Marijuana is well known for a lot of things. They include the incredible high it can give, leaving you either energized and excited or relaxed and soothed. It is also well known for its wide variety of flavors and aromas, with no two strains smelling or tasting alike.
However, what is less well known is how marijuana affects the body. Everyone says they understand marijuana effects, but very few understand how marijuana actually affects you.
Let us take a look at how marijuana really affects the body so that you can genuinely understand what cannabis is and what it does before you imbibe.
How Marijuana Affects Physical Health
The first thing people want to think about when considering what marijuana does to you is what the effects of marijuana are on physical health. When you imbibe marijuana, it is going to affect your entire bodily system, including a variety of different functions as well.
The basic principle of marijuana’s impact on physical health is that it interacts with the endocannabinoid system. This is a health system that runs throughout the human body and controls a wide variety of different functions.
This health system relies on two primary receptors, called CB1 and CB2. These two receptors govern a vast host of different bodily reactions and sensations, so stimulating these receptors elicits all kinds of different effects.
For example, the CB2 receptor is responsible for the encouragement of the body’s inflammatory response. As scientists noticed in studies like this one by Nagarkatti et al. for the Journal of Future Medicinal Chemistry, marijuana works with the receptors to stop the inflammation effect.
This means that it can help reduce pain and irritation in the body, helping users deal with all kinds of different conditions.
There is a huge host of different physical effects that marijuana can induce, and we’ll take a look at them a bit later. However, one thing that many people neglect to understand is the effect that marijuana has on your personal psychology.
How Marijuana Affects Psychological Health
Marijuana and mental health are intrinsically linked; people have been using marijuana to try and treat all kinds of mental issues.
The psychological effects of marijuana are tied to the CB receptors in the same way that its physical effects are. However, when it comes to mental effects, it is primarily the CB1 receptors that marijuana triggers to create a myriad of different effects.
For example, one of the primary uses of marijuana when it comes to psychology is in helping to treat anxiety. Anxiety comes in many forms and is a challenging condition to suffer from, making everyday life a challenge. Uncomfortable, anxious thoughts pervade your daily existence, making normal things too difficult to cope with.
Through the stimulation of CB1 receptors, marijuana can soothe anxiety in even the worst sufferers. A myriad of studies, including this one by the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, have found that marijuana is able to decrease anxiety at lower doses. Keep in mind, though, that it can also increase anxiety at higher doses.
Marijuana can do this through the stimulation of CB1 receptors. This triggers the release of various neurochemicals, including serotonin and other beneficial chemicals. These neurochemicals improve your mood and help to train your brain away from struggling with mental disorders.
The thing is, though, that these are more a part of the big picture when it comes to marijuana’s effects; the specific conditions that it could help, but not so much the far-reaching stuff. There are also a variety of other effects, both in the short- and long-term, that marijuana can cause.
Short-Term Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana’s short-term effects refer to the things you feel shortly after taking it. Included in this category could be the strain’s list of touted effects, including creativity, focus, and relaxation. These effects are fleeting, only really lasting for as long as the high persists and fading soon after.
However, there are other physiological effects that most people don’t really discuss when it comes to the short term.
For example, marijuana has an effect on short-term memory, somewhat similar to the way that alcohol does. Smoking a decent quantity of marijuana can cause you to lose some of your short-term memories. This means that you might not remember things happening immediately around you.
The actual list of events that occurred around the time of you taking the marijuana will become vague and potentially unclear. This usually fades, though, and isn’t really lasting over the long term.
Other short-term effects could include the tendency to become very hungry, known as the munchies. This sensation is linked to the CB receptors yet again, but it is also tied to your calorie use. When you smoke marijuana, your body works harder to help push through the cannabinoids and work through the high.
In a similar way to how you use more calories when you are sick, you burn a few more calories when smoking marijuana. This, in turn, makes you hungry and induces that sensation of the munchies.
Additionally, many potent strains induce a sensation of time dilation, making it difficult to keep track of time. This can mean you skip meals and not realize what time it is. This is another reason why many dominant strains tend to induce the munchies towards the end of the high; you simply haven’t eaten in a while.
What about marijuana’s long term effects?
Long-Term Effects of Marijuana
The thing to consider about marijuana’s long term effects is that research is still ongoing. Although humans have imbibed marijuana for countless centuries, the long-term effects of the plant’s use are still not completely clear.
Some studies, like one for the New England Journal of Medicine by Volkow et al., have found that marijuana does indeed have a number of potential risk factors.
