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Is Smoking Weed Bad For Your Health?

Health & Science Posted Aug 20 2019

Around the world, roughly 147 million people consume cannabis (2.5 percent of the global population). Millions of individuals smoke cannabis instead of utilizing other consumption methods like vaping, orally ingesting edibles, sublingually administered liquids, or topical applications. Although smoking marijuana has been a staple for centuries, more studies have revealed that this particular method isn't as beneficial as others. So, is marijuana bad for you? The plant itself isn't necessarily bad for you but the content of cannabis smoke isn't as healthy as you may think. Keep reading to find out the potential risks of smoking marijuana, short-term and long-term effects and how cannabis usage affects different parts of your body.

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The Impact Cannabis Usage Has On Different Systems Within Your Body:

After cannabis is consumed, people tend to experience different effects like euphoria or relaxation in addition to medicinal and therapeutic benefits. With so many effects, one has to wonder, how does cannabis usage affect vital parts of our body such as our brain, respiratory system, nervous system, and cardiovascular system?

Let's start with the brain. The chemical structure of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is similar to the neurotransmitter known as anandamide. Anandamide, also known as "the bliss molecule," is often recognized as an endogenous cannabinoid and important in many functions throughout our brain.

Since the structure of anandamide and THC aren't that different, receptors in our body bind THC which leads to an alteration in normal brain functioning. These neurotransmitters send chemical messages throughout the central nervous system via neurons. Thus, the areas of the brain impacted are ones that influence memory, concentration, movement, coordination, pleasure, thinking, and perception of time.

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In addition, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a significant role in maintaining homeostasis and proper functioning of the central nervous system. After THC is consumed, it disrupts the cerebellum and basal ganglia--parts of the brain responsible for regulating coordination, reaction time, and balance. This explains why people may struggle to operate a vehicle well when under the influence of marijuana.

Also, THC can activate the brain's neurochemical reward system, thus affecting the brain's response to pleasurable activities such as eating and sex. This is why certain cannabis strains can stimulate a person's appetite and/or sex drive.

Cardiovascular System:

Furthermore, the ECS plays an important role in regulating various vascular functions. The effects marijuana has on the cardiovascular system haven't been linked to severe health issues for the majority of cannabis users. However, in rare cases it is possible to experience myocardial infarction, strokes, and other adverse cardiovascular events after consuming cannabis and high levels of THC.

People who have preexisting cardiovascular problems should use caution when consuming cannabis and especially THC. Opting for cannabidiol-dominant strains or other forms of consumption that don't involve smoke inhalation can help mitigate health risks.

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Respiratory System:

When using cannabis, inhaled cannabis smoke moves its way into the body's airway and lungs, where it's then absorbed into the bloodstream. When compared to smoking tobacco, cannabis users typically inhale for longer and deeper periods of time.

If cannabis consumption happens on a daily basis, especially smoking, it's possible for one's respiratory system to be negatively impacted by the frequent exposure to smoke and the harmful ingredients within the smoke. But, this isn't the norm for all cannabis users.

Central Nervous System:

When cannabis is consumed, different cannabinoids like THC interact with the body's CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are located throughout various systems including the central nervous system and immune cells. The majority of CB1 receptors are actually located in the central nervous system and are known to have numerous effects including appetite boosts, nausea reduction, immune system balancing, and stress and anxiety regulation.

After THC is consumed, it moves through the body and affects neurological centers from within. Through the endocannabinoid system, cannabis directly alters the central nervous system. This leads to different effects and benefits such as anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

Short-term Versus Long-term Effects of Cannabis Usage:

On average, smoking weed affects everyone differently. Some people may feel very high and cognitively impaired from certain cannabis strains, and others may experience the opposite. Everyone has their own tolerance to cannabis as their metabolism and genetic make-up are different. These factors play a vital role in the effects people feel from cannabis (short-term and long-term). A handful of short-term effects people may experience from consuming cannabis include:

  • Short-term memory difficulties
  • anxiety
  • paranoia (depends on the strain one uses and their personality)
  • lowered reaction time
  • increased heart rate (this tends to occur from pure sativa strains)
  • coordination problems

If you consume large quantities of cannabis regularly or you consume cannabis every day, there are possible long-term effects to be aware of even though you may never experience these. A handful of long-term effects that have occurred (although rare) after prolonged heavy marijauna use are:

  • IQ declines (the number of IQ points typically depends on the age the individual started consuming cannabis)
  • Symptoms of chronic bronchitis
  • learning difficulties (if using cannabis at a young age)
  • addiction

Research Findings Regarding Negatives Associated With Cannabis Usage:

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Several decades ago, it was found that chronic cannabis smokers experience a rise in adverse respiratory symptoms including phlegm production and wheezing. More recently, it was discovered that regular marijuana smokers have an increased chance of experiencing a chronic cough, sputum production, hoarse voice, or chest tightness.

Additionally, a 2005 study mentioned that smoking marijuana or tobacco might increase one's risk of respiratory exposure and adverse symptoms from organisms like mold and fungus that can be found on tobacco and cannabis plants. However, it's important to keep in mind that the content of marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke are quite different.

For example, tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, and at least 250 of those chemicals are harmful to the body. Out of these 250 harmful chemicals, a minimum of 69 are known to cause cancer. Whereas, in cannabis, there are multiple chemicals as well, but they're known for their medicinal and therapeutic properties rather than being harmful. Also, it has been found that cannabis can combat cancerous cells as opposed to causing them--much different than that of tobacco.

Negative Effects From Certain Cannabis Consumption Methods:

Oftentimes, individuals don't experience any negative effects after consuming cannabis via smoking, vaping, or ingesting edibles. To protect your health in the short-term and long-term, many studies suggest staying away from combusting/smoking marijuana.

Unfortunately, the content of marijuana smoke isn't necessarily healthy as it can irritate one's lungs and throat. Therefore, vaping marijuana is becoming a more popular option since the plant material is heated up to a certain temperature producing vapors rather than smoke. Orally ingesting edibles is another beneficial consumption option because nothing needs to be inhaled so your respiratory system will likely be unaffected.

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Additionally, if you consume cannabis every day, it's possible to become dependent on the substance but this doesn't happen to everyone. If you regularly consume large quantities of cannabis, it's possible to become addicted (about 9% of long term users).

Also, the more cannabis you consume, the higher the chance your tolerance will change over time. As a result, some cannabis users take breaks from consuming marijuana so their tolerance level will revert to a normal state, but ultimately, this depends on the individual and their specific situation.

After learning about some of the potential negative effects of consuming cannabis and how it impacts your mind and body, is smoking weed bad for you, in your opinion? If you think so, will you consider shifting away from smoking marijuana and opt for other methods instead? Let us know in the comments below!

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