Effects of marijuana
The undertaken studies regarding the long-term effects of marijuana are focused on the four body systems: respiratory, cardiovascular, immune and reproductive.
LONG TERM EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA
Respiratory system. Marijuana cigarettes contain more tar than tobacco cigarettes. Cannabis resin contains more carcinogens than tobacco tar. This is especially dangerous when marijuana smokers trying to enhance the effects of the drug deeply breathe in and keep the smoke in the lungs for prolonged time. The fact that the smokers of cannabis usually smoke cigarettes makes it difficult to separate the harmful effects of both substances. Nevertheless, the risk of developing lung cancer as a result of marijuana smoking remains high.
Cardiovascular system. Most of the long term effects of marijuana on the cardiovascular system associated with smoking of cannabis have been described above in this section. Although there is no reliable information that marijuana smoking has serious effects on the cardiovascular system of healthy people, the acute effects (eg, palpitations) of such smoking are dangerous for people with concomitant cardio-vascular problems such as stenocardia, arrhythmia, myocarditis or atherosclerosis.
Immune system. Though how the drug affects the immune system is not completely understood, some research on this subject demonstrate that cannabis certainly weakens body resistance to bacteria and virus infection.
Reproductive system. Studies on animals and humans have given reason to assume that marijuana has a significant effect on the reproductive system of both men and women. For example, the constant use of marijuana by men is associated with a decrease in sperm count and altered sperm consistency. Frequent drug use by women can cause menstrual cycles without ovulation, when menstruation is not preceded by the allocation of the egg. This type of long term effects of marijuana on disturbance of woman's fertility are not clear.
More likely marijuana may cause teratogenic effect. Active agents of marijuana pass through the placenta and seep into the fetus creating by this the possibility of development of all kind of fetal abnormalities and birth defects. Marijuana abuse by pregnant woman may result in premature birth, fetus underweight and cachexy of the mother.
EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA SMOKE - PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS
Despite the fact that cannabis can cause different effects, people use marijuana in the hope to experience certain psychological effects, some of which are common and experienced by all, while others are more individual. Psychological effects experienced by a smoker of marijuana can be divided into three groups: behavioral, cognitive and emotional.
Marijuana users say that smoking of marijuana is the process which must be learnt gradually. The first step is purely mechanical, during which the smoker learns how to inhale the smoke and hold it in the lungs for maximum blood absorption. The second step is the learning of perception of the effects caused by cannabis. These effects can be both physiological and psychological. The final step is to determine the most pleasant of them. This “learning” process is confirmed by the fact that experienced smokers are more susceptible to the effects of cannabis than the beginners.
EFFECTS OF CANNABIS ON THE HEART - Physiological effects
Although cannabis may cause certain physiological effects, most of them are different for different users both by intensity and by duration. In general, even the strongest physiological effects of cannabis are not dangerous for humans. Indeed, the Ledine Commission (1972) reported that the short-term physiological effects of regular doses of cannabis are soft and have little clinical significance on healthy individuals.
The most common physiological effects of cannabis are the effects on the cardiovascular system (heart). Predominant among them is the swelling of the mucous membrane of the eyes. This effect of inflamed eyes is a result of dilatation of the blood vessels, which most often occurs within hours after smoking and largely determined by the dose of marijuana.
The second most frequently reported effect on the cardiovascular system is the increased heart rate. The effect occurs soon after smoking and also determined by the dose. Maximum heart rate occurs within 20 minutes after smoking. Additionally blood pressure may rise slightly.
Another common effect of cannabis is the slowed motor function. The only exception to this is a chatty mood. Usually the smokers indicate the appearance of a sense of relaxation. Cannabis can also have effects on various sleep stages, partly affecting the function of the REM system of the brain.
Other short-term physiological effects of marijuana use include (but not limited to) the following symptoms: dry mouth, thirst, fluctuations in breath rate and body temperature, hunger, saliva sipping (in three to four hours after smoking), nausea, headache and / or dizziness.
EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA on sexual functions and behavior
The effects of marijuana on sexual behavior and functions are not fully understood. But it appears that the impact of marijuana on this area of human activities varies greatly, depending on the neurophysiological characteristics of the individual. Some users report that sexual pleasure after smoking marijuana becomes more intense and saturated, while others lose interest to sex. The enhanced sexual pleasure is probably based on the effect of the increased sensitivity, which often accompanies the use of marijuana. However, prolonged use of marijuana, as a rule, is associated with temporary impotence for men and frigidity for women.
EFFECT OF MARIJUANA ON MEMORY - Effects on mental processes
Two cognitive effects of cannabis intoxication are well documented. The first effect of marijuana on memory is the diminished short-term memory ability, the second one is the feeling of ”slowed” time.
Short-term memory disorder may occur even after small doses of the drug. The degree of memory deterioration increases rapidly with growing complexity of memory tasks This effect was tested and treated by numerous examples, such as remembering the words or speach. Mechanism of the effect of marijuana on memory is not defined, but some approaches to this mechanism are found. The first reason is that the user is not motivated to recall the recent events. The second reason is the altered perception or "veil of noise" that blocks or interferes with the ability to memorize. The third reason is that marijuana creates a reduced ability to focus on the present subject. Thus all the effects of cannabis interfere with neurochemical processes of the brain that operate on memory and recalling mechanisms.
An alternative perception of time is the second cognitive effect of cannabis. The expression "a few minutes last as a few hours" reflects this state the best way. This effect is clear observed in studies and stories of marijuana users.
Besides, there are other cognitive effects of marijuana. One of them is the reduced ability to concentrate and focus. The person becomes easily distracted. Many smokers report that cannabis causes a "struggle of the ideas", the state when thoughts "are flying into one ear and get out of another." Among other effects of marijuana there is the altered creativity. This is especially true for writers, artists, musicians and other inellectuals. Some cannabis users describe a feeling of "unreality" where they pay greater attention to situations or events that have not had any significance before.
EMOTIONAL EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA
Positive emotional changes following the use of cannabis is often a key motivation for smoking of marijuana. A number of mood changes can occur. There is a vague link between these changes and the specific effects of marijuana. The set of non-pharmacological factors such as emotional background, drug use enviroment may accompany the effects of the drug. Typical emotional reaction to cannabis is carefree and relaxed state. These feelings can be described in different ways, often with use of such adjectives as euphoric, happy, delighted. Causeless laughter, chattering, dreamy state are the often signs of cannabis intoxification.
It should be emphasized that the negative emotional feelings such as anxiety or dysphoria, occur more frequently than you might expect. Additionally, there are many negative physical consequences of use of marijuana. Among them are headache, nausea, muscle cramps. Besides, suspicion and paranoid thoughts are not rarely encountered.
The most common behavioral effect is the reduced psychomotor activity. This effect is determined by the dose: the greater dose, the greater effect. Decrease in motor activity is total and characterized by the state of relaxation and calmness The only exception to this rule is a rapid speech and talkativeness. These effects are often observed in the initial phase of smoking, followed by a more traditional relaxation.
While feeling of relaxation is regular, some cannabis users first feel the excitement. However, shortly afterwards they always transit to the stage of relaxation. Moreover, besides feeling of relaxation, the cannabis users report the improved sensitiveness of perception. Many smokers, for example, describe a heightened sensitivity to touch, smell, enhanced hearing and eyesight (especially the perception of colors). Many studies show the reduced sensitivity to pain after smoking marijuana.
Sense of relaxation and reduced physical activity are usually accompanied by a sharp deterioration in some areas of psychomotor perception. Degree of motor dyscoordination, impaired perception of external impulses and the ability to monitor the external objects depend on the dose. If you take into account these factors on the whole, they surely will affect, for example, vehicle driving ability after consumption of cannabis. Experiments on a driving simulator show the devastating effects of cannabis on driving skills of the user. It turned out that the driver who is under the influence of marijuana shows degraded concentration and impaired determination of the distance along with the deterioration of all other driving skills. These impairments can be explained by the increased sleepiness which affects the perception of peripheral signals. Psychomotor disturbances caused by cannabis become more apparent when it comes to solving problems that require thinking and concentration.
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