Marijuana smoke is quickly absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream, which then carries the chemical THC to the other organs throughout the body, including the brain, producing effects lasting from one to three hours. However, when consumed in food or drinks the effects last for as long as four hours but are not felt for at least ½ an hour to an hour after ingested.
Within a few minutes after inhaling marijuana smoke:
- The users heart beat increases
- The bronchial passages relax and enlarge
- Blood vessels in the eyes expand – making the eyes look red
- Users experience dry mouth
- The user will become very hungry or thirsty
- The hands may tremble and grow cold
As the cannabinoid THC (the main mind-altering chemical in marijuana) enters the brain, the user will feel euphoric or “high”. THC activates the reward system of the brain by stimulating the release of dopamine. Marijuana acts somewhat as a mild hypnotic, and stronger varieties of marijuana can produce giddiness, increased alertness, and major distortions of sound and color, along with visual illusions and some hallucinations, even producing the feeling of movement under ones feet.
Marijuana users also experience:
- Time may seem to pass more slowly
- The user becomes a bit confused and mentally separated from the environment
- A feeling of deja-vu occurs
- The user has difficulty concentrating
As the euphoria of using marijuana passes, the user may:
- Become sleepy
- Feel anxiety
Marijuana use disrupts short-term memory. Therefore, the effects of mental confusion, distortion of the passage of time, impaired judgment and short-term memory loss, result in a user’s inability to perform multiple interactive tasks. Heavy use impairs the person’s ability to form memories or recall events. THC disrupts coordination and balance and users often have difficulty shifting attention from one thing to another. In additionmarijuana users who have taken high doses of the drug may experience acute toxic psychosis, this includes:
- Depersonalizing – the loss of personal identity
Evidence suggests that heavy use of marijuana depresses the immune system making the user more susceptible to a cold, the flu, or other viral infections. The user is further exposing the lungs to fungi and bacteriafound in marijuana smoke. In addition, marijuana smoking on a regular basis leads to symptoms of increased coughing with acute and chronic bronchitis. The breathing passage of a chronic marijuana smoker has an increased number of mucous secreting surface epithelial cells that do not have cilia; therefore, the phlegm production is increased but is not cleared from the breathing passages, forcing the smoker to cough to clear mucous from the lungs.
Along with increased phlegm production, marijuana user’s experience:
- More frequent acute chest illness
- A heightened risk of lung infections
- An increased risk of cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs
- An increased risk of cancer of the head or neck
Marijuana has the potential to promote cancer; in fact, marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. It also produces high levels of an enzyme that converts some hydrocarbons into a carcinogenic form that may accelerate the changes that ultimately produce malignant cells. In addition, Marijuana users usually inhale deeper and hold their breath for longer, increasing the exposure time of their lungs to the carcinogenic smoke.
- Uppers, Downers All Arounders, Darryl S Inaba ‘Executive officer Haight Ashbury Free Clinics, San Francisco CA.’, William E. Cohen, ‘Haight Ashbury Detox Clinic’
- NIDA, national Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH publication Number 05-3859 printed July 2005