How Does Marijuana Affect You?
If you’ve ever smoked a joint or eaten a pot-laced brownie, you’re hardly alone: More than 1 in 3 people in America have tried marijuana at one point in their lives.
Though occasional use isn’t usually harmful, pot can affect your body and mind any time it gets into your system. Here’s what you need to know.
Marijuana comes from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. It has an active ingredient called THC that makes you feel high. THC and other compounds in marijuana can also affect the way your body works.
Most people smoke the plant's dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds. But marijuana can also be mixed into food (like brownies, cookies, and lollipops), brewed as a tea, or inhaled with a vaporizer.
No matter how it gets into your system, it affects almost every organ in your body, and your nervous system and immune system, too. When you smoke pot, your body absorbs THC right away. (If you eat a baked good or another item, it may take much longer for your body to absorb THC, because it has to break down in your stomach before it enters your bloodstream). You may notice changes in your body right after you smoke. The effects usually stop after 3 or 4 hours.
Smoking pot can increase your heart rate by as much as two times for up to 3 hours. That’s why some people have a heart attack right after they use marijuana. It can increase bleeding, lower blood pressure, and affect your blood sugar, too.
We don’t yet know if marijuana is linked to higher odds of getting lung cancer. But the process does irritate your lungs -- which is why regular pot smokers are more likely to have an ongoing cough and to have lung-related health problems like chest colds and lung infections.
Other physical effects of marijuana include:
- Shallow breathing
- Red eyes and dilated pupils
- Increased appetite
- Slowed reaction time (If you drive after using marijuana, your risk of being in a car accident more than doubles.)
If you’re a long-time user, you can have physical withdrawal symptoms -- like cravings, irritability, sleeplessness, and less appetite -- when you stop.