The Effects of Marijuana: Understanding What Marijuana Can Do to Users
Perhaps one of the most highly contested illicit drugs in our history, marijuana legalization has spawned a hotbed of controversy in the eyes of the nation and beyond. Supporters of the legalization of this schedule 1 drug will wax poetic on the innumerable virtues of its use, from pain management for sufferers of rheumatism to relief of the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy for cancer patients. The staunch critics of marijuana hold that regardless of any benefit, marijuana is a schedule 1 drug for a reason: it is a highly addictive drug with little proven medical use.
Upon whichever side of the debate you stand, however, one thing is clear. Marijuana is in fact an illegal drug with an enormous potential for addiction and abuse, and can in fact have devastating effects on the minds and bodies of users. Understanding what marijuana can do to users can lead to a greater understanding of why people who use and abuse this drug need rehabilitation and treatment, for their own health and safety.
Marijuana in the Body of a User
Regardless of what you see on television, marijuana in no way affects all users in the same stoned, ‘half-baked’ manner. As with any other chemical or drug, marijuana reacts with the individual’s own chemistry, and can produce a wide range of immediate effects upon consumption. They can span the spectrum stimulants to hallucinogens to depressants; essentially, you can’t always spot a marijuana user by their manner. The early stages of the marijuana high include such feelings as euphoria, cheerfulness, giggles, a reduced conception of time, heightened vision, and a sense that one is apart from one’s environment. It can also stimulate the user’s appetite, causing them to feel ravenous, as well as heighten their sense of taste, which in turn causes a greater appreciation of the food they eat. Slowly, the user will enter into a state of relaxation that can actually make concentration and even just plain thought a more difficult process; only with strong willpower can a user in this state actually concentrate, even if only for moments at a time.
The immediate, short term effects marijuana upon the body include an increase in the pulse rate and a rapid decline in blood pressure, especially if the user remains in an upright position. Some users may feel a marked decrease in nausea, muscle weakness and tremors, unsteadiness and improved knee-jerk reflexes. Performance impairment is common, causing users to seem jerky, uncoordinated and clumsy. One of the most commonly recognized symptoms of marijuana use is the reddening of the sclera, the whites of the eyes.
Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use
One of the biggest dangers of marijuana is that its scariest effects may take a while to present; in the meantime, users are left feeling as though the benefit of the high far outweighs the negligible cost. However, if one looks as the long term effects of marijuana use, they may change their cavalier attitude toward this drug.
Among the most common side effects of marijuana use are a decrease in testosterone levels and sperm count in men, as well as occasional cases of enlarged breast tissue, and an increase in abnormal and immature sperm. Experiencing a decrease in sexual pleasure, or the total loss thereof, is also quite common. The part of the brain that controls sex and growth hormones is adversely affected, causing these reactions in the body. In women, the same part of the brain is affected, which has a detrimental effect on hormone regulation and therefore commonly interferes with the menstrual cycle. The female hormones are often depressed and testosterone is conversely increased. This is to say nothing of the damage that can occur should the woman use marijuana during her pregnancy; it interferes with proper nutrition and rest that the mother and growing child need, and can cause problems with the immune system. As with tobacco use, mothers who partake of marijuana while pregnant are more likely to have babies with lower birth weights, leaving them more susceptible to illness and disease. Their central nervous systems are weaker, they show abnormal reactions to light and sound, they shake and startle more easily; some of these infants are also born exhibiting signs of drug withdrawal.
Both men and women alike will experience changes to the way their brains function, particularly the portion that controls learning, memory and the way emotions and motivations integrate with experience. Learned behaviors deteriorate, information processing is suppressed, and according to recent research, these effects on the brain are equivalent to those of long term abuse of other major drugs. The lungs are also attacked, and long term marijuana users often encounter the same breathing difficulties as long term tobacco smokers. Chronic bronchitis, susceptibility to chest coughs and colds, and abnormal functioning of lung tissue are all quite common, and the amounts of tar and carbon monoxide absorbed by these organs is often 3 to 5 times greater than those of tobacco users. Cancer risk is increased, psychological and physical dependence can ensue, and overall growing tolerance can require more of the drug to achieve desired effect.
Marijuana use is not a trivial matter, and as with all addictive, harmful drugs, requires great effort and support to successfully overcome. If you or someone you know abuses or is addicted to marijuana, marijuana rehabilitation and treatment is often the only way to ensure the habit is fully beaten down, and help get users on the road to a healthier, drug free lifestyle.