Negative Effects of Cannabis
As of late, the legal and political battles surrounding cannabis continue to overturn long-standing regulations regarding the use of this drug. While cannabis may in fact have certain medicinal benefits, it nonetheless breeds abuse and addiction when used for recreational purposes. As of 2014, cannabis is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Not unlike other recreational drugs, the negative effects of cannabis begin as of the very first dose. With regular ongoing use, the effects of cannabis accumulate, altering essential chemical pathways in the brain as well as damaging major bodily systems.
With long-term cannabis use, the risk of addiction, mental illness and loss of overall functional capacity runs considerably high. As harmless as this drug may seem, the negative effects of cannabis become increasingly apparent the longer a person uses the drug.
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Immediate Effects of Cannabis
Derived from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, cannabis contains a psychoactive compound known as THC. As with any psychoactive compound, TCH interferes with the brain’s normal chemical processes.
When smoked, the THC content in cannabis passes into the bloodstream via the lungs. From there, the blood carries the drug to the brain and throughout the body.
Once inside the brain, the effects of cannabis interact with the brain’s own endocannabinoid system, which produces chemicals not unlike THC itself. The endocannabinoid system contains a network of neurons that regulate the body’s primary functions, including:
- Heart rate
- Respiratory functions
These interactions set the stage for the negative effects of cannabis to take root. Along with the drug’s “high” effects, users also experience:
- Impaired reasoning and problem-solving abilities
- Loss coordination
- Warped sensory perceptions
- Changes in mood state
- Warped sense of time
- Short-term memory loss
- Short attention span
Tolerance Level Effects of Cannabis
Cannabis acts as a central nervous system depressant, slowing down chemical activities throughout the brain and body. Over time, the effects of cannabis go from short-term to long-term as brain tolerance levels continue to rise.
Cannabis triggers the release of endorphin chemicals from individual brain cell sites. With continued use, the effects of cannabis strain cell functions to the point where cells lose their ability to produce needed endorphin supplies.
As a result, users must increase dosage amounts in order to compensate for weakening cell functions. In effect, brain tolerance levels continue to increase for as long as a person keeps using the drug. For these reasons, tolerance level effects play a pivotal role in the abuse/addiction cycle.
The effects of cannabis on brain cell functions accumulate over time, leaving cells unable to produce endorphin supplies in the absence of the drug. At this point, the brain has come to rely on the effects of cannabis to regulate normal bodily functions.
According to the University of Washington, someone who’s marijuana dependent will exhibit at least three of the following signs within the course of a year:
- Tolerance level increases
- Experiencing withdrawal effects on a frequent basis
- Loss of control over usage amounts
- Devoting increasing amounts of time getting and using the drug
- Neglecting important obligations in favor of drug use
Withdrawal effects in particular play a central role in perpetuating the abuse cycle, as users tend to use the drug to self-medicate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms may take the form of:
- Mood swings
- Problems getting to sleep and/or staying asleep
- Stomach aches
- Aggressive behavior displays
- Bouts of anxiety
- Feelings of depression
- Strange dreams
Diminished Functional Capacity
The short-term, immediate effects of cannabis on memory, attention span and overall learning capacity can last for days or even weeks after the drug’s initial effects wear off. This is especially true for users with a long history of cannabis use.
For someone who uses the drug every day, the effects of cannabis ultimately diminish his or her overall functional capacity over time. Signs of diminished functional capacity may take the form of:
- Unable to keep track of time
- Frequent mood swings
- Difficulty remembering things
- Impaired decision-making abilities in terms of making rational, logical choices
With each passing year, these types of effects can limit a person’s income earning ability, damage relationships and decrease his or her quality of life overall.
Health-Related Effects of Cannabis
Over the course of regular cannabis use, the brain’s inability to regulate bodily functions as normal results in the gradual breakdown of major bodily systems. Ingesting cannabis smoke on an ongoing basis causes damage to the respiratory system in much the same way tobacco does. Before long, users start to develop a chronic cough and become increasing susceptible to respiratory infections.
The immediate effects of cannabis can elevate the heart rate for up to three hours. This degree of over-exertion places an incredible strain on the heart, placing users at increased risk of heart attack.
As the brain’s physical dependence on cannabis increases, endorphin or neurotransmitter chemical levels skew further and further out of balance. Chemical imbalances that persist for long periods create the ideal conditions for mental illness to take root.
Mental health problems commonly associated with chronic cannabis use include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Depression disorders
While not everyone stands to develop mental health problems, people with a family history of mental illness remain at high risk.
With long-term use, brain chemical imbalances eventually start to warp a person’s overall mindset in terms of his or her belief systems, priorities and motivations. At this point, a psychological dependency has taken hold and an addiction has formed. According to Brown University Health Education, as much as 10 to 14 percent of recreational cannabis users will become addicted to the drug.
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In spite of the legal debates surrounding cannabis use, cannabis belongs to the Schedule I class of narcotic drugs, which are described as causing more harm than good in terms of medicinal benefit, according to the U. S. Library of Medicine. Ultimately, the negative effects of cannabis pose the greatest risk for recreational users as the drug gradually takes over mind and body functions.