Tag: THC

The Physical Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Is Weed Really Harmless?

It’s a question people have been asking since time immemorial – how does marijuana affect the body? Well, today Lighthouse Recovery Institute has set out to explain the physical effects of marijuana once and for all!

When it comes to exploring the effects of marijuana, be they physical or mental, people generally fall into one of two camps. There are those who believe pot to be harmless, a natural herb that even possesses medicinal qualities. Then there are those who believe the mental and physical effects of marijuana are no different than, say, heroin or cocaine.

how does marijuana affect the body

The truth lies somewhere between the two. How does marijuana affect the body? Well, it’s neither harmless nor is it a sacred panacea of the gods. Like most things in this world, the truth is made up of both positives and negatives.

It’s important to remember that the physical effects of marijuana, like any chemical, are far-reaching and range from mild to severe. While this guide covers many aspects of how marijuana affects the body, it doesn’t cover them all. That being said, sit back, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and learn the physical effects of marijuana!

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Physical Effects of Marijuana on the Lungs

We’ll start by examining the physical effects of marijuana on the lungs. Smoking pot is by far the most popular way to ingest the drug, although in recent years many smokers have switched to vaping. This is due, in no small part, to how harmful marijuana smoke is on the lungs.

Regular smoking of any substance will lead to an increase in coughing, wheezing, esophageal irritation, and production of phlegm. Smoking will also increase the chance of developing bronchitis, various other respiratory illnesses, and cancer.

Marijuana smoke differs from cigarette smoke in one key area. It contains much more benzopyrene, which is one of the most carcinogenic chemicals found in smoke. A single joint contains about 40% more benzopyrene than a comparable sized cigarette.

Due to marijuana smoke’s large concentration of benzopyrene, it’s commonly thought that smoking pot is more harmful than smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately this hasn’t been confirmed one way or the other.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana smoke causes lung cancer. More research is needed” (Healthline).

However, according to a UCLA study, “1 to 3 marijuana joints appears to produce approximately the same lung damage and potential cancer risk as smoking 5 times as many cigarettes” (PBS).

Regardless of which is true, when examining how marijuana affects the body, it’s clear that pot hits the lungs like a ton of bricks.

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Physical Effects of Marijuana on the Heart

After the lungs, the physical effects of marijuana can best be seen in the heart and circulatory system.

After smoking pot, THC moves throughout the body. As it hits the heart, it increases an individual’s heartbeat by between twenty to fifty beats per minute. This fast heartbeat can last as long as three hours and drastically increases the risk of heart attack.

Another physical effect of marijuana on the circulatory system, and perhaps the most famous, is how it dilates the pupils and causes bloodshot eyes. This is due to how THC causes blood vessels to expand.

On a more positive note, there’s anecdotal evidence that this expansion of blood vessels may decrease the flow of blood to tumors. This is one of the many reasons that medical marijuana is often touted as a wonder drug.

Physical Effects of Marijuana on the Digestive System

Inhaling burning smoke isn’t good in any sense of the word. This is true of marijuana smoke, cigarette smoke, or any other type. Smoke can irritate the mouth, gums, and throat.

The rest of marijuana’s effects on the digestive system are positive. Marijuana helps ease vomiting, nausea, and other gastric distress. It also increases the appetite (commonly referred to as “having the munchies”).

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Physical Effects of Marijuana on the Brain

physical effects of marijuana

Although the physical effects of marijuana on the brain are more of a mental effect than physical, it’s still important to talk about them when considering how marijuana affects the body. It may be easier to list the ways that THC doesn’t impact cognition!

When smoked, one of the areas of the brain that THC acts on is the hippocampus. This is the area that processes information and memories. THC alters how sensory information is perceived and stored. If used as an adolescent or young adult, THC can actually alter the brain to the point of cognitive impairment in adulthood. THC is also thought to expedite brain cell loss.

Another way that marijuana affects the brain is through impacting the cerebellum and basal ganglia. These are parts of the brain that control balance, coordination, and reaction time. Despite the widespread idea that it’s okay to smoke and drive, THC significantly impacts the ability of users to drive.

So What?

That’s a good question! What does all of the above mean in practical terms? What, if any, are the repercussions of smoking marijuana? Well, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that the physical effects of marijuana are numerous and, more often than not, negative. While pot offers some medical benefits, these areas are far out-shadowed by its harmful impact on the lungs, circulatory system, and brain.

The good news is that compared to many other substances marijuana is actually fairly safe. Smoking pot doesn’t increase anger or lower inhibitions like alcohol. It doesn’t lead to respiratory failure like opioids or benzo’s. It doesn’t directly introduce the risk of contracting HIV, HCV, or other blood borne illnesses like injecting heroin or cocaine does.

To put it another way, smoking pot isn’t the worst thing an individual could do but it certainly won’t your improve health in any way. It’s better to just say no.

Want to quit smoking marijuana but can’t? Find out how to stop for good today!

Can Medical Marijuana Save Lives?

Will Marijuana End the Painkiller Epidemic?

I recently stumbled across a great article that explored how medical marijuana can be used to treat patients with chronic pain. The article argued that, among other things, medical grade pot may be a safer alternative to prescription painkillers.

