When it comes to the effects of weed on your health, there’s a lot of misleading information out there. To make sense of all the chatter, we’ve been doing a little research. This article aims to give you a review of the effects marijuana has on your body. The good and the bad, we’ve waded through it all. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? We think so, but that’s just us.
Continue reading and make your own call.
Here’s How Marijuana Affects Your Health
Positive Effects Of Weed On Your Health
Believe it or not, marijuana has many positive effects on your health. They range from improvements to quality as life to treatment of debilitating diseases. We’ve outlined the short term and long term effects below.
Short Term Health Benefits of Marijuana
There’s nothing nicer than plopping down on the sofa with a bowl after a tiring workday. One of the most well known and immediate effects of marijuana is relaxation. The moment you breathe in cannabis vapor, a flood of plant-based anti-anxiety compounds travel through your blood and into your brain. Within minutes of smoking, you’ll be able to breath a heavy sigh of relief and start smiling again.
There’s a reason why so many famous artists smoked weed. Marijuana can make you more creative. When you smoke herb, activity in a certain part of your brain increases. That region is the frontal lobe. In fact, within 30 minutes of smoking, this region is fully activated in your brain. This is the same region of the brain that is responsible with critical thinking and creativity.
Marijuana also increases your ability to connect abstract thoughts. This ability is thought to be a prerequisite to creative thinking. In the art world, this is the epiphany. The moment everything seems to come together. For cannabis users, the light bulb of ideas seems to click on more frequently while you’re under the influence.
3) Pain Relief
When you feel pain, your brain is sending you a distress call. It’s screaming: “HELLO! There’s something wrong here! Fix it!” You feel these distress calls as pain because of chemicals in your cells. The more pain you’re in, the more your cells are secreting these chemicals.
Natural compounds in marijuana cut in, disrupting the signals. THC and CBD interact with your immune cells by giving them instructions on what to secret and what not to secrete. When you consume marijuana, those chemical pain signals stop. This lets you go about your day in peace.
A heavy indica will put you to sleep fast and help you sleep more deeply. Cannabinoids like THC induce sleep. At the same time, they also extend your time in deep sleep. Deep sleep happens during the third and fourth sleep cycles. During deep sleep, your body takes the time to repair itself. Your immune system is also revitalized and recharged.
It may seem odd, but the effects of marijuana and the effects of exercise are really quite similar. After you workout, bliss-inducing chemicals like dopamine, anandamide, and serotonin are released in the brain. These compounds make you feel amazing. They’re the reason behind the “runner’s high” and why exercise is thought to cure depression.
When you use cannabis, these same chemicals are released. That’s right: the “stoner’s high” is similar to a supercharged version of the “runner’s high.” This herb helps you feel blissful, and full of joy.
Great food is one of the finest simple pleasures in life. We think it deserves to be appreciated. Weed can turn a simple meal into a smorgasbord of blissful flavors and aromas. Marijuana makes you love the experience of eating.
When you smoke weed, a couple of things happen that make you love your food. First, marijuana can help turn down the chatter and distraction in your brain. This allows you to give full attention to what’s presently in front of you. Second, marijuana tells your body to secrete hormones that make your food smell and taste better to you.
What do you get when you combine those two facts? An intensely focused and utterly blissful eating experience. Pretty much as close to a foodgasm as you’re going to get. As cooks ourselves, we couldn’t ask for a better herb to pair with any meal.
Long Term Health Benefits Of Marijuana
As neuroscientist and author Dr. Michele Ross calls it, cannabis is vitamin weed. THC and CBD are some of the most powerful antioxidants out there. Antioxidants are essential for reducing environmental damage to our cells. Each time we breathe in car exhaust, accidentally whiff some Lysol cleaner, or eat foods with residual pesticides, we’re breathing in chemicals that can damage our cells. This damage is called oxidative damage.
Marijuana helps by relieving oxidative damage.
Cannabis may be key to preventative medicine. Marijuana contains vital chemicals that may help your cells function better. It does this by facilitating cell-to-cell communication. THC and CBD act as moderators, signaling your cells to send out other communication molecules. By playing the part of a facilitator, marijuana helps systems in your body function more regularly.
This regularity lowers your risk of developing stress-related ailments. Taken in moderate small doses, marijuana may even lower your risk of developing cancers and degenerative diseases. Stress wreaks havoc on the body. Cannabinoids are like the project managers that storm through to clean up the mess.
