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Article Summary

Is the Use of Marijuana Harmful?

Light drugs like marijuana have been legalized in several countries, which led to intense debates about the health risks connected to their use. Is smoking marijuana harmful? Can it affect your body in negative ways and cause permanent damage?

Scientific studies confirm the fact that the prolonged use of marijuana can result in a number of health dangers. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the US. More than 14.8 million people said that they had smoked marijuana in the past 30 days.

What kind of damage are these people doing? Here are some of the most common harmful effects connected to smoking marijuana.

The Short-Term Health Effects

Is using marijuana harmful? You will find out as soon as you try. The effects of the drug can be felt almost immediately. These are the short-term effects of marijuana smoking.

The use of marijuana results in a distorted perception of reality and a person that has smoked pot may experience unusual sensitivity to sound, light and smells. Marijuana leads to a loss of coordination because of the way in which it affects the brain.

Other short-term effects of marijuana usage include lower blood pressure, concentration difficulties, anxiety and panic attacks.

How does Marijuana Affect the Brain?

The active ingredient of marijuana is a chemical known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Several studies have linked THC to subtle changes in brain functioning.

THC affects particular brain regions, which results in a "high" and the distorted reality that marijuana smokers experience. The brain areas affected the most have cannabinoid receptors, which produce reactions on cell level once triggered. The areas of the brain connected to feelings of pleasure, thinking, concentration, memory and time perception are the ones that have the biggest number of such receptors.

The chemical in marijuana interferes with the functioning of these brain regions, which results in the short-term effects described in the beginning of the article. Chronic marijuana users are often experiencing concentration and learning difficulties because of the effect that THC has on important brain regions.

Marijuana and the Lungs

The fact that marijuana is inhaled leads to logical questions about the effects that it has on the lungs.

A number of studies claim that marijuana smoke contains up to 70 percent more carcinogens than the cigarette smoke. The manner in which the drug is smoked is also responsible for the adverse effect on the lungs. The inhalation is usually very deep and marijuana smokers hold their breath for a longer period of time than cigarette smokers.

Several alternative studies establish no link between marijuana smoking and a higher risk of respiratory condition development. Still, marijuana smokers experience a number of health problems connected to the functioning of the lungs. These adverse effects can range from coughing to suffering from lower respiratory infections more frequently than people who do not smoke.

Several Other Risks

Although marijuana lobbyists put emphasis on the drug's positive effects for the treatment of particular chronic conditions, the prolonged use of marijuana is connected to numerous health risks that go beyond brain and lung damage.

Men who smoke pot tend to experience a decrease in libido and reproductive system problems. Marijuana has been linked to lower testosterone production and a decrease in the quality of sperm.

According to a report published on the website of Harvard University, marijuana used for the treatment of medical conditions may actually produce adverse side effects because it affects the functioning of the immune system. Smoking one pot cigarette per day will destroy the cilia and the cells in the respiratory passageway that protect the body against microorganisms and bacteria.

Additionally, marijuana functions as an immunosuppressant. It weakens the natural immune response, making it difficult for the smoker's body to fight infections. People who have a weak immune response, especially those who have AIDS will be affected adversely by marijuana smoking.

Finally, it is important to point out the dangers connected to smoking marijuana during pregnancy. According to the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, THC can pass from the mother to the fetus, affecting the baby's neurological development. It can also affect the passage of nutrients from mother to baby, which results in limited growth.

Although some studies provide controversial information about marijuana, a number of risks have been confirmed by science. The prolonged, chronic smoking of pot will result in numerous health risks ranging from poor memory to a higher lung cancer risk.

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