September 12, 2023 PCI Centers
Approximately 19%, or 53 million Americans use marijuana regularly, with an estimated 30% of those users able to meet criteria for cannabis use disorder (CDC 2021).
Marijuana (cannabis, weed, etc.) is a drug derived from the cannabis sativa plant, getting its psychoactive properties from the chemical THC. The latest research shows that heavy marijuana use puts you at a higher risk of respiratory illness, and is associated with lower neural health outcomes and cognitive performance. Though many cannabis products are now used medicinally, or are advertised as having medicinal properties, there is not sufficient or controlled research to empirically validate many of these claims. Cannabis may provide individual or temporary relief from anxiety or stress, but can also do the opposite, exacerbating these conditions. In this blog, we explore common questions and misconceptions about marijuana and its effects.
What is considered heavy marijuana use?
According to most sources, heavy marijuana use is daily, or near daily use.
An article in the National Library of Medicine defined heavy use as 56 grams or 2 oz per month (Schwartz et al. 1985).
Is marijuana healthier than tobacco?
Recent studies indicate that marijuana users had more lung damage than cigarette smokers, showing slightly higher rates of emphysema, airway inflammation and enlarged breast tissue (Murtha et al. 2023). Still, the difference in impact of weed and cigarettes is not entirely conclusive, and continues to be researched with the introduction of new products with higher potency. It is known that cigarettes produce more smoke than hand held joints, but marijuana users hold on to smoke more, so effects on lung health are not entirely comparable (Mack & Joy, 2000).
Does marijuana help with anxiety?
Not necessarily – there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that marijuana can help with anxiety, particularly when it comes to recreational use. Though CBD can help ease anxiety, THC can actually increase anxiety in higher doses. Cannabis also interferes with other substances and medication, leading people to feel increasingly dizzy or experience low blood pressure, for example (Stringer 2023).
Marijuana’s effects on the brain, courtesy of the American Psychological Association, June 2023 https://www.apa.org/monitor/2023/06/marijuana-effects-brain
It is important to examine the negative health effects of marijuana use, particularly for those who use other substances, medications, or have co-occurring disorders.
Negative Impact of Marijuana Use:
Neurological and Cognitive Effects
Marijuana use is actually linked to increased depression and anxiety. Habitual use affects cognition, memory, and coordination, and even results in lower educational, professional, and life satisfaction outcomes (SAMHSA 2023). Recent studies also confirm an association between cannabis use and psychosis, though ongoing research is needed. Cannabis may trigger a psychotic episode or even the development of a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia for those who are genetically at risk (NIDA 2020).
Physiological harm: Inhaling any type of smoke damages the lungs and the lining of the bronchial airways (Mack & Joy 2000) . Smoke releases carcinogens, toxins, and irritants, damaging cell linings. This also causes excess phlegm and coughing, and can lead to long term health issues such as chronic bronchitis, decreased immunity, and lower respiratory tract infections (American Lung Association 2023).
Addiction: Contrary to what many people believe, you can get addicted to weed. Using it habitually causes dependence and would result in various consequences if stopped. Additionally, with the legalization and accelerated production of marijuana and cannabis products, the concentration of THC is three times what it was 25 years ago.
Both research and clinical outcomes indicate that marijuana is not a harmless substance, and must be used with caution.
Now that cannabis is legal and the sourcing and production of cannabis products has become more sophisticated, it is essential that the industry is highly regulated. We need to dedicate resources to ongoing and robust research to more profoundly understand the effects of marijuana on short term and long term physical and mental health.
If you, or a loved one are struggling with regulating marijuana use and would like to learn more, contact us today, or sign up for our complimentary Family Education Night, every other Tuesday at 7 pm with our clinical and medical director.
1. Data and statistics. (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/data-statistics.htm#:~:text=Marijuana%20is%20the%20most%20commonly,at%20least%20once%20in%202019.&text=Recent%20research%20estimated%20that%20approximately,marijuana%20have%20marijuana%20use%20disorder
2. NIDA. 2023, January 23. What is the scope of cannabis (marijuana) use in the United States?. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states on 2023, September 6
3. Schwartz, R. H., Hayden, G. F., & Riddile, M. (1985). Laboratory detection of marijuana use. Experience with a photometric immunoassay to measure urinary cannabinoids. American journal of diseases of children (1960), 139(11), 1093–1096. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.1985.02140130031024
4. Zellmer, A., & Liu, J. (2022, November 15). Smoking marijuana may be more harmful to lungs than smoking cigarettes, study finds. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/smoking-marijuana-harmful-lungs-smoking-cigarettes-study-finds/story?id=93283206
5. Murtha, L., Sathiadoss, P., Salameh, J., McInnes, M. D. F., & Revah, G. (2023). Chest CT findings in marijuana smokers. Radiology, 307(1). https://doi.org/10.1148/radiol.212611
6. Stringer, H. (n.d.). How does marijuana affect the brain? Psychological researchers examine impact on different age groups over time. https://www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2023/06/marijuana-effects-brain
7. Tips for Teens: The Truth about Marijuana. (n.d.). SAMHSA Publications and Digital Products. https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Tips-for-Teens-The-Truth-About-Marijuana/PEP19-05
8. Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders? | National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2023, May 8). National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/there-link-between-marijuana-use-psychiatric-disorders
9. Ganesh, S., & D’Souza, D. C. (2022). Cannabis and Psychosis: Recent epidemiological findings continuing the “Causality debate.” American Journal of Psychiatry, 179(1), 8–10. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2021.21111126
10. ElSohly, M. A., Mehmedic, Z., Foster, S. D., Gon, C., Chandra, S., & Church, J. C. (2016). Changes in cannabis potency over the last 2 decades (1995–2014): analysis of current data in the United States. Biological Psychiatry, 79(7), 613–619. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.01.004
11. Mack, A. (2000). HOW HARMFUL IS MARIJUANA? Marijuana as Medicine? – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224396/
12. American Lung Association. (n.d.). Marijuana and lung health.
13. Schizophrenia. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia
14. Study links young adults’ marijuana use and mental health illness. (2023, May 26). [Video]. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/marijuana-use-mental-health-young-adults-weed-rcna84984
15. Study links young adults’ marijuana use and mental health illness. (2023, May 26). [Video]. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/marijuana-use-mental-health-young-adults-weed-rcna84984