Cannabis: the facts – Healthy body
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Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.
The effects of cannabis vary from person to person:
- you may feel chilled out, relaxed and happy
- some people get the giggles or become more talkative
- hunger pangs (“the munchies”) are common
- colours may look more intense and music may sound better
- time may feel like it’s slowing down
Cannabis can have other effects too:
- if you’re not used to it, you may feel faint or sick
- it can make you sleepy and lethargic
- it can affect your memory
- it makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk or sinsemilla
- it interferes with your ability to drive safely
If you use cannabis regularly, it can make you demotivated and uninterested in other things going on in your life, such as education or work.
Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and concentrate.
Can you get addicted to cannabis?
Research shows that 10% of regular cannabis users become dependent on it. Your risk of getting addicted is higher if you start using it in your teens or use it every day.
As with other addictive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, you can develop a tolerance to cannabis. This means you need more to get the same effect.
If you stop using it, you may get withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.
If you smoke cannabis with tobacco, you’re likely to get addicted to nicotine and risk getting tobacco-related diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.
If you cut down or give up, you will experience withdrawal from nicotine as well as cannabis.
Cannabis and mental health
Regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that are not really there) and delusions (believing things that are not really true).
Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if:
- you start using cannabis at a young age
- you smoke stronger types, such as skunk
- you smoke it regularly
- you use it for a long time
- you smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness
Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse.
Other risks of cannabis
Cannabis can be harmful to your lungs
People who smoke cannabis regularly are more likely to have bronchitis (where the lining of your lungs gets irritated and inflamed).
Like tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals, but it’s not clear whether this raises your risk of cancer.
If you mix cannabis with tobacco to smoke it, you risk getting tobacco-related lung diseases, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
You’re more likely to be injured in a road traffic accident
If you drive while under the influence of cannabis, you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. This is one reason why drug driving, like drink driving, is illegal.
Cannabis may affect your fertility
Research in animals suggests that cannabis can interfere with sperm production in males and ovulation in females.
If you’re pregnant, cannabis may harm your unborn baby
Research suggests that using cannabis regularly during pregnancy could affect your baby’s brain development.
Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco increases the risk of your baby being born small or premature.
Cannabis increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
If you smoke it regularly for a long time, cannabis raises your chances of developing these conditions.
Research suggests it’s the cannabis smoke that increases the risk, not the active ingredients in the plant itself.
Does my age affect my risks?
Your risk of harm from cannabis, including the risk of schizophrenia, is higher if you start using it regularly in your teens.
One reason for this is that, during the teenage years, your brain is still growing and forming its connections, and cannabis interferes with this process.
Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?
Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. Two of these – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – are the active ingredients of a prescription drug called Sativex. This is used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.
Another cannabinoid drug, called Nabilone, is sometimes used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer.
Trials are under way to test cannabis-based drugs for other conditions including cancer pain, the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS, and epilepsy in children.
We will not know whether these treatments are effective until the trials have finished.
Trying to give up?
If you need support with giving up cannabis:
- see your GP
- visit Frank’s Find support page
- call Frank’s free drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600
- see Drugs: where to get help
You’ll find more information about cannabis on the Frank website.
Page last reviewed: 31 October 2017
Next review due: 31 October 2020
How cannabis (marijuana, weed, dope, pot) affects you, the risks and where to find help if you're trying to quit.
7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Smoke Weed (Hear Us Out)
For years, I had a nightly routine of smoking a joint before I hit the sack. It quelled my anxiety and helped me sleep like the dead, so I enjoyed every second of it. After a while, though, I started to notice that my breathing wasn’t the same anymore. During tough physical exercises, I got winded faster than the average person. Sometimes, I would even cough up yucky phlegm. Clearly, I didn’t know yet that there were better options than smoking for consuming weed that are just as good, if not better.
With all the recent legalization in different states across the country, things have changed, and alternative ways of consuming medical marijuana have become more mainstream. As a result, I’ve learned a lot this past year about the effects of smoking weed, and I’ve been lighting up those joints less and less. I didn’t like being confronted with the latest research about how bad smoking marijuana is for the body. (I don’t want ugly lungs!)
Luckily, there are more than enough methods for you to still enjoy your weed, from cookies to new-age vaporizers to cannabis lip balm. It’s enough to keep you entertained for many years to come вЂ” many years that won’t do damage to your body. Besides, you deserve a little excitement in your weed-smoking life.
Here are seven reasons you shouldn’t smoke marijuana, and should consider other methods instead.
1. Smoking Harms The Lungs
Smoking’s just not great for you, even if it’s friendly Mary Jane. In fact, one puff of a joint has five times more carbon monoxide and three times more tar than one inhalation of a tobacco cigarette. In 2011, a study proved that long-term joint-smoking leads to respiratory problems, like coughing and wheezing, and airway inflammation. While there is no evidence at the moment directly pointing to the connection between lung cancer and marijuana smoking, it’s proven that you put higher rates of carcinogens in your body with a joint than you do with a cigarette per puff, and those toxins are the very things that eventually lead to lung cancer.
Not to mention, when you light up a joint, it can burn as high as 2,012 degrees fahrenheit. The point at which weed starts to combust is 392 degrees, so you’re well over the limit with a blunt in your hand. That means you’ve got combusted smoke going into your system, which contains over 100 nasty chemicals, such as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and carcinogenic toxins.