2) Lower Average BMI
Marijuana makes you feel hungry, but it also helps you break down what you eat. THC kicks your metabolism into overdrive. It stimulates cells in your digestive tract to secrete hormones that help break down carbs. So, while weed smokers tend to eat more, their bodies put more of the food to use.
This is one of the reasons weed smokers tend to have lower BMIs and smaller waistlines than their non-smoking peers.
3) Reduced Risk of Diabetes & Obesity
While weed is not necessarily a weight loss tool itself, it DOES help prevent you from gaining weight. Think of marijuana as a weight-stabilizer. The active cannabinoids in weed help your body regulate its metabolism.
Recent studies have shown that cannabis users have lower fasting insulin levels. Insulin is key to helping your body break down sugars. If your insulin levels are too high.
As we mentioned earlier, THC and CBD are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants protect us from DNA damage. DNA damage is the reason we age. As we get older, toxins known as free radicals harm our cells and DNA. Over time damaged caused by free radicals leads to symptoms of aging. This includes wrinkles on the skin, memory loss, and development degenerative diseases.
Marijuana’s powerful antioxidants reduce this damage, preventing signs of aging. Interested in putting it to the test? Check out this recipe for Marijuana Infused Face Mask.
5) Increased Qualities of Life
When you’re stressed or down. When you’re tired and irritable. At the end of a long day. Marijuana will be there for you. You don’t have to have a disease or health issue to benefit from the positive effects of marijuana. As Dr. Michele Ross says best, “you don’t have to have epilepsy to benefit from the power of cannabinoid therapy. I think that everyone should use it. You should learn about it, you shouldn’t be afraid.”
Many studies show that cannabis helps people cope with physical pain, traumatic events, and daily stress. Marijuana may just be the medicine people need to prevent these day-to-day harms from evolving into more serious issues. Cancer, depression, anxiety disorders and degenerative disorders may all be prevented by cannabinoid therapy.
6) Relief From Debilitating Diseases
Time and time again, we hear another story about cannabis bringing new hope to the patients who need it most. It’s important to make a distinction here: marijuana isn’t a magic plant. It isn’t a cure-all that’s safer than water. What it is and what it can be to our species is much more important than that.
Through marijuana research, we’ve found that our bodies need certain chemical compounds in order to keep our cells regular. Sometimes, our bodies have trouble producing and regulating these chemicals. When our bodies fail, the marijuana plant steps in. It is a natural source for important chemical ‘nutrients’ when our bodies cannot produce them themselves. This is why the plant is so helpful to us as a medicine.
Studies are showing that diseases as varied as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, Chron’s, post-traumatic stress disorder, and epilepsy may all be connected to irregularities in the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is the largest cell receptor system in your body. Researchers are still uncovering discoveries about how this system works. Compounds like THC and CBD bind to receptors in that system, giving your cells a new set of directions. Marijuana’s ability to correct some of these endocannabinoid imbalances is what makes the plant so important to us as a species.
Negative Effects of Weed on your Health
Nothing in life is perfect. As with all good things, consuming marijuana comes with some costs. As a responsible consumer, it’s up to you to decide whether or not the benefits are worth the harms. From person to person, that answer will be different.
Fortunately, though, many of the harms caused by marijuana can be reduced to a minimal impact. Many of the negative effects of marijuana come from the way that you consume it. Because of this fact, we’ve outlined what those effects are and how to minimize them in the sections below.
Short-Term Side Effects of Marijuana:
Many of us have experienced it. You smoke a little too much herb, and all of a sudden you’re freaking out because you think you look a little too stoned for the public eye. When it comes to weed and anxiety, imagine an inverted bell curve on a graph. You smoke a little bit, your anxiety level drops down. You smoke too much of an incredible high-THC strain, and that anxiety can shoot right back up again.
Don’t forget: THC is psychoactive. When you consume activated THC, you are taking a psychoactive drug. For newbie consumers, this does feel weird. When you are disoriented, your sense of place and purpose may seem bunk. You may feel like you’re not quite living in reality, or that you’re watching a show from afar. This feeling can be very uncomfortable for some people.
To others? The cerebral disorientation is enjoyable. Filled with laughter, a sense of peace, and a brighter outlook on the world. As you become more accustomed to cannabis, this disorientation subsides. Studies have even found that regular medical users are able to drive and function more or less on-par with the average non-smoking consumer. Others find that they have an easier time focusing on work and getting things done.
The truth is, this experience is different for everyone. If cannabis makes you uncomfortable, don’t use it. If you find that the benefits outweigh the harms? More power to you. You have the power, freedom, and ability to do what’s right for you.
