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.
Should i feel bad for smoking weed
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- I’m under 21.
If my parents and other adults in my life can smoke, then I should be able to smoke too.
Current research shows that marijuana has a negative impact on brain development and the mental health of young people, including anxiety, problem-solving, and memory.
Young people should abstain or wait to start using marijuana. Besides, it is illegal for anyone under 21. Learn more about the marijuana laws.
Marijuana is natural and healthy! I’m glad I can relieve stress using this outlet instead of alcohol or other drugs.
Marijuana smoke can damage your lungs and cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) just like tobacco. People who smoke marijuana inhale deeper and hold the smoke for longer, which increases tar exposure when compared to cigarettes.
The ingredients and strengths of marijuana are not exactly the same from plant to plant. Right now, there’s no way to know for sure what kind and how much of a chemical you’re getting from home-grown plants.
Additionally, levels of THC in marijauna continue to increase. In 1995, THC (full name tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient) was 4%, and in 2014 the average THC level rose to 12%.
With a vape, I won’t have the negative impacts of smoking so I don’t have to worry.
While vaping may seem healthier than smoking, you still inhale chemicals in your lungs that may cause respiratory issues. There are higher concentrations of THC when you are dabbing or using hash, and vaping may produce a more dangerous high than smoking.
Well, if smoking or vaping isn’t good for me, I can always eat brownies or something.
Unfortunately edibles have their own risks too. The delay in the high caused by THC can cause people to ingest too much marijuana, which may result in a prolonged high and that could include hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks, or trigger a psychotic episode.
My classmates are all talking about how marijuana isn’t harmful and how everyone uses marijuana.
The way that people think about the health risks of marijuana has changed a lot over the years, partially because of the legalization of marijuana. Marijuana is also one of the first drugs a teen may be offered, usually before the age of 15.
Twenty five percent of high school students think that half or more of the students in their grade used marijuana sometime in the past month. However, 70% of high school students in Berrien County have not tried marijuana. While you may think many of your peers are using cannabis products, the statistics show this is not the case.
The bottom line is just because marijuana is legal doesn’t mean that it isn’t harmful! Many harmful substances, including alcohol and cigarettes, are available to the public. Many negative effects of marijuana don’t show up until later in life. Any kind of smoking causes lung damage, and marijuana smoke is just as harmful as nicotine smoke. More immediately, marijuana can influence mood disorders like anxiety and depression, which can affect performance in school and sports.
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