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    Recreational Marijuana FAQ

    More than 20 million Americans on average use marijuana each month, making it the most popular street drug in the country. Four states -- Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Alaska --and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. Many other states are considering laws to make it legal.

    The number of Americans who are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana has risen. More than half of people surveyed now support the idea. Most Americans don't think marijuana is harmful. Yet despite the increasing acceptance, marijuana use does have some risks.

    Here's a look at how marijuana can affect your health.

    How does marijuana work on the brain?

    When you smoke or eat marijuana, chemicals called cannabinoids are released into your body. The main cannabinoid is THC.

    Cannabinoids move from your lungs or stomach into your blood. From there, they travel to your brain and the rest of your body. THC acts on certain receptors in your brain. This creates the "high" some people feel.

    Marijuana vs. Alcohol

    Is marijuana safer than alcohol, or vice versa? Each substance has different effects on the body. Here's how the two compare. In most cases, these effects have been studied in heavy, chronic smokers and drinkers, not occasional users.

    Legend for table below:

    Marijuana
    Alcohol

    Immediate Effects

    Impairs judgement
    Marijuana
    Alcohol
    Slows reaction time
    Marijuana
    Alcohol
    Affects coordination and motor skills
    Marijuana
    Alcohol
    Increases risks for accidents
    Marijuana
    Alcohol
    Changes behavior and mood
    Marijuana
    Alcohol

    Brain

    Reduces blood flow to brain
    Marijuana
    Interferes with learning, memory, and attention
    Marijuana
    May increase risks for schizophrenia and other mental illness
    Marijuana
    May contribute to anxiety and depression
    Alcohol

    Cancer

    Linked to precancerous lung changes
    Marijuana
    Alcohol
    May increase testicular cancer risk in young men
    Marijuana
    Alcohol
    May increase risks of these cancers:
    Breast
    Alcohol
    Esophagus
    Alcohol
    Liver
    Alcohol
    Throat
    Alcohol

    Liver

    Increases risks for:
    Fatty liver disease
    Alcohol
    Alcoholic hepatitis
    Alcohol
    Cirrhosis
    Alcohol

    Lungs

    Contributes to precancerous lung changes
    Marijuana
    May lead to more coughing and wheezing
    Marijuana
    May damage lungs
    Alcohol

    Pregnancy

    May lead to low birth weight
    Marijuana
    Alcohol
    May lead to developmental and behavior problems in baby
    Marijuana
    Alcohol
    Increases risks for:
    Miscarriage
    Alcohol
    Preterm birth
    Alcohol
    Stillbirth
    Alcohol
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