Short- & Long-Term Health Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana is one of the most used substances across the country, with 36.4 million people ages 12 and older reporting marijuana use within the past month in 2021.1 That same year, marijuana use was highest among young adults between the ages of 18-25, however people of all ages use it.1
This article will talk about the short- and long-term effects of marijuana misuse, signs of marijuana addiction, and where to get help if you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana use.
Short-Term Effects of Marijuana
When marijuana is consumed, it can produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria, which is often why people are drawn to it.2 These effects, as well as others, can be short-term. The timeline for when the effects of marijuana begin can vary based on how it is consumed. For example, smoking or vaping this substance can produce effects right away, as the smoke or vapor goes into the lungs and then directly into the bloodstream.3 If marijuana is eaten or drank, such as through a baked good or a tea, effects may take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to develop.2,4
Some short-term effects of marijuana that an individual may experience can include, but are not limited to, the following:5
- Impaired body movement
- Difficulty with thinking
- Difficulty problem-solving
- Impaired memory
- Altered sense of time
- Psychosis, including paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions (usually only when a large amount of marijuana is consumed).
While many individuals who use marijuana feel relaxation and euphoria when under the influence, it is possible for others to experience anxiety, fear, and panic.2
How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?
There are several cannabinoid receptors in the areas of the brain that are responsible for executive function and memory, including the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus.6 Researchers have found that memory impairment often occurs as a result of how THC impacts the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory formation and processing information.7 As a result, memory impairment can occur as a short-term effect.6
How Does Marijuana Affect Coordination and Movement?
Marijuana use can impact coordination, reaction time, and judgment, leading to several daily challenges. For example, marijuana impairs your driving and ability to abide by traffic laws.8 In fact, marijuana is the most common illicit drug found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in car accidents, including accidents that resulted in fatalities.8
Long-Term Risks of Marijuana
There are several effects of marijuana misuse and associated health risks that can develop because of marijuana use. The likelihood of experiencing these risks increase when marijuana is used chronically and/or in high doses. Unfortunately, some of the impacts of these risks can be lasting, even after active marijuana use has ceased.
A Potential Decline in IQ
Marijuana use has been shown to negatively and permanently impact one’s IQ, specifically when they engage in marijuana use at a young age.9 Research has shown that marijuana use can actually reduce one’s IQ by as much as 8 points when use begins during adolescence and is used persistently.9 Unfortunately, ending marijuana use cannot fully restore the points lost during that time.9 Additionally, marijuana use can impact one’s memory, learning, attention, emotions, coordination, and decision-making, regardless of age.10
Smoking marijuana brings an increased risk of respiratory issues. Marijuana irritates the lungs and throat and includes other chemicals that may heighten one’s risk for experiencing cancer and lung disease.11 Research shows that smoking marijuana is associated with airway inflammation and increased airway resistance, too. Additionally, people who regularly smoke marijuana report more symptoms of chronic bronchitis than those who don’t.11
Immediately after use, marijuana can cause the heart to beat faster, which in turn can increase blood pressure.10 Continued, regular use of marijuana can affect one’s likelihood of developing problems with high blood pressure in the future. The risk of stroke, heart disease, and other cardiac complications increases with chronic, long-term use.10
Risk of Mental Health Issues
Researchers have determined a connection between marijuana use and mental health disorders, including social anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.10 It is still to be determined just how these two are connected, as it is not believed that marijuana use is the actual cause of these or other mental health disorders.10
Signs of Marijuana Addiction
Misusing marijuana and being addicted to it are two completely different things. When someone is addicted to a substance, it means that adaptations have occurred in the brain as a result of substance misuse that causes loss of control over powerful urges to continually use the substance, regardless of what consequences may come of it.14
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists a number of criteria that can aid in diagnosing substance use disorders like marijuana addiction (otherwise known as marijuana use disorder). This diagnosis can only come from a mental health professional and an individual must be experiencing least 2 out of the 11 criteria over a 12-month span to receive a diagnosis.15 Some of these criteria include:15
- Using larger amounts of marijuana and for longer than initially intended.
- Making repeated attempts to decrease or entirely stop marijuana use but being unable to do so.
- Spending an exceptional amount of time acquiring, using, and recovering from marijuana.
- Continuing to use marijuana despite interpersonal problems doing so may cause.
- Continuing to use marijuana despite knowing that it is causing or contributing to a physical or psychological health problem.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have marijuana use disorder, reaching out to a professional who can help provide a proper diagnosis is an excellent first step towards recovery.
Marijuana Addiction Treatment
Addiction to marijuana is not something that is easy to overcome on your own. Seeking support from an addiction treatment facility can be the difference between a successful recovery and continued marijuana use.
At Laguna Treatment, a drug rehab in Orange County, we understand the importance of providing comprehensive treatment to address marijuana addiction and other substance use disorders. We offer many different addiction treatment levels to suit your needs, and we will work with you to create a comprehensive treatment plan that is as unique as you are. Call to start the rehab admissions process and identify ways to pay for rehab, including using insurance to pay for rehab.
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