For starters, smoking is never a healthy thing, so that it can induce long-term respiratory consequences. Additionally, there is a worry that regular marijuana use could hinder long-term brain development. However, this is primarily linked to frequent, repeated usage at an early age.
Other than that, the precise long term effects aren’t completely clear. It is possible that marijuana could affect your long term memory as well. Or, it could have no lifelong severe repercussions at all.
The only way we will learn more is through years of research and time, but until then, the best thing to do is to pace yourself. Only smoke marijuana in small amounts, and no more than necessary.
Basically, try not to overindulge, and you should likely be fine.
How Exactly Does Marijuana Affect the Body?
Learning the general marijuana effects on the body is all well and good, but what about more specific information? In what ways does marijuana affect the various parts of your body, and what kind of consequences can it have?
Imbibing marijuana significantly impacts the respiratory system, the bodily system responsible for how you breathe.
The respiratory effects of marijuana are actually quite well cataloged. Studies like this one by Luis IG Ribero and Philip W Ind for the Journal of Primary Care Respiratory Medicine have shown that there are some risk factors for marijuana’s effects on the lungs.
When you smoke, you are introducing burning particulates into your lungs, damaging the sensitive muscles and cell tissue within it. After years of long term use, you risk putting your respiratory health in danger.
One of the issues is because, when you smoke marijuana, the smoke is hot. This hot smoke essentially burns the inner linings of your lungs, so you risk damage through excess heat.
There are even problems with inhaling marijuana through vaporization due to the lipid presence found in most cannabis oils. No matter how you choose to take it when you imbibe marijuana, you are potentially damaging your lungs.
However, this only happens if you persist with long term, regular, and intensive usage; keep your consumption down to a reasonable level, and you should likely be fine.
The circulatory system and marijuana have a surprising interaction, one that most people don’t expect. While marijuana in the bloodstream might seem strange, it is more about what it does to the brain that causes the circulatory effects.
Cannabinoids encourage the circulatory system to relax, meaning cannabis acts as a vascular-relaxant. This opens up the arteries and puts less pressure on your heart, meaning marijuana affects the heart in a positive way.
This can lower your blood pressure and actually make you healthier overall.
Central Nervous System
Marijuana hugely affects the central nervous system, the bodily system that is responsible for the sensation of touch and signal pathways.
The effects of marijuana on the nervous system are twofold. Firstly, through stimulation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, the CNS is able to be partly deactivated to help discourage pain and inflammation.
Secondly, though research is still ongoing, cannabis seems to be able to facilitate pathways in the nervous system, ultimately improving the functionality of the CNS entirely.
This might mean that marijuana could positively impact certain nervous system disorders, like Parkinson’s disease.
The digestive system has always been a sensitive one; composed of so many parts and responsible for everything you eat and drink. A lot can affect it.
For starters, as we already discussed, marijuana can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. This includes within the digestive system, making it an effective treatment for Crohn’s disease and other bowel diseases.
Furthermore, research such as this study in Current Neuropharmacology by Klara Gyires and Zoltan S. Zadori has found that marijuana’s effects on the digestive system can be beneficial in the long term. It can help improve digestion, as well as just generally helping encourage good digestive health.
The effects of marijuana on the immune system, and indeed the immune system in general, are still undergoing continuous research and speculation. Some studies, such as this one by Olah et al. for Frontiers in Immunology, have posited that cannabinoid signaling can help encourage good immune system responses.
This could potentially mean that marijuana and the immune system could effectively work together to try and target all kinds of different bodily problems. Whether by encouraging the accurate and useful release of white blood cells or just by encouraging better real response times, marijuana could help protect ourselves from diseases.
Of course, all of this still in very early preliminary stages, so keep an ear out for developments. Who knows? Maybe in the future, small doses of cannabinoids could become regular treatments to help boost the immune system in immune-compromised people.
Final Verdict About Marijuana’s Effects on the Body
Marijuana’s impacts on the body are so tricky to correctly catalog and understand because there are simply so many of them. There is an almost endless litany of different effects, unique interactions, and subtle interactions between it and parts of the body. So how are you supposed to understand it all?
However dizzying and intricate it might be, it is essential to remember that the effects of marijuana are, on the whole, surprisingly beneficial.
There is still plenty of research to be done concerning the long-term effects of taking marijuana regularly. However, until that point, continue to use marijuana as much as you like to try and discover new and exciting effects and treat all kinds of different conditions.
There are always going to be health consequences, but with so many valuable benefits, it is hard to say no.