Marijuana is a drug that goes by many different names, such as cannabis, pot, or weed. In the U.S., it is one of the nation’s most widely used drugs alongside alcohol, and it is the most common of the illicit drugs. The drug is used either by inhalation using a pipe, a hand-rolled cigarette known as a joint, or with a water pipe. It may also be added to food and eaten. Use of the drug can cause a number of symptoms, including the sense of getting “high.” This is courtesy of chemicals that are found in the plant, particularly THC.
What is THC?
The cannabis plant that is used to create the drug marijuana is most popular for its mind-altering properties. The substance that is primarily responsible for the plant’s psychoactive properties is a chemical that is called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. In effect, it is the THC that is mainly responsible for the high that is associated with the drug. THC is a cannabinoid, which is a chemical that impacts the central nervous system. In nature, its presence serves as a type of protection against pathogens or animals that feed from plants.
Side Effects of THC
Side effects of THC use will generally resolve within a few hours, although some may linger for days after. Common side effects include dizziness, paranoia, and a distorted sense of time. Other side effects may include impaired judgment, short-term memory loss, an increased feeling of hunger known as “the munchies,” and feelings of anxiety or depression. Physical side effects of THC include redness of the eyes, dry mouth, and a slower than normal reaction time.
How TCH Affects The Brain
In the brain, there are receptors that are called cannabinoid receptors. These are brain cell receptors that are associated with things such as pleasure or memory. When a person uses marijuana, the THC enters the bloodstream, where it makes its way to the brain. This happens quickly when the drug is smoked, as the chemical swiftly leaves the lungs and enters the blood. The process occurs much more slowly for people who have ingested marijuana. Once the THC is in the bloodstream, it can travel into the brain. Once it has entered the brain, the chemical interacts with and engages the cannabinoid receptors. This causes a release of a chemical that makes people feel good or euphoric. This chemical that is released by the receptors is dopamine. If too much of the drug is taken, it can result in marijuana intoxication. Marijuana and THC also affect the part of the brain that is responsible for one’s coordination and sense of balance, as this is another area greatly influenced by the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
What Are the Other Health Effects of Marijuana/THC?
With ongoing use, there are health effects associated with marijuana and the chemical THC. These effects are generally determined by the length of use and whether it is combined with alcohol. For example, when marijuana is used in conjunction with alcohol, it affects blood pressure, impairs cognitive function, and causes an abnormally fast heart rate. Without alcohol, marijuana use may cause impairment of short-term memory and increased heart rate. It may lower blood pressure and increase blood sugar levels. Long-term marijuana users may develop bronchitis and a chronic cough. People who have a pre-existing vulnerability may develop schizophreniform disorders and anxiety. In addition, when it is smoked, marijuana may increase the risk of lung cancer.
Consequences of Marijuana Abuse
There are substantial consequences that are associated with marijuana use. People who have used the drug heavily or for a long time may not only experience poor health both physically and mentally but also problems academically or with their careers, such as increased absences and tardiness. Emotionally, there is often a dissatisfaction with users’ lives, and the drug may cause problems with relationships. People who are in their early 20s or younger may permanently damage their ability to learn. Pregnant women who use marijuana risk giving birth to babies with neurobehavioral problems, as THC may affect the fetus’s brain by altering the endocannabinoid system. It may also result in infants who are smaller in size. For some individuals, it may also negatively affect fertility and sperm count. When driving, people using marijuana have an increased risk of being involved in car accidents, which more than doubles compared to the risk of those who do not use the substance. According to Drugabuse.gov, of the people who use marijuana, nine percent risk addiction.