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One Major Side Effect of Smoking Marijuana, According to the CDC

The CDC warns, five things to know about smoking marijuana on a regular basis. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

After tobacco and alcohol, marijuana is one of the world's most commonly used drugs. Its widespread use in the medical community has become more accepted in recent years and more states are legalizing marijuana to help patients with a variety of health issues including anxiety, chronic pain and seizures. Although it does have proven benefits, there can also be risks involved. Here's five things to be aware of before using medical marijuana, and as always consult your doctor for medical advice.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Heart Health

woman holding heart

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Marijuana can make the heart beat faster and can make blood pressure higher immediately after use. It could also lead to increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and other vascular diseases. Most of the scientific studies linking marijuana to heart attacks and strokes are based on reports from people who smoked marijuana (as opposed to other methods of using it). Smoked marijuana delivers tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids to the body. Marijuana smoke also delivers many of the same substances researchers have found in tobacco smoke—these substances are harmful to the lungs and cardiovascular system. It is hard to separate the effects of marijuana chemicals on the cardiovascular system from those caused by the irritants and other chemicals that are present in the smoke. More research is needed to understand the full impact of marijuana use on the cardiovascular system to determine if marijuana use leads to higher risk of death."


Brain Health

brain fog

The CDC states, "Marijuana use directly affects brain function — specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision-making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time." The site adds, "Marijuana affects brain development. Developing brains, such as those in babies, children, and teenagers, are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Although scientists are still learning about the effects of marijuana on developing brains, studies suggest that marijuana use by mothers during pregnancy could be linked to problems with attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior in their children."


Impairs Driving

tired woman driver

The CDC reminds us that, "Driving under the influence (DUI) laws are not just for alcohol. Driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, is also dangerous and illegal. Driving is a complex task that requires your full attention to stay safe and alert. Marijuana affects areas of the brain that control your body's movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment. Marijuana use can impair important skills required for safe driving by:

  • slowing your reaction time and ability to make decisions,
  • impairing coordination, and
  • distorting perception."

Lung Health

man using asthma machine at home.

The CDC says, "In many cases, marijuana is smoked in:

  • joints (hand-rolled cigarettes),
  • bongs (pipes or water pipes),
  • bowls, or
  • blunts (cigars or cigar wrappers that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana).

Smoked marijuana, regardless of how it is smoked, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to small blood vessels.

Smoke from marijuana has many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) as tobacco smoke. Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and mucus production, though these symptoms generally improve when marijuana smokers quit."


Mental Health

Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

The CDC explains, "Marijuana use, especially frequently (daily or nearly daily) and in high doses, can cause disorientation and sometimes unpleasant thoughts or feelings of anxiety and paranoia. People who use marijuana are more likely to develop temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations, and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia (a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that are not really there). The association between marijuana and schizophrenia is stronger in people who start using marijuana at an earlier age and use marijuana more frequently. Marijuana use has also been linked to depression; social anxiety; and thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, and suicide."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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