3) Racing Heart
For up to three hours after smoking, marijuana may increase heart rate in some users. Your heart is affected the most within the first hour of smoking weed. In fact, a Boston study found that your risk of having a heart attack is 5 times that of a non-smoker during the first hour.
But don’t freak out! This number is only marginally higher than your risk of having a heart attack while having sex, or getting strenuous exercise. That risk also declines quite rapidly within the second and third hours after smoking. By comparison, your likelihood of having a heart attack while on cocaine is 25 times higher than average.
Researchers are unsure exactly what causes these symptoms in some people. In fact, they’re not even exactly sure if it’s the weed at all. Carbon monoxide from burning joint papers and residual pesticides haven’t been ruled out.
Bottom line: if you feel like your heart is beating a little too fast, don’t risk it. Try not to exert yourself. Call an emergency medical professional if you experience intense pain.
Short Term Side Effects Caused By Smoking Tools & Bunk Weed
Heat, plant particles, and bits of residual pesticides or fertilizers all have an impact on your health when you smoke herb. When you take a lighter to a joint, that hot smoke only has a second or two to cool down before you breathe it into your body. All that heat is irritating to the tissues in your throat and lungs.
As these tissues become irritated, they may begin to secrete mucus. Mucus helps your body flush those hot, ashy plant particles that you’ve just breathed in a well. This mucus may give you an uncomfortable cough. The cough will usually end in a minute or two.
Continue reading for more information on how to avoid this problem while you’re smoking.
Some people may have an allergic reaction when they smoke weed. This reaction could be to the cannabis plant, or something that happened to hitch a ride on your herb. Flower that hasn’t been properly flushed of fertilizers, pesticides, or miticides may increase your chances of having an allergic reaction. If you’re lucky enough to live in a legal state, opt for cannabis that has been tested and found pesticide-free.
Some people may also be sensitive to the smoke from rolling papers. When you smoke a joint, blunt, or pre-roll, you’re also smoking the paper that your weed is wrapped in. While it may seem obvious, it’s easy to forget that any ink or bleaching on the rolling paper may cause allergic reactions. The risk of this happening can be minimized by switching up your smoking method.
Just like mucus and allergic reactions, how you smoke plays a major role in whether or not you develop a headache. Unless you’re using raw rolling paper, paper of any kind can have irritating chemicals in them. These chemicals are free radicals that can damage your cells and cause side effects.
Residual pesticides and fertilizers can also cause nasty headaches. Even medical cannabis samples taken from the Los Angeles Area tested positive for over 1600 times the recommended levels for residual pesticides. It’s statistics like this that make cannabis testing so important. If you can, do opt for buying weed that has been tested. If you’re growing yourself, consult a local testing lab about how to properly flush your plants before harvest.
Long Term Side Effects of Marijuana
1) Tar Buildup
Tar buildup is a big one, but it’s also a risk that can be entirely avoided if you choose to do so. Tar buildup happens when you inhale smoke from plant material. Though difficult to see with the naked eye, smoke from dried herbs contains thousands of tiny burned plant particles. When these particles stick together, settle, and accumulate, these particles create a tar-like resin.
You’ve seen the black stuff that coats your pipe, right? That’s resin. That’s also what you’re breathing into your lungs.
Don’t sound the alarms quite yet, though. There is a way to reverse tar buildup AND prevent it from happening. We’ll tell you in the How To Reduce Negative Side Effects section below.
2) Less REM Sleep
Cannabis users may get more deep sleep, but they also spend less time in REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. When we’re in this sleep phase, our body is at it’s closest to being awake. Unsurprisingly, REM is the final phase of the 90-minute sleep cycle.
Coincidentally, REM sleep is the time when you’re most likely to have vivid dreams and nightmares. Researchers really don’t know why this sleep cycle is beneficial to our health. But, one leading theory is that it gives certain parts of our brain a rest. Namely, the parts that secrete serotonin and histamine.
If this theory is correct, then cannabis use may have an impact on the health of those brain cells. But, this is speculative at best.
3) Potential High Risks for Adolescents
Let’s put it this way: young brains are still developing. What helps brain development the most? A healthy, plant-based diet, emotional support from friends and family, and plenty of exercise. Can marijuana help the developing brain? Perhaps only if the adolescent in question had an endocannabinoid deficiency.
More research needs to be done to show exactly how cannabis affects those under 18. So far, the biggest point of contention is whether or not marijuana use will cause young adults to develop psychotic disorders.The idea is that introducing additional cannabinoids in a brain that doesn’t need them hinders healthy brain development. Due to the parts of the brain affected by marijuana, some researchers feel that cannabis may lead to higher risks of psychotic disorders in teens.
