Now that marijuana is being broadly decriminalized, researchers can conduct in-depth, controlled, scientific studies into its long term effects on the human mind and body. Soon, we will start to witness a flood of clinical trials and empirical data on the long range impacts of smoking marijuana.
The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse launched a major longitudinal study last year to track a large cohort of marijuana smokers to analyze the long term effects of THC. The study is designed to examine the results of THC on adults but also the effect on the developing brain.
In order to understand what cannabis does to the user over a long period of time, it might prove useful to look at how it works in the brain. The drug is successful due to the active chemical compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC replicates a substance called endocannabinoids; which our bodies produce naturally.
These endocannabinoids control the brain’s neurotransmitters. It is the neurotransmitter that manages functions such as the communication between the brain and the central nervous system. Conversely, endocannabinoids work to soothe muscle pain, control appetite, ease inflamed tissue, and regulate our metabolism; among much more.
Smoking marijuana can irritate lungs in some users. Those who smoke marijuana often experience problems breathing somewhat similar to those experienced by cigarette smoke. Symptoms range from risks of lung infection, consistent phlegm in the throat, and coughing regularly. Doctors still debate over whether marijuana smoke contributes to lung cancer. However, a study conducted by scientists at the University of California at San Francisco indicated that marijuana smoke is not as damaging to the lungs as tobacco. Further, it stated that occasional marijuana use shows no linkages to damage in the lungs. On the other hand, it also determined that heavy marijuana use could cause lung problems.
Rapid Heart Beat
Marijuana has been known to raise the heart rate for several hours after smoking marijuana. This could ultimately increase the risk of a heart attack. If you are an older person or have chronic heart issues, you’re at greater risk.
Problems During and After Pregnancy
Smoking Marijuana during pregnancy has been attributed to lower birth weight leading to a higher risk of brain damage and behavioral issues in babies. If a mom uses marijuana while pregnant her baby could be plagued with difficulties with attention, memory, and solving problems. Add to that it has been linked to a reduction of progesterone and estrogen in women. Some physicians suggest that THC is emitted through the breast milk leading to a host of negative health consequences.
Smoking marijuana is not just limited to its impact on the female body but also affects the male reproductive system as well. Recent studies have shown that male infertility has increased with about 15 percent of couple incapable of getting pregnant. They are now looking into whether marijuana smoke is a causal factor. Researchers have found that THC contributes to a lack of testosterone. It reduces sperm’s ability to swim properly, which is a major factor in male infertility.
Smoking marijuana over the long term has been associated with mental disorders in some smokers such as temporary hallucinations and imagining that images and senses are real when they are not. Also, it has been linked to paranoia leading to an irrational mistrust of people. It has also been connected to worsening the condition of those with schizophrenia which results in a pattern of muddled thinking and reasoning. Finally, cannabis has been tied to other mental issues like anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
Anxiety and Depression
Study into the use of marijuana early in life can lead to anxiety and depression. While the relationship is complicated and not truly understood, some suggest that if an individual carries a particular gene, they can be susceptible to higher risks of developing schizophrenic behavior. In other people, studies have found a relationship between marijuana usage and psychosis. It stands to reason, therefore that the more marijuana you smoke, the greater the risk. In fact, it has been found that in heavy users the risks of developing psychosis is at least seven times that of infrequent and non-users.
In the end, as with all things, moderation appears to be the key when smoking marijuana if you want to ward off any of its ill-effects over time.
Article By: Alfonzo Porter