Marijuana is made up of dried flowers and leaves from the cannabis plant, it is one of the most commonly used illegal drugs for younger people today. It is not federally legal, however it was legalized in California recently this year, people 21 and above can purchase marijuana legally. A lot of people perceive cannabis to be very harmful. However, with much research and reading both the negative and positive side effects, it is safe to say that the use of marijuana and if it is healthy or not is an opinion. Some might think the negative side effects are much worse than the positive effects and vise versa. There have been many studies that have proven Marijuana to have cognitive and behavioral impairments. Marijuana has many side effects with the human body which include affecting neurotransmitters, long and short term memory, personality, and functionality. Tetrahydrocannabinol also known as THC is what is in marijuana that causes changes in the brain.
Cannabinoid receptors are located in the limbic system, cerebral cortex, and cerebellum and this is where THC is “activated”. When not using marijuana cannabinoid receptors are triggered by anandamide which is a neurotransmitter. Anandamide is a fatty acid neurotransmitter. Anandamide has a pain relieving effect, when using marijuana this neurotransmitter is affected. “THC has many of the same effects as anandamide and can bind to the same receptors. But when THC activates the receptors, it interferes with the normal functioning of these areas of the brain” (Deahl). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is capable of feeling pleasure and euphoria.
Any sort of long term use of marijuana or any drug in general can alter the balance of these neurotransmitters.Smoking marijuana does come with short and long term effects. The short term effects last no longer than 4 hours. “In low to medium doses, marijuana can cause relaxation, reduced coordination, reduced blood pressure, sleepiness, attention problems, and an altered sense of time and space. In high doses, marijuana can cause hallucinations, delusions, memory problems, and disorientation” (NIDA). Taking cannabis more frequently has an adverse effect on long term memory. Therefore, the longer cannabis is consumed chronically the worse the memory gets. Memory loss is seen when using marijuana in both adolescent and adults.
“Both adolescent and adult marijuana users reportedly have impaired performance and altered brain activity across several forms of memory. Adults who are heavy marijuana users have short-term memory impairments, and adolescents who are heavy marijuana users have significant short-term memory impairments even after 6 weeks of abstinence” (Dougherty). Luckily, marijuana does not affect a person’s ability to recall existing memories, such as their birthday or their hometown.
When people stop using marijuana lots of things change. Lots of people think that smoking weed will help with sleep but apparently it does just the opposite and when someone quits marijuana they tend to have crazy dreams. Appetites are also affected, “The endocannabinoid system plays a huge role in regulating our appetite. Part of this system is in the hypothalamus, where special neurons called POMCs let the rest of the body know when it’s full, and it should stop eating. THC literally reverses that process” (McLauren). It is normal to get the munchies after smoking marijuana and when people quit the drug, the complete opposite happens to their appetite.
Therefore, people’s appetite will disappear for a while. Marijuana is a dopamine stimulant. When dopamine is eliminated it messes with both the brain and body’s expectations. Mood swings are a common effect. However, it evens out with time.
As the presence of THC decline in the human system, focus may be lost. The brain will be “foggy” and some people might find it hard to find balance. Loss of concentration, memorization, and difficulty learning are all side effects as well. The question whether marijuana is addictive or not is a rising concern. “According to NIDA, marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the U.
S. Why? It’s accessible, affordable, and not considered harmful” (Archer). The majority of occasional marijuana users show no addictive symptoms, which include no increased tolerance, craving or withdrawal.
Therefore, it is a controversial topic whether marijuana is really addictive because people have different views on the word “addictive”. “There are studies that say emphatically yes, as in a new Australian study, which claims changes occur in regions of the brain, overall structure or metabolism. This study compared long term heavy use to brain damage that is equal to a mildly traumatic brain injury.
But then again there are other studies, like one from the Medicinal Cannabis Research Center, which found only minor differences from the control group, not only in regards to structure and metabolism but also with respect to intelligence testing, memory and concentration” (Archer). There are a lot of drugs that are psychologically and physically addictive, and come with terrible withdrawal symptoms. However, marijuana are is not physically addictive, it is more so psychologically addictive.