I’m not a doctor and don’t know whether that claim has any basis in fact. What I do know is the article painted a pretty accurate picture of the state of pain medicine in America. It also tugged on my heartstrings and sent me down a rabbit hole of information gathering.

medical marijuana painkiller
image via Wikimedia Commons

Enter Ian Young, a fortysomething man who’s had chronic pain for over a decade. Young was in a car accident in the mid-90’s and was left with pain in his neck and a nasty addiction to opioid pills.

At the height of his doctor-sanctioned addiction, Young was taking 240 milligrams of Vicodin and 225 milligrams of Percocet each day. Those are some pretty high doses. He was also on a slew of pills to counteract the side effects of his painkillers (think constipation, etc.).

Young estimates that he was taking as many as fifteen different medications each day. He said, “I was probably taking more prescriptions than my grandfather” (Aljazeera America).

After reaching his breaking point, or rock bottom if you prefer, Young began to wean himself off of narcotic painkillers. He was soon taking a significantly lower dose of painkillers, but was left with neck pain. His solution? Medical marijuana.

Young lives in Washington State which, in 2012, legalized pot for recreational use. Young began to buy recreational marijuana and use it for medical purposes (less red tape than going a strictly medical route, I assume). He’s now a member of the approximately two million American’s who uses some form of medical marijuana.

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Marijuana’s Painkilling Benefits

Marijuana has a number of medical benefits. While not all of these, or even most, relate to decreasing pain, there are some known positives about using marijuana as a painkiller.

In the early 2000’s, California budgeted $10 million for medical marijuana study. Barth Wilsey was one of the first to conduct research on whether pot had any painkilling effects. Wilsey, a pain specialist at the Davis Medical Center at the University of California, started looking into how pot may reduce neuropathic pain.

His findings concluded that yes, marijuana does have painkilling effects. Interestingly enough, the short-term analgesic properties displayed by marijuana can occur after consuming marijuana with a very low THC concentration.

Consider that recreational weed has anywhere from a 6 to 20% THC concentration. Painkilling marijuana can contain as little as 1.3% THC. This small amount of THC will produce no psychoactive effects. Imagine a medication that can relieve pain without any psychoactive effects. Sounds good to me!

Ian Young abundantly confirms this. His preferred strain of analgesic marijuana is something called “20:1.” This strain is named for its concentration of CBD (marijuana’s primary “sedative” chemical) to THC. Young has stated, “I don’t get high off of it, but I get extreme pain relief immediately, like an opioid” (Aljazeera America).

It’s worth noting that chronic pain is one of the main reasons that people opt for medical marijuana in the first place. In fact, in 2013 a survey was conducted at a Michigan medical marijuana dispensary. The results confirm that pot and painkilling go hand-in-hand.

Over 85% of the patients receiving medical marijuana use it to relieve chronic pain. Again, that’s a stark first-person testimonial to the analgesic effects of marijuana.

Another benefit of marijuana used for medical purposes is the general quality of life improvement it offers over opioids. According to Ken Mackie, a neuroscientist at Indiana University,

“Medical marijuana is probably better for treating chronic pain, where the goal is to increase a person’s quality of life, ability to communicate with family and friends and hold down a job” (Aljazeera America).

Learn how Obama wants to end the painkiller epidemic!

Medical Marijuana > Prescription Opioids

In addition to the general benefits that analgesic marijuana offers, there’s one specific fact that may make it preferable to opioids. Simply put, states with medical or recreational marijuana have fewer opioid overdose deaths.

That’s not a typo, I said fewer overdose deaths. In the midst of a painkiller epidemic, these states have figured out a way to reduce the mortality rate of prescription painkillers. Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont have a cumulative 24.8% lower annual overdose death rate than the rest of the country.

marijuana and opioids
image via Wikimedia Commons

What about patients that want to use both opioids and marijuana as painkillers? Well, here we get into some really interesting research. A study was conducted on individuals with chronic pain and prescriptions for sustained release morphine and oxycodone.

The study found that when a small amount of medical grade marijuana (remember, this isn’t potent pot but rather pot with a low THC percentage) was added to a sustained release morphine or oxycodone regiment, pain was decreased by 27% without increasing the concentration of opioids in patients’ blood.

This means that medical grade marijuana, when taken in small amounts (up to three hits of vaporized pot per day), can be used to reduce prescription painkiller doses while still maintaining analgesic levels.

Up to now we’ve been looking at potential medical and scientific benefits of marijuana’s painkilling abilities. But what about the very human benefits? What about individuals who are finally offered a choice? Individuals who are finally offered way out from doctor-approved opioid addiction?

Well, once again we return to Ian Young. When asked about how using marijuana for pain relief has affected him, Young said, “In the past six months, I’ve taken one oxycodone. The rest of the time I’ve been taking cannabis. Even today, I can’t believe I’ve gotten here” (Aljazeera America).

Remember, this is someone who was taking over 200 milligrams of two different painkillers each day. This is someone who was taking more than fifteen different medications at once. If medical marijuana can offer someone freedom from that level of doctor-sanctioned addiction, well, it may be worth considering.

