What Taking Marijuana Every Day Does to You
Marijuana use, both medical and recreational, is no longer considered taboo—but what do we really know about long-term use of cannabis? "As I frequently tell patients, if you read the warning labels of any medications that are commonly prescribed, each and every one has potential side effects, some serious," says Peter Grinspoon, MD. "There is truly no free lunch with medication, including medical cannabis; however, with good education and with legal regulation (which leads to a safer product)…harms can be avoided or minimized." Here's what happens when you take marijuana every day, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Yes, Marijuana Is Addictive
Cannabis has developed a reputation as being mostly harmless, but experts want this is not an accurate representation of the drug. "It's less addictive than alcohol, less addictive than opioids, but just because it's less addictive doesn't mean that it's not addictive," says Kevin Hill, M.D, author of Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World's Most Popular Weed. "There's a subset of people — whom I treat frequently — who are using cannabis to the detriment of work, school, and relationships. It's hard for the majority of people — who may use once a month or once every six months, or they tried it in Vegas because it's legal there — to recognize the reality that there are many people who are using and losing in key areas of their lives. I've had patients who have lost multimillion-dollar careers. It's hard for people to understand that that can happen."
IQ Issues For Teenagers
Research shows that heavy use of marijuana in adolescents can impact their intelligence. "When we talk about the harms of cannabis, young people using regularly can have cognitive problems, up to an eight-point loss of IQ over time," says Dr. Hill. "It can worsen depression. It can worsen anxiety. But all of those consequences depend upon the dose."
Frequent use of marijuana can affect tolerance, meaning people may need more to experience the same effect. "These days, people can avoid highly sedating strains, as well as strains that are extremely high in the main intoxicant, THC," says Dr. Grinspoon. "Also, patients develop a tolerance to the psychoactive effects of cannabis, so a medical patient using a small dose of cannabis twice a day would be markedly less impaired than a more recreational cannabis user who uses a high dose, say, once a month."
If you take marijuana every day and cut down or try to stop completely, withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable. "It isn't life-threatening or medically dangerous, but it certainly does exist," says Dr. Grinspoon. "It makes absolute sense that there would be a withdrawal syndrome because, as is the case with many other medicines, if you use cannabis every day, the natural receptors by which cannabis works on the body 'down-regulate,' or thin out, in response to chronic external stimulation. When the external chemical is withdrawn after prolonged use, the body is left in the lurch, and forced to rely on natural stores of these chemicals — but it takes time for the natural receptors to grow back to their baseline levels. In the meantime, the brain and the body are hungry for these chemicals, and the result is withdrawal symptoms."
Frequent use of cannabis may impact memory function, experts warn. "Current evidence shows that cannabis intoxication may temporarily alter or distort short-term memory processing," say Ian Hamilton, associate professor, addiction and mental Health, University of York, and Elizabeth Hughes, professor of mental health, University of Leeds. "This seems to be caused by compounds in cannabis that disrupt neural signaling when binding to receptors responsible for memory in the brain. Interrupted short-term memory can indeed impact on learning, and may also cause loss of interest or problems with concentration."