Cannabis: the facts – Healthy body
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Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.
The effects of cannabis vary from person to person:
- you may feel chilled out, relaxed and happy
- some people get the giggles or become more talkative
- hunger pangs (“the munchies”) are common
- colours may look more intense and music may sound better
- time may feel like it’s slowing down
Cannabis can have other effects too:
- if you’re not used to it, you may feel faint or sick
- it can make you sleepy and lethargic
- it can affect your memory
- it makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk or sinsemilla
- it interferes with your ability to drive safely
If you use cannabis regularly, it can make you demotivated and uninterested in other things going on in your life, such as education or work.
Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and concentrate.
Can you get addicted to cannabis?
Research shows that 10% of regular cannabis users become dependent on it. Your risk of getting addicted is higher if you start using it in your teens or use it every day.
As with other addictive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, you can develop a tolerance to cannabis. This means you need more to get the same effect.
If you stop using it, you may get withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.
If you smoke cannabis with tobacco, you’re likely to get addicted to nicotine and risk getting tobacco-related diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.
If you cut down or give up, you will experience withdrawal from nicotine as well as cannabis.
Cannabis and mental health
Regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that are not really there) and delusions (believing things that are not really true).
Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if:
- you start using cannabis at a young age
- you smoke stronger types, such as skunk
- you smoke it regularly
- you use it for a long time
- you smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness
Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse.
Other risks of cannabis
Cannabis can be harmful to your lungs
People who smoke cannabis regularly are more likely to have bronchitis (where the lining of your lungs gets irritated and inflamed).
Like tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals, but it’s not clear whether this raises your risk of cancer.
If you mix cannabis with tobacco to smoke it, you risk getting tobacco-related lung diseases, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
You’re more likely to be injured in a road traffic accident
If you drive while under the influence of cannabis, you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. This is one reason why drug driving, like drink driving, is illegal.
Cannabis may affect your fertility
Research in animals suggests that cannabis can interfere with sperm production in males and ovulation in females.
If you’re pregnant, cannabis may harm your unborn baby
Research suggests that using cannabis regularly during pregnancy could affect your baby’s brain development.
Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco increases the risk of your baby being born small or premature.
Cannabis increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
If you smoke it regularly for a long time, cannabis raises your chances of developing these conditions.
Research suggests it’s the cannabis smoke that increases the risk, not the active ingredients in the plant itself.
Does my age affect my risks?
Your risk of harm from cannabis, including the risk of schizophrenia, is higher if you start using it regularly in your teens.
One reason for this is that, during the teenage years, your brain is still growing and forming its connections, and cannabis interferes with this process.
Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?
Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. Two of these – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – are the active ingredients of a prescription drug called Sativex. This is used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.
Another cannabinoid drug, called Nabilone, is sometimes used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer.
Trials are under way to test cannabis-based drugs for other conditions including cancer pain, the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS, and epilepsy in children.
We will not know whether these treatments are effective until the trials have finished.
Trying to give up?
If you need support with giving up cannabis:
- see your GP
- visit Frank’s Find support page
- call Frank’s free drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600
- see Drugs: where to get help
You’ll find more information about cannabis on the Frank website.
Page last reviewed: 31 October 2017
Next review due: 31 October 2020
How cannabis (marijuana, weed, dope, pot) affects you, the risks and where to find help if you're trying to quit.
I Stopped Smoking Weed And Here’s What Happened
I stopped smoking weed for the last month mostly by accident. It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, and until I saw a study released Friday which found that marijuana use and abuse has doubled since 2001, I wasn’t even sure I was going to write about how temporarily abstaining from weed has affected me.
The study, conducted by Columbia University, finds that the number of (admitted) marijuana consumers has more than doubled, from four to ten percent of adults, between 2001 and 2013. Apparently, marijuana dependence and abuse has also doubled вЂ” from 1.5 percent to three percent of adults reporting dependence or abuse problems. The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington defines marijuana dependence as “needing to use marijuana just to feel ‘normal.’ In order to be diagnosed as marijuana dependent, a person needs to experience at least three of the following in one year,” according to the institute:
Reading that list, I’d say that I qualify, based on numbers one, two, and (my partner would argue, perhaps) seven. Would I say that I abuse marijuana? No. I smoke around once a week вЂ” twice at most вЂ” and because I strongly prefer it to alcohol, I use it mainly as a substitute for having a drink at a party or after a particularly stressful day.
What’s more, I have aggressively advocated that more young women try smoking weed as an alternative to getting drunk. I am of the bias that marijuana is the thinking woman’s poison; its potential for emotional, sexual, conversational, and creative stimulation has always been much greater than alcohol’s for me. It is important to me that I be “out” as a weed smoker and a successful woman on a platform like Bustle, because I think it is ridiculous that this drug is still stigmatized when it is clearly so much less dangerous than drinking. (One study found it to be 114 times less dangerous, to be exact.)