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Marijuana Containing High THC Levels Linked to Psychosis

Strong Marijuana Causes Psychosis

Marijuana with large concentrations of the psychoactive chemical THC has been linked to a drastically increased chance of psychosis.

The link between potent cannabis and psychosis was made clear by researchers from King’s College in London. Marta Di Forti and Sir Robin Murray led the study, which examined how THC impacted an individual’s chance of developing drug-induced psychosis.

strong marijuana and psychosis
image via Tumblr

Their findings were recently published in the English journal Lancet Psychiatry. The specific findings, detailed below, shed new light on the dangerous connection between certain strains of marijuana and psychiatric distress.

Before examining Di Forti and Sir Murray’s research, we need to define what exactly “potent marijuana” means. For the purposes of this study, it refers to any weed that has greater than a 15% concentration of THC.

Sir Murray has stated that, “the results of the study point at the fact that almost one-quarter of cases of psychosis could be prevented if nobody smoked high-potency marijuana” (Utah People’s Post).

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New Info on Pot & Psychosis

The researchers from King’s College studied and analyzed data from 780 south London residents. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 65 years old and both male and female. Of the 780 individuals studied, 410 had previously experienced an episode of psychosis.

So, what did their research yield? Well, it showed that:

  • 24% of new cases of psychosis result from using strong marijuana.


  • Those who causally smoked strong marijuana are three times more likely to experience a psychotic episode.


  • Those who smoke every day are five times more likely to experience a psychotic episode.

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  • The psychosis that strong marijuana produces is purely drug induced. It isn’t indicative of a lasting psychiatric disorder.


  • Using marijuana with lower than a 5% concentration of THC doesn’t lead to an increased risk of psychosis.


  • Using marijuana and hash with high concentrations of cannabidiol (also known as CBD) doesn’t lead to an increased risk of psychosis.


These findings led Di Forti to pronounce,

“When a [general practitioner] or psychiatrist asks if a patient uses cannabis, it’s not helpful; it’s like asking whether someone drinks. As with alcohol, the relevant questions are how often and what type of cannabis. This gives more information about whether the user is at risk of mental health problems; awareness needs to increase for this to happen” (Utah People’s Post).

Do you think a loved one is smoking pot? Learn how to be sure today!

Is Marijuana Withdrawal Real?

The Hidden Dangers of Marijuana Withdrawal

Before we start, before we address the dangers of cannabis withdrawal, it needs to be made very clear marijuana detox is real!

It seems our culture has constructed this narrative that marijuana isn’t addicting from a mental, physical, or emotional standpoint. This simply isn’t true. THC, the active chemical in pot, is addicting. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms absolutely exist!

Now, it’s important to note that marijuana doesn’t produce a physical dependence. Rather, smoking cannabis produces incredibly strong mental cravings and emotional instability. To put it another way, marijuana withdrawal symptoms are mostly mental and emotional.

marijuana withdrawal symptoms

It’s probably for this reason, the lack of physical detox symptoms, that marijuana is viewed as safe. Let’s try to change that view.

One of our goals at Lighthouse Recovery Institute is to help spread accurate information about what addiction and recovery are really like. To that end, we’ve complied a list of marijuana withdrawal symptoms and tips on what to do after marijuana detox has occurred.

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

The following list of marijuana withdrawal symptoms is comprehensive, though certainly not definitive. Remember, everyone’s mind and body reacts to drugs differently. Sometimes, THC withdrawal will manifest if different ways.

Find a list of common marijuana withdrawal symptoms below:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Mood Swings
  • Anger
  • Insomnia
  • Frightening Dreams
  • Extreme Night Sweats
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches

Doesn’t sound too pleasant, right? Fear not, these marijuana withdrawal symptoms have sparked an entire industry of marijuana detox. There are literally thousands of options for clearing your body and mind of THC.

Of course, this plethora of options brings up more problems. Which option should you pick? Is a supervised, inpatient marijuana detox best? What about an at-home remedy?

Read on and find out!

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There’s Hope for Marijuana Detox!

You or a loved one are displaying the above marijuana withdrawal symptoms…what now? The answer’s actually quite simple. Reach out to a professional for help!

marijuana detox

There are a million and a half ways to detox yourself from cannabis. However, not all marijuana detox options are created equal. Some of the “kits” you can buy online promise a fast, safe, and symptom free withdrawal. This isn’t true.

Unfortunately, no kit, natural remedy, or facility can offer a symptom free cannabis withdrawal. It just isn’t possible. What a professional facility can do, though, is offer medical care to safely see you or a loved one through THC withdrawal.

A drug and alcohol treatment center can offer compassion, guidance, support, and hope during a frightening time. Nothing you order off the internet for $14.95 can do that.

So, are you or a loved one experiencing these marijuana withdrawal symptoms? Give Lighthouse Recovery Institute a call. We’re more than happy to share our experience, strength, and hope with you as you enter a new phase of life!

Call us today at 1-844-I-CAN-CHANGE or 1-(561)-381-0015!

We are here to support you during your time of need and help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. Click below to speak to a member of our staff directly.