When a person smokes marijuana, THC passes from the lungs into the bloodstream and is quickly routed to the brain and other organs. Effects are felt within minutes. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it with effects felt in thirty minutes to an hour.
Marijuana overactivates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of receptors specialized to interact with THC-like chemicals. This causes the “high” that people feel.
- mood changes
- altered sensory perception
- increases in appetite or desire to food binge
- altered sense of time
- balance and body movement impairment
- impaired memory
- hallucinations or paranoia in some people at high doses
- delusions in some people at high doses
- psychosis in some people at high doses
- dry mouth
- dry membranes, especially the eyes
According to research cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Marijuana affects brain development. When usage begins with younger people, the drug may impair thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. It may hamper brain development, or at the least hamper learning at certain stages of a maturing individual. Researchers are still studying how long marijuana’s effects last and whether some changes may be permanent.
Physiologically, there may be long term effects. Marijuana smoke contains some of the same cancer-causing compounds as tobacco, sometimes in higher concentrations. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day. High doses of marijuana can result in hallucinations. Marijuana smokers experience the same health problems as tobacco smokers such as bronchitis, emphysema, and bronchial asthma. Extended use is associated with anti-motivational syndrome, lung damage, and risk to reproductive systems.