Marijuana (Pot, Weed, Herb, Ganja, Reefer)

What it is:

Dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis plant. THC and other chemicals found in the plant produce a psychoactive effect when smoked or eaten.

What it does:

Individual experiences with marijuana vary widely. The "high" may only last a few hours, but THC stays in the body for days. Effects may include:

  • Physical and mental relaxation
  • Elevated mood
  • Drowsiness or sedation
  • Mood swings
  • Increased appetite

The risks:

Most research on the effects of marijuana focus on THC; however there are hundreds other compounds produced by burning marijuana and smoking it. The effects and long-term impact of these compounds on various body systems is largely unknown. Researched risks include:

  • Impaired memory, learning ability, and other cognitive functions. This may last for up to 72 hours after use, because THC is eliminated very slowly from the body.
  • Increased danger with heart conditions because of increased heart rate
  • Headache
  • Panic attack
  • Increased anxiety, depression, or insomnia over time with continued use
  • Impaired lung function or chronic bronchitis with heavy long-term use
  • Irregular menstrual cycles or decreased sperm count due to suppression of hormone production
  • Long-term use beginning at a young age may lead to permanent cognitive deficits
  • Legal or disciplinary consequences

Frequently Asked Questions

How exactly is memory impaired by marijuana?Memory is formed in the hippocampus, and areas of the hippocampus are impacted by smoking marijuana. While experiencing a high, the ability to store new information as memory is significantly decreased compared with when learning while sober.

Can you get addicted to marijuana?About 9% of long-term users experience some typical symptoms associated with dependence. With chronic use, you may develop a tolerance to marijuana and may experience cravings for it. Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, insomnia, sweating, or nausea may be experienced after cessation.