for situations like that. The simple fact is prohibition does not work, it didn’t in the 20′s and it hasn’t since. What’s the saying insanity is trying the same thing over and over expecting different results.

  11. >special water pipes
    I lost my shit.

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