How does marijuana affect the body? Because cannabis has been lumped in with other dangerous drugs for so many years it’s easy to assume many of the effects are negative. This isn’t true at all! Cannabis use has improved the lives of thousands of people suffering from many types of physical and mental illnesses.
Until recently, most studies looking at the effects of weed on the body have relied on less accurate methods of obtaining data (such as participant self-reporting). However, this is rapidly changing as the health benefits of weed are becoming more recognized and weed is becoming legal in more states and countries around the world.
While the evidence suggests that weed has no harmful effects on the body for casual users, there are downsides. It all depends on your physical and mental health, how much you use and how you consume it.
How does weed work?
Before we continue, lets have a quick primer on how weed works. Understanding this is the basis for all the affects of weed on the body and the brain discussed below.
- The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a mass of cannabinoid receptors attached to the neurons in your brain and central nervous system (CNS).
- These cannabinoid receptors are concentrated in the hippocampus and cerebellum.
- Your body creates a natural cannabinoid called anandamide, that binds to the cannabinoid receptors and fires the neurons that regulate your memory, learning, coordination, pain and emotions.
- THC is also a cannabinoid. When you smoke weed, you flood your brain and CNS with cannabinoids that bind to the cannabinoid receptors and massively amplify the effects of your natural anandamide.
Some people have a deficient endocannabinoid system and can suffer from a number of symptoms such as:
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Mood disorders
The THC in weed can supplement this deficiency and help relieve their symptoms. This is why the potential for the health benefits of cannabis are so exciting!
How does marijuana affect the brain?
Positive effects of weed on the brain
- Enhances your senses, including smell, taste and sometimes even colors.
- Improves your sex drive.
- Encourages deep sleep, which promotes healing and general health.
- Can relieve anxiety and help with depression and other mood disorders.
- Can help patients suffering from PTSD.
- Evidence suggests it can promote brain cell growth.
Negative effects of weed on the brain
- Feelings of anxiety, panic and paranoia.
- Hallucinations, although this seems to be quite rare.
- Decreased motor skills and coordination.
- Decreased levels of concentration and interest.
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating on tasks.
You might notice that weed can both help and cause anxiety! The human brain is a very individual and complicated organ. For some people, their chemical makeup means they’re susceptible to anxiety from high levels of THC. For others THC acts to relieve anxiety. Another cannabinoid (CBD), binds to the same receptors as THC and can reduce the anxiety caused by THC. Different strains of weed have different effects so if you suffer from anxiety when smoking strong weed, try a high CBD strain!
Effects of smoking weed on memory
Several studies have looked at whether cannabis use has an effect on long term and short term memory.
- One study has shown that smoking weed does effect your short term memory, but unlike booze you won’t suffer from complete memory loss if you get wasted. Within 6 hours, your short term memory will return to normal.
- For long term memory, the answer is less clear but there is evidence that suggests cannabis can actually help you retain memories and help fight diseases such as Alzheimer’s.