The legalization of this drug, both for recreational and medicinal purposes, has spread across the country, concerning many about the potential effects legalization could have on potential users of all ages. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is not the “safe” substance many are advocating for, as the effects of the drug can be long-lasting and addiction to marijuana is possible.

Marijuana has been traditionally rolled into cigarettes and smoked. However legalization has changed the way the drug is consumed for some. Edibles, foods with marijuana baked into them, have become more prevalent. Marijuana can also be concentrated into a substance that resembles a sticky black liquid known as hash oil. The more concentrated forms of marijuana have a higher risk for overdose and addiction.

Marijuana Effects

When marijuana is smoked, the effects may be felt within a matter of minutes. Users experience a “dreamy” state, which is characterized by an altered sense of time and sensory perception. Marijuana users may also experience issues with problem-solving skills, memory loss and confusion. Impaired motor function is also quite common, as well as an increased craving for snacks, commonly referred to as the “munchies.”

While more research needs to be done on the long-term effects of marijuana, studies have already shown this drug can have a detrimental effect on brain function, particularly in younger users. In fact, one study found that teens that began smoking marijuana heavily lost as many as eight IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38. The impaired brain function could not be fully restored, even if the marijuana use was stopped.

Other long-term effects of marijuana use include lung damage, an increased risk of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. Weight gain is also a common side effect, due to the increased appetite marijuana produces. Some users also experience hallucinations and feelings of paranoia.

Are You Addicted?

While addiction to marijuana is not as common as addiction to other types of drugs, it can occur. People that try to stop using the drug may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cravings or desire for the drug