Cannabis is a naturally-occurring substance that originates from the plant Cannabis sativa. The active compound in cannabis is the Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that has a mind-altering effect upon its use (Haerens, 28). As a result of its popularity across the world, cannabis has got many names such as weed, marijuana, and bhang. It is one of the leading illegal drugs that are highly consumed across the world. Use of cannabis has different effects on the human body that range from physiological to psychological. However, the main effects that its users pursue are the mental or psychological effects of the drug. Depending on its reaction with the body and amounts, cannabis can be used as an anti-depressant or as a stimulant. The popularity of cannabis has attracted a lot of speculation from different fields in medicine, science, and sociology with each discipline endeavoring to understand its effects on the human body, both, harmful and good.
Respiratory effects: According to research, marijuana or cannabis is made up of over 50% of lung cancer causing chemicals. Therefore, use of cannabis exposes its users to not only lung cancer but also a myriad of respiratory complications. Respiratory complications and disorders such as bronchitis and coughs are very common. Compared to tobacco, cannabis has a substantial amount of carcinogenic substances (Ours, 83). This means that users of cannabis are at a greater risk of developing lung cancer or cancer within the respiratory system. However, the likelihood or severity of the effects of cannabis use on the respiratory systems increases with t time. This implies that those who have used the drug for long are at a higher risk.
High blood pressure and cardiac diseases: High blood pressure and cardiac diseases are caused by the narrowing of the blood vessels. As the blood vessels narrow, the rate of blood flow within the vessels increase. Cannabis contains very many chemicals that plague the internal lining of the blood vessels. This leads to a narrowing effect that leads to a buildup of blood pressure. To pump blood, through the narrow vessels, the heart is forced to overwork-something that can lead to cardiac arrest. On the other hand, when blood vessels are plagued or semi blocked, the amount of oxygen and nutrient reaching the heart muscles is subsequently lowered and this may lead to collapse of the heart muscles (Ours, 92).
Psychological effects: The short-term effects of cannabis are psychological or mental. As a matter of fact, those who use cannabis usually associate it with its mental rewarding capabilities. Among the mental effects of the drug include; pleasure or happiness, relaxation, anxiety, paranoia and to some extent, panics and hallucinations. However, all the mental effects of cannabis depend on various factors including the amount, mental status of the user and the settings over which the drug is taken among others. For instance, for some users, it may evoke a feeling of relaxation while to some users; it may evoke a feeling of anxiety. High doses of cannabis have been associated with severe mental problems that may lead to permanent mental damage or loss of self-control. With continued use of the drug, the brain becomes dependent on it, leading to addiction.
Psychomotor impairment: Cannabis has been found to have a major impact on the normal psychomotor functioning which has a significant effect on the cognitive and behavioral patterns exhibited by the individual under influence. More specifically, this drug has been found to impact majorly on the person in situations or task that requires continued and extended attention. The ability to coordinate these actions for a long duration is affected by the instantaneous and unpredictable moments of loss of psychomotor continuity in functioning. The individual will thus experience a moment of lapse in memory breaking the much-needed continuity in the task (Ours, 38). This is evident, for instance, for a person who drives under the influence of cannabis. Such persons tend to place their concentration on the task, but a single psychomotor functioning leads to an accident especially in cases where the vehicle was at a high speed. In such situations recovery from the lapse in psychomotor, functioning tends to occur just after the adverse effects have taken place.
Cellular and immune system impairment: The continued exposure and use to cannabis tend to have significant impacts on the cellular and immune system. This is because, as the body tries to adapt to the increased levels of activity initiated by the cannabis, the immune system will automatically and gradually respond to these abnormal changes. In this response, the immune system will be become prone to its normal activity and will usually respond at the wrong times as dictated by the cannabis levels in the body (Ours, 61). Cell generation, on the other hand, will gradually be impaired, and this could explain why a significant percentage of cannabis consumers will tend to have weak physical and physiological structures. In such cases, response to diseases and general functioning of the body will be rendered ineffective to endure the environmental strain expected of the cellular and immune systems.
Premature mortality: studies have shown that individuals who have used cannabis widely for most of their teenage years have higher chances of dying earlier than a person who has not used the cannabis. This is attributed to the abnormal physical, physiological and psychological functioning of the body that begins at an early age thus rendering most of the body organs, tissues and cells weak. At older age, the body cannot adequately sustain the normal needs, and this usually results to complete dysfunction hence death (Haerens, 42).
Psychosis: the continued use of cannabis has been found to show incidences of confusion, delusions, amnesia, hallucinations, agitation anxiety and agitation all which act as a precedent to schizophrenia (Welsh and Loria, par 6). In such cases, the individual will tend to portray these behaviors excessively especially in cases where the cannabis has been consumed in large amounts. Usually, such situations are uncontainable and unpredictable.
Reproductive system impairment: Studies conducted on animals have shown that cannabis, especially when taken in high amounts has extended effects on reproductive system with adverse effects such as lowering the testosterone levels of secretion, impairment of the sperm production, viability, motility as well as unpredictable disruption of the ovulatory cycle. These findings have been equivocally extended to humans also showing that cannabis use tends to increase the chances of birth defects such as small birth weight and size.
Apart from the above-mentioned effects cannabis has other impacts on human health and body. It leads to reddening of the eyes; dry mouth and increased appetitive usually associated with hunger pangs, “getting the munchies” (Ours, 97).
As much as cannabis is associated with many harmful effects on the human body, there is intriguingly huge evidence that suggests that the drug has positive effects on the human body (Haerens, 73). According to the National Eye Institute, Glaucoma is associated with increased blood pressure to the eyeball leading to the damage of the optic nerve. According to the National Eye Institute smoking marijuana, was associated with low intraocular pressure (IOP) and thus could be used to treat glaucoma.
Cannabis is also associated with the ability to stop or control cancer. In a study conducted by the California Pacific Medical Center it was discovered that cannabis contains cannabidiol that decreased the expression of Id-1 gene that is associated with cancer, especially breast cancer (Haerens, 84).
Despite the huge appetite characteristic to the users of cannabis, the drug is associated with better metabolic mechanisms. Research shows that users of cannabis despite being heavy feeders, are comparatively thinner that the majority who do not use the drug. According to the research, cannabis increases metabolism of sugars in the body.
Among war veterans in Mexico, cannabis is used to manage post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).However; veterans using the drug to control panic attacks, fear and anxiety must acquire a license (Welsh and Loria, par 10).
In Israel, medical use of marijuana for treating some conditions such as the Parkinson’s disease is legal. The drug has been medically confirmed to control tremors and pains characteristic to Parkinson’s disease.
Pain reliever: Medically, marijuana has found extensive use as a pain reliever in clinical care for the patient with cancer, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma. In such cases, other painkillers are considered mild, and the use of cannabis is always recommended only when the patient cannot respond positively to other mild pain killers. However, the clinician should focus on determining the side effects and allergic reactions of the patient to the cannabis before administration (Haerens, 27).
Haerens, Margaret, and Lynn M. Zott. Medical Marijuana. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. Print.
Ours, J C, and Jenny Williams. The Effects of Cannabis Use on Physical and Mental Health. London: Centre for Economic Policy Research, 2011. Print.
Welsh, J., and K. Loria. "23 Health Benefits Of Marijuana." Business Insider. N.p., 2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.businessinsider.com/health-benefits-of-medical-marijuana-2014-4?op=1>.