Beyond that, I happen to enjoy it.
Some of the most memorable moments of my young adult life have happened when I was high. The time I crossed the Manhattan Bridge going back to my dorm at NYU and had a scarily-accurate vision of myself living in Brooklyn in my late 20s. The time I celebrated Passover by watching The Prince of Egypt while stoned with my cousin and discussing the meaning of our Jewish identities. The time I’d flown all the way to Denmark to visit a lover вЂ” and he came out to me as gay (a whole other story, that one). Many of my best conversations with friends, my most creative ideas as a writer, and my most honest emotional moments with lovers have happened high. I think weed is a wonderful drug, and I always will.
(Please note my excellent stoner earring)
But in the last six months, I’d noticed that I was leaning on weed to heighten already-pleasurable experiences вЂ” and to prompt my own creativity and relaxation. My partner Jesse joked that I was “a little addict” when we stood in line to see music and I demanded he turn on the vape once I smelled people lighting up around me, or when he left me alone for the evening and returned to find me stoned and bashful, trying to conceal the fact that I was high.
I found that I was starting to hide my smoking from Jesse вЂ” a man who rightfully prides himself on rolling one fine joint, by the way вЂ” because I knew I was starting to consume weed in a way that was problematic for me. My consumption hadn’t increased dramatically вЂ” maybe twice a week, at most, was all I was smoking вЂ” but every weekend, every concert, every party meant that I needed to get high in order to have fun and truly relax.
It’s a chicken or the bong situation. Did I stop smoking weed because I started writing more and feeling more driven at work? Or did I start writing more and feeling more driven at work because I stopped smoking weed?
Like many recreational stoners, I’ve gone through phases like this before; phases where I seem to need more weed to alleviate my anxiety or enhance my enjoyment of life, followed by periods where I’m so busy that I seem to forget to smoke at all. The fact that for the last month I have mostly accidentally abstained from weed is nothing new; what is new is that I’ve consciously recognized the effects this has had on my focus, writing, and ambition.
It’s a chicken or the bong situation. Did I stop smoking weed because I started writing more and feeling more driven at work? Or did I start writing more and feeling more driven at work because I stopped smoking weed? It’s hard to say. But I can report that in the last month, I’ve been writing with more regularity and focus than I have in years. (I’ve also been meditating nearly ever morning and trying to develop a morning routine, so that could have as much or more to do with it.) I’ve also been feeling more settled and relaxed in my relationship. In the last month, I’ve felt less of a need to heighten my life, or to dull certain edges to uncover new ideas, because the ideas are already flowing, and I want to focus on them.
Science would argue that my increased focus does have more to do with my reduced consumption than the marijuana activist in me would care to admit. As Bustle’s own Seth Millstein put it in an article (which I assigned, obviously) about whether weed is bad for you,
“Numerous studies have concluded that early marijuana use, particularly during the teenage years, has measurable effects both on brain structure and cognitive performance. In a 2013 study published in Oxford University Press, researchers observed ‘cannabis-related shape differences’ in numerous parts of the brain in marijuana smokers, and ‘subcortical neuroanatomical differences’ between those who smoke and those who donвЂ™t. It also found that people who smoke marijuana have poorer working memory, a conclusion thatвЂ™s been backed up by other studies.”
I have to admit that I’ve felt more focused this past month. What is clear to me now is that marijuana advocates like myself need to continue to admit that weed can have these dulling affects, and that being pro-legalization doesn’t mean that you believe this substance can’t be abused. You can love weed and still admit that it sometimes makes you dumber.
When I was in college, I often heard adults in their late 20s and early 30s say, “I used to smoke weed, but then I just stopped wanting to so much.” I’d translate this in my head to “and then I gave up and became boring.” Now, I realize that they might have just become more settled and focused in their own lives, or generally stopped craving it for whatever reason.
Who knows how long this hiatus will last. It’s very possible that I’ll end my fast this weekend вЂ” that’s just how suggestible I am when I start thinking about getting high. What I’ve learned from abstaining for the last month, however, is that I need to be careful about why I’m smoking. It’s fine if I occasionally partake just to escape or alleviate my anxiety; that’s what substances (used in moderation) are usually for. But I’d like to do my love for Mary Jane justice. I want to continue to appreciate her emotional and creative impact on my life, rather than simply use her to feel something when I’m depressed. If weed is the thinking woman’s poison, then I guess I’d better continue to think if I want to continue to poison.
Want more women’s health coverage? Check out Bustle’s new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you’re afraid to ask.
I stopped smoking weed for the last month mostly by accident. It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, and until I saw a study released Friday which found that marijuana use and abuse has doubled since 2001, I wasn’t even sure I was going to writeвЂ¦