We’ve already proven that the psychosis demonstrated in Reefer Madness is simply idiotic. But, flooding a young, healthy brain with superfluous cannabinoids may push their rapidly changing biochemistry off track. Only time and more research will tell us the truth about marijuana’s risks to young people.
Highly Controversial Risk: Psychosis
The relationship between marijuana and psychosis is a hot debate topic these days. On one hand, some studies show that psychotic symptoms increase in people more prone to psychotic behavior. Other studies show that marijuana may help ease psychotic episodes in schizophrenics. Some have also suggested that instances of marijuana use are so high among those prone to schizophrenia because they are self-medicating with the herb.
Until more research is done, it’s difficult to tell exactly how cannabis affects adults with psychotic disorders. Though, these days, the latter studies seem to be shining through.
How To Reduce the Negative Side Effects of Weed
Pick Safer Smoking Tools
Many of the risks of smoking cannabis can be reduced by picking a safer smoking tool. While joints are amazing, they’re also the harshest form of consuming cannabis. If you’re looking to mitigate weed’s effect on your health, follow these simple guidelines:
Avoid: screenless pipes, joints, blunts
OK: bubblers, bongs, water-based dab rigs
Best Choice: convection vaporizers.
For a full breakdown of how marijuana affects your lungs, check out How To Smoke Weed and Keep Your Lungs Healthy.
Balance Your Strains
Add a little variety to your smoking routine. Smoking extremely high-THC strains can cause some people to feel overly anxious or paranoid. What helps with that? A little CBD. Finding strains that have a well-balanced ratio between the two cannabinoids can be a bit tricky. But, fortunately, cannabis consumers have a lot more options these days.
The compounds found in the cannabis plant work synergistically. When consumed together, they work in harmony with your body to regulate your individual biochemistry. In healthy consumers, smoking too much of one and not enough of the other may trigger some of those unwanted short-term side effects.
Take Tolerance Breaks
If you’re a regular marijuana user, then you know that after a while you’ll need to smoke a whole lot of weed in order to feel high. If you’re burning through your stash, it may be time for a tolerance break. A “T-break” is when you take a few days to a week off from smoking weed.
When you smoke weed regularly, you start to build up a tolerance to the herb’s effects. Your body becomes used to the constant flood of cannabinoids, and gets lazy about producing endocannabinoids of its own. Laying off for a while gives your body a little reset.
A tolerance break might be helpful for a couple of other reasons. Several studies have shown that small doses of cannabis in moderation can be quite healthful.
Here are a few aggregated recommendations:
1) Smoke up to 1 joint a day for up to 20 years and you’re in the clear for healthy lungs.
2) Smoke up to 5 joints a week and you are likely to have a higher IQ than the average person. Smoke more than that, and things may go downhill.
As a general guide, consider using another bell-curve analogy. For the healthy, non-endocannabinoid deficient person, your optimum health seems to increase with semi-regular cannabis consumption up to a point. After you cross that threshold, you begin to see some negative effects.
Are those negative effects worth it? That’s up to you and your doctor. We’re not here to judge. 😉
Practice Deep Breathing
The majority of the lung damage caused by marijuana can be eliminated via deep breathing. Like every muscle, your lungs need exercise. If you’re sitting all day and you avoid exercise, you’re probably not clearing a whole lot out of your lungs.
If you take shallow breaths, you’re only breathing into the top portion of the lungs. Every breath you take expels toxins and carbon dioxide. Breathing into only a small portion of your lungs leaves toxins trapped deep down in the organ. Over time, these toxins damage your lungs.
Flush toxins and breathe easy by exercising at least 20 minutes a day. Take the time to focus on inhaling and exhaling fully. Practice some Yoga breaths or test out one of the lung cleansing techniques outlined here.
Keep A Healthy Attitude
If you want to live a happy, healthy life, outlook means everything. As with any habit, it’s important to approach cannabis use with a healthy attitude.
Be mindful of whether or not you’re using cannabis to escape or using it as a tool to help you heal and progress. If you smoke weed to avoid facing your problems head on, you won’t find much relief for what ails you. With marijuana, it’s all about balance. Don’t overdo it, and you’ll probably be just fine.
Do the benefits of marijuana outweigh the risks? What do you think? We’d love to know what effect cannabis has had on your life. Share your thoughts and story with us on social media! It’s worth it, we promise. 🙂
Featured image photo credit: CCTV Africa
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