Marijuana long-term effects?
Originally Published: October 1, 1993 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: December 10, 2010
Does marijuana have any real, lasting effects?
Rumor always had it that there were few, if any, long-term physical or psychological effects of smoking pot. Recent studies, however, have revealed evidence to the contrary. Smoking weed has been associated with respiratory, cardiovascular, psychiatric, and bone toxicity health effects. Read on for more information about the possible long-term health effects of Mary Jane.
- Brain: Smoking pot causes changes in your brain's chemistry, specifically inhibiting the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a chemical that transfers information from one nerve cell to another. This accounts for what happens when a person is high — s/he loses her/his short-term memory and often experiences impaired coordination. Smoking pot interferes with intellectual performance and impairs thinking, reading comprehension, and verbal and arithmetic problem solving, too. For chronic users, these effects may continue long after the high is gone. Many of the changes that occur in the brain of chronic pot smokers are similar to those experienced by abusers of other drugs.
- Mental Health: Increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia have all been linked to long term marijuana use; however, it's not clear whether pot causes these mental issues, makes already present conditions worse, or is one way users self-medicate to treat already existent symptoms.
- Lungs: Just like smoking tobacco, marijuana smoking is harmful to the lungs. Marijuana smoke contains numerous chemicals similar to those found in cigarettes and other tobacco products and about 50 to 70 percent more cancer-causing hydrocarbons than a tobacco cigarette. Another thing to keep in mind is that joints are often smoked unfiltered and down to the smallest butt possible. In order to get the "best high", one must inhale deeply and hold the smoke longer in their lungs than tobacco smoke. Frequent pot smokers are likely to experience many of the same issues as tobacco smokers such as chronic cough and a heightened risk of respiratory illness and infection.
- Heart: Marijuana may increase heart rate by 20 to 100 percent within the first three hours after smoking it. This could lead to heart palpitations and arrhythmias that could cause a heart attack. This risk increases with the age and in individuals who have existing cardiac issues.
- Reproduction: Marijuana use has been shown to affect male and female reproductive systems, and to affect fetuses during pregnancy. The reproductive cells absorb and hold more of the chemicals in marijuana than do most other body cells and this may cause cancer to develop in children born to mothers who smoke while pregnant.
In short, yes, there are some side effects of smoking pot, both short and long-term, but new research is constantly being published and some results are debated. Though immediate sensations may impede consideration of them, it seems as though long-term results of chronic marijuana use could certainly blunt your lifestyle.
If you are at Columbia and want to stop smoking pot, but can't seem to shake the habit, call x4-2878 to schedule an appointment at Counseling and Psychological Services to talk with someone about your options. Elsewhere, you can look at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator referral list for tips on where to turn and finding a treatment center located near you.