Is Marijuana Safe?
Is the idea of marijuana as an illegal drug starting to go up in smoke?
Two states have already legalized pot for recreational use. And since polls show that most Americans are in favor of the practice, it might not be long before joints are rolled and bongs are smoked in many more states without fear of jail time.
Even though the laws are shifting, the debate over legalized marijuana continues. Although some say marijuana is just as safe as, or even safer than alcohol, others argue that pot causes a lot more harm than just a serious buzz.
Although there isn't much evidence that the occasional toke leads to long-term health problems, researchers are concerned that long-term, heavy pot smoking can leave lingering effects.
"I don't think we can definitively say it is safe," says Jeanette Marie Tetrault, MD, FACP. She's an assistant professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.
Ongoing marijuana use has been linked to lung changes, memory loss, and a number of other health problems.
Your Body on Marijuana
When you smoke pot, THC and other chemicals travel from your bloodstream to your brain. THC causes the feel-good "high."
Here are some of the other effects you'll feel:
- Trouble thinking and remembering
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dry mouth (cotton mouth)
- Increased appetite (the "munchies")
- Fast heart rate
- Slowed coordination
Marijuana Smoke: What's in It?
Marijuana smoke contains about 60 chemicals called cannabinoids. The best-known of these is THC, which also leads to the signs that someone has been smoking pot: the memory loss and random thoughts, as well as the unsteady walk.