How Does Marijuana Affect a User’s Life?

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Compared to nonusers, heavy marijuana users more often report the following:

What are marijuana effects?

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When marijuana is smoked, THC and other chemicals in the plant pass from the lungs into the bloodstream, which rapidly carries them throughout the body and to the brain. The user begins to experience their effects almost immediately (see "How does marijuana produce its effects?"). Many users experience a pleasant euphoria and sense of relaxation.

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Marijuana has both short- and long-term effects on the brain.

Is marijuana addictive?

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Marijuana use can lead to the development of problem use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which in severe cases takes the form of addiction. Recent data suggest that 30 percent of marijuana users may have some degree of marijuana use disorder17. People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.18

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Contrary to common belief, marijuana can be addictive.

Background

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Changes in marijuana policies across states legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use suggest that marijuana is gaining greater acceptance in our society. Thus, it is particularly important for people to understand what is known about both the adverse health effects and the potential therapeutic benefits linked to marijuana.

Are People with Health- and Age-Related Problems More Vulnerable to Marijuana’s Risks?

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Regular medicinal use of marijuana is a fairly new practice. For that reason, its effects on people who are weakened because of age or illness are still relatively unknown. Older people and those suffering from diseases such as cancer or AIDS could be more vulnerable to the drug’s harmful effects. Scientists need to conduct more research to determine if this is the case.

Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders?

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Several studies have linked marijuana use to increased risk for psychiatric disorders, including psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, but whether and to what extent it actually causes these conditions is not always easy to determine.31 The amount of drug used, the age at first use, and genetic vulnerability have all been shown to influence this relationship.

How does marijuana produce its effects?

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Brain's Chemical Anandamide and the drug THCTHC’s chemical structure is similar to the brain chemical anandamide. Similarity in structure allows drugs to be recognized by the body and to alter normal brain communication.

Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders

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Marijuana addiction appears to be very similar to other substance use disorders, although the long-term clinical outcomes may be less severe.

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Long-term marijuana users trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms that make quitting difficult. These include:

What are marijuana's long-term effects on the brain?

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Substantial evidence from animal research and a growing number of studies in humans indicate that marijuana exposure during development can cause long-term or possibly permanent adverse changes in the brain.

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