Short Term Effects of Marijuana Abuse
Marijuana, also known as Cannabis, contains a psychoactive compound known as THC. The potency and effect of THC cannabinoids vary by plant strains, growing methods, geography, delivery methods, and combination use with other drugs or alcohol. Smoking marijuana, the most common delivery method, influences the cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and alters memory, perceptions, thoughts, pleasure, senses, and coordination. There is usually an immediate response as the marijuana produces a “high” or euphoric feeling of pleasantness with distorted senses of time and perception. Most people experience a calming and tranquil effect, but some people may have negative experiences such as anxiety, hallucinations, or delusions. Memory and cognitive abilities are diminished and may result in difficulties thinking, solving problems, or other learning impairments. Motor functions and coordination of movement often tends to slow down creating difficulties in accomplishing tasks. Most of these effects go away once the “high” is over, at which time, drowsiness may occur, but some effects such as memory and cognitive impairments, may continue for months or indefinitely.
Because marijuana is commonly smoked and deeply inhaled, the greatest physical concern is the ingestion of carcinogens and other irritants into the lungs. Extensive or prolonged use can result in lung infections, obstructed airways, or these toxins can be a catalyst to other physical ailments. Some studies have shown that marijuana use impacts the immune system by reducing the ability of T-cells to fight infections. Marijuana use affects the heart by lowering blood pressure at the same time increasing the heart rate and this makes a user 4 times as likely to suffer a heart attack while using versus not using. Through recent MRI imaging studies, research has found a direct correlation to structural damage in the brain resulting in reduced grey brain matter or nerve cell volumes that manage cerebral functions.
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Marijuana addiction affects behaviors and emotions beyond impairments of memory, cognitive, and motor functions. Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, and lack of interest, can result in other psychological issues that the user is unable to manage on their own. Long term, chronic abuse of marijuana has been linked with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders as well as other co-addictions. Short term memory loss is common while long term effects require more research.
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