What To Do Instead: Invest in a vaporizer. Vapes burn weed at a lovely 338 degrees, meaning you’re preventing all those nasty chemicals from landing in your pretty, pink lungs. A recent study showed that vaporized gases contain 95 percent of cannabinoids (the stuff you actually want) and only five percent of unwanted components. Furthermore, vaporizing is said to protect the lungs from irritation by producing anti-inflammatory terpenoids вЂ” just a fancy way of saying it’s better for your respiratory system.
2. Smoking Is Not The Most Efficient Way To Consume Marijuana
Spilled pot really is something worth crying over. If you’re an avid joint smoker, you might be wasting your precious weed without even realizing it. Studies show that lighting up a joint only converts 25 percent of the THC; compare that with a vaporizer, which converts 46 percent of THC. That’s a pretty big difference, which isn’t surprising if you remember the different temperatures at which these both burn. If you’re only converting a quarter of THC, consider how much product you’ll end up wasting in the long run. It’s blasphemy.
Plus, think about all the rolling papers and filters you have to constantly buy just to keep your smoking station well-stocked. Your wallet will suffer from all that spending over time.
What To Do Instead: Either vape it or bake it. There’s plenty of science out there to convince even the most stubborn person that the former will save you time, money, and marijuana. All it takes is a one-time investment (which isn’t all that much if you get a mid-size model). Then there are the edibles: you can even make a batch of perfectly good magical brownies simply by using the remains of your stash.
3. You Might Be More Likely To Get Paranoid & Anxious
When you smoke, your heart could potentially beat two times faster for the next few hours. This is because your blood has been triggered to flow more to your brain, leaving your heart a bit lonely. Cue the anxious thoughts, the clutching of your chest, and the freak-out moments. (That stuffy lung feeling doesn’t help, either.)
That said, there are different findings on this topic. Some research teams have found that smoking medical marijuana can reduce stress, while others claim that it actually induces anxiety in people who already struggle with it. One study even said lighting up a joint often enough can have a similar effect on the brain as schizophrenia. It’s different for everyone, and there’s no one right answer. You’ll know which category you fall into; if it’s the one that causes you to panic more often than not, maybe consider going down an alternative marijuana route.
What To Do Instead: If you tend to get paranoid, allow the magic of medical marijuana topicals and tonics to wash over you. These are non-psychoactive products вЂ” perfect for those who don’t want the cerebral side effects of pot smoking. You may not get stoned like you would off a blunt, but at least you won’t be running around paranoid and bug-eyed. Try out cannabis teas as well; they’re known to curb mental anxiety and calm you down.
4. You Miss Out On A Lot Of The Healing Properties
Sure, you get super blazed when you smoke a few joints, and that’s great and all. But these days there are so many more recognized reasons to get high that you would be a fool to limit yourself to just smoking. If you’re the kind of gal who only utilizes medical marijuana via joints or bongs, you might be missing out more direct health advantages, including less inflammation and chronic physical pain.
What To Do Instead: You’ve got lots of options here. Applying topicals can relieve pain while their antibacterial qualities take care of minor knicks and bruises. Medical tinctures and tonics can reduce muscle spasms and cramping, and they are also known to be very useful for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. Some cannabis-infused lotions even help with physical soreness. Experiment with a few different products and see which one elicits the best results.
5. You Can’t Control The Intake Very Well
Marijuana burns pretty quickly вЂ” sometimes not very evenly вЂ” when you smoke it as a joint, not leaving you without much room to control how much is going into your system.
What To Do Instead: Pretty much every other option will help you manage the intake more effectively. You can take smaller, shorter hits of a vaporizer without it burning through too much product. With the medical topicals and tonics, you’re probably given instructions on how much to use and how often, ensuring you get the most of your marijuana experience.
6. It’s The Least Discreet Way Of Enjoying Medical Marijuana
You can’t smoke a joint anywhere you want quite yet вЂ” well, you could, but you might not be happy with the consequences. Say you’re the kind of person who really benefits from medical marijuana and your prescription allows you to purchase it legally. Lighting up a joint or taking a hit from a bong still might not be best idea because of the potent scent. You and your pot have got to get a bit more creative.
What To Do Instead: Back to the vaporizer! There are so many compact yet chic models out there that can fit into the smallest of handbags, allowing you to vape virtually everywhere with virtually no scent. The tonics, topicals, teas, sodas, and infused snacks are good options too. No smoke or suspicious scents to blow your cover.
7. It’s Fun To Mix It Up
If your favorite ice cream parlor recently upgraded to include a whole section of new flavors, you wouldn’t still exclusively order vanilla, would you? By only sticking on one path to medical marijuana, you’re risking boredom. Explore a little bit more and not only will you find something fresh that tickles your fancy, you’ll ensure you never get sick of one of your favorite pastimes.
What To Do Instead: Ever tried baking? Going down the edible route can be really fun вЂ” and even more delicious. To spice things up, invite some other friends over so you can experiment together with new medical marijuana products. It doesn’t mean you have to give up smoking forever; there’s just no reason to limit yourself when the world of weed is full of possibilities.
For years, I had a nightly routine of smoking a joint before I hit the sack. It quelled my anxiety and helped me sleep like the dead, so I enjoyed every second of it. After a while, though, I started to notice that my breathing wasn’t the sameвЂ¦