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Marijuana, Not a Safe Drug Any Longer


Marijuana is the common name for Cannabis Sativa, the Indian Hemp plant (the terms ‘cannabis’ and ‘marijuana’ are used interchangeably). The principle “psychoactive” chemical in marijuana is called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Actually, marijuana is now known to contain about 12 cannabinols (direct chemical relatives of THC) as well as over 420 other chemicals. Virtually all of the chemicals found in marijuana seem to have at least some physiological or psychoactive effects. So, is marijuana dangerous? We will discuss this question. Due in fact, the marijuana sold today is far stronger than it was two or three decades ago, and far more dangerous.A picture of marijuana with 5 leaves growing from the stem.

 Marijuana leaf.

Is Marijuana Dangerous?

A man smoking a joint

Is marijuana smoking bad for your lungs?

Yes. If you consuming marijuana, it can harm you. Many people don’t know this, but marijuana smoke contains more tar and more of some cancer-causing chemicals than tobacco smoke. Here are some other ways that marijuana use can harm you:


Mental effects caused by marijuana can include depression, flashbacks, aggressive feelings, anxiety leading to panic, paranoia, confusion, delusions (especially of persecution), hallucinations resulting from toxic psychosis, psychotic disorder (insanity), delirium, and depersonalization. A study by researchers at indicated a strong link between heavy marijuana smoking and depression. The study followed 2,000 youths aged 14-21 for seven years. The effects of habitual use were particularly marked in young women: those who used daily ran seven times the risk of suffering depression and anxiety.


Young people who use marijuana may experience short-term memory loss lasting up to six weeks. Pet brain scans of chronic users show marijuana may continue to impact the brain three or more days after use, particularly affecting motor coordination, learning and memory. In America, a group of teenage marijuana users tested for short-term memory performed poorly compared to a control group matched in age, education level, and IQ. The memory loss persisted after six weeks drug-free (supervised).


Because it impairs coordination, marijuana is a factor in many accidents, according to studies. A 1991 study of ten pilots in a flight simulator showed they made significant errors in landing the plane up to 24 hours after smoking just one low-potency marijuana cigarette. Numerous studies over the years have linked marijuana with road accidents. Particularly worrying is that marijuana impairs drivers’ abilities long after they feel its intoxicating effects have worn off.


Marijuana is the only drug of abuse for which there is solid evidence linking it with ageing in the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory (the hippocampus). The Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University, England, found brain atrophy in young people who were heavy marijuana users to be equal that of 70-90 year olds. Recent studies of rats also suggest THC may hasten ageing of the brain.


Chronic users of cannabis may experience what is often referred to as ‘amotivational syndrome’ – that is, apathy and loss of motivation. The user may display little interest in school, sport and other activities that were previously enjoyed. Care taken with personal appearance and/ or hygiene may also lapse significantly.


Contrary to claims that marijuana is not addictive, research is increasingly proving that marijuana is a drug that causes physical, as well as psychological, dependence. The 1997 NDARC study of long-term marijuana users revealed more than 90% were dependent on the drug, with 40% being severely dependent. Other studies support these findings.


Marijuana use has been associated with decreased testosterone production and low sperm counts in men. There is also some evidence that sperm produced by users is abnormally shaped and may have biochemical or structural defects.


For a woman to consume marijuana whilst pregnant is extremely risky. This can affect the baby in the womb, after his/her birth, and later in life. There is higher risk of miscarriage, lower birth weight, and premature birth. It is also believed the children of women who used cannabis are more likely to have behavior problems.


According to studies conducted in laboratories suggest marijuana is able to change the character of genes in cells, or ‘chromosomes’ (chromosomes contain the hereditary characteristics of our cells). It is suggested that these changes may be mutagenic – that is, able to be passed on to future generations.


When marijuana is smoked, various gases and tiny particles are produced, including cancer-causing substances such as benzopyrene and benzanthracene, which are present in nearly double the concentrations found in tobacco smoke. Smoking one marijuana cigarette leaves airway deposits of 4 times as much cancer-causing tar as one tobacco cigarette. Marijuana is also a suspected cause of the lung disease, emphysema, and marijuana users have an increased risk of developing acute and chronic bronchitis, asthma, sinus problems and airway injury.


When a person smokes tobacco, causing the heart to beat faster to make up for oxygen loss. A similar process occurs with marijuana; however, there is even greater pressure on the heart. Just ten puffs on a low-potency joint was shown to increase the heartbeat of patients to 100 per minute, as well as increasing blood pressure.


Drug abuse among young people, and use of marijuana in particular, may be a factor in the breakdown of family relationships leading to youth homelessness. Teenage drug abuse was a key cause of conflict in 42% of families assisted through The Salvation Army’s ‘Reconnect’ program, which assists families with a teenager considered to be ‘at risk’ of becoming homeless. More than 80% of the homeless young people currently being assisted by The Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Support Network in Sydney were involved in drug and alcohol abuse when they initially presented, and of those, almost all have used marijuana.

The Bottom Line:

Is Marijuana dangerous? You may make decisions after know the fact above while using marijuana that you regret later. Do you, a family member or a friend have a problem with substance use? If you want help, you may want to talk to someone you trust, such as your doctor, a teacher, a health nurse, or a guidance or addiction counselor. You might also want to contact an addiction assessment center or a self-help group .

If you want to learn more about substance abuse counseling, please go to our page.


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