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Marijuana: The Proven Drawbacks on Your Body

As the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, the health effects of marijuana are easily a public health concern. Over 40 percent of Americans over the age of 12 (or nearly 98 million people) have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetimes, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Pot, Reefer, Grass, Weed, Dope, Ganja, Mary Jane, or Sinsemilla

Other names for marijuana include Pot, Reefer, Grass, Weed, Dope, Ganja, Mary Jane, or Sinsemilla.

Yet, surveys have found that the majority of kids (79 percent) mistakenly believe that marijuana is safe.

In reality, marijuana has been linked to numerous short- and long-term health impacts, and studies show that smoking "pot" may actually be much worse for your health than smoking cigarettes.

Six Ways Marijuana Seriously Harms Your Health

The active ingredient in marijuana, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), is responsible for the "high" that marijuana users covet. It's also responsible for a myriad of short-term health consequences, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), including:

  • Problems with memory and learning

  • Distorted perception

  • Difficulty thinking and problem solving

  • Loss of coordination

  • Increased heart rate

  • Anxiety

Over time, marijuana leads to even more health risks.

  1. Increased risk of heart attack. Your risk of having a heart attack more than quadruples in the first hour after smoking marijuana, according to a study published in Circulation.

  2. Increased risk of lung cancer. Marijuana smoke contains 50 percent to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. Meanwhile, it causes increased levels of an enzyme that converts hydrocarbons into their carcinogenic form, which may accelerate changes that cause cancer. And, because marijuana users typically inhale smoke more deeply than cigarette smokers, they may be exposed to more carcinogenic smoke.

Nearly 50 percent of 12th graders have smoked marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's 2005 Monitoring the Future Study.

A study by the British Lung Foundation even found that smoking three marijuana joints a day causes similar damage to smoking 20 cigarettes.

  1. Impaired immune system. THC impairs your immune system's ability to fight disease, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The substance inhibits the disease-preventing reactions of key immune cells, and studies have found that mice exposed to THC were more likely to develop bacterial infections and tumors.

  2. Mental illness. A 2007 study in The Lancet found that even infrequent marijuana use increases your risk of becoming psychotic. Smoking marijuana is also linked to depression, anxiety and personality disturbances.

  3. Respiratory problems. Like tobacco smokers, regular marijuana smokers report increased respiratory problems including cough, phlegm production, chest illness, obstructed airways, and lung infections.

  4. Physical dependence. Contrary to popular thought, marijuana is classified as an addictive drug, and can even cause cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Are There Any Benefits?

Whether or not marijuana should be allowed for medical use has spurred great controversy, largely because it does, in fact, offer some benefits (along with the risks noted above).

THC and other chemicals in marijuana impact receptors in your brain and other areas of your body that control things such as body movement, memory, vomiting, and your immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic, marijuana may therefore help to treat:

  • Nausea

  • Glaucoma

  • Pain

  • Multiple sclerosis

In fact, marijuana has been used for various medical purposes for thousands of years, and was even listed by the U.S. Pharmacopeia, the organization that sets standards for approved drugs in the United States, until the 1940s. Today, however, marijuana remains an illicit drug and is classified federally as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it is one of "the most dangerous drugs that have no recognized medical use."

Related Articles

Hemp Seed: The Misaligned, Misunderstood Food That is Possibly One of the Healthiest on the Planet

Illegal Drugs Identification Chart: What They Look Like & How to Recognize Their Effects


National Institute on Drug Abuse

Office of National Drug Control Policy

BBC News November 11, 2002

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