How Marijuana Affects the Body and Brain

With debates going on in the public sphere over the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use, it is important to be educated as to the impact of the drug on the body and in the brain. Too often people have a relaxed attitude about marijuana. It may not be as harmful as heroin, but cannabis is a drug and it causes damage. Know the facts about marijuana effects so that you can develop an informed opinion regarding the drug’s legalization.

Marijuana in the Brain

There are hundreds of chemical compounds in the cannabis plant that affect the brain when marijuana is smoked or consumed. The primary compound is called THC. It is responsible for the high that users experience. THC moves into the brain and is taken up by receptors in areas that impact thinking, memory, pleasure, concentration and perception of time and senses. The receptors in these areas are overstimulated by THC and cause changes in perception, trouble thinking clearly and concentrating, memory problems, impaired coordination, a sense of relaxation and changes in mood. Among the many disadvantages of legalizing marijuana is the potential harm that could be done to young people. The ways in which marijuana affects the brain are amplified in teens, whose brains are still developing. The impairments to concentration, thinking and memory can last a long time or even be permanent. Heavy use by young people even causes a permanent drop in IQ.

Marijuana and the Body

The main effects of marijuana occur in the brain, but the drug can also negatively impact health in other ways. Marijuana causes an impairment of coordination, which means that it can lead to accidents. Injuries caused by being high are not uncommon. It also causes the heart to beat faster, which can be deadly for anyone with an undiagnosed heart condition. With long-term use marijuana can cause a number of physical health problems. These include a suppressed immune system and greater susceptibility to getting a cold, flu or other infections. It also causes damage in the lungs when smoked regularly and can lead to frequent coughing, lung infections, emphysema and other lung-related illnesses.

Marijuana Addiction

Many people mistakenly believe that marijuana is not addictive. In fact, nine percent of people who use the drug will get hooked. The odds are even higher for young people who start using marijuana during the teenage years. Addiction to marijuana is characterized by withdrawal symptoms, just like with other drugs. The good news is that rehab success rates indicate that marijuana addiction is treatable. If you or someone you know is using marijuana and can’t stop, it’s time to get help. The long-term effects of the drug on your brain, your body and your overall health are serious. Getting treatment now could mean avoiding many negative health consequences.

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