Marijuana is an illicit drug which is most commonly used by young people for recreational purposes. Apart from the facts that it has been known as a way to alter their minds for quite some time and that it is considered to be less harmful than chemically synthesized substances, the growing popularity of marijuana is also related to it being decriminalized by the number of states in recent years. Hence, marijuana has become widely used for recreational purposes with most people being convinced that it does not have severe negative effects on their physical and mental health. Yet, this wide-spread belief does not coincide with scientific research of the effects of marijuana on human body and behavior which indicates that marijuana use is associated with the distorted functioning of the brain, memory impairment, addiction, and negative withdrawal symptoms suffered by those who decide to quit.
Using marijuana produces an altered state of consciousness, widely known as ‘high’. This state is associated with changing usual perceptions, reactions, and cognitions that are interpreted as pleasurable and desired by marijuana users. The altered state of mind is caused by cannabinoids contained in marijuana plant that activates cannabinoid receptors (Schoeler, & Bhattacharyya, 2013). Because these receptors are located in very different parts of the brain, marijuana use is associated with diverse effects, including, pain inhibition, distorted audial and visual perceptions, changed behaviors, altered reactions, as well as feelings of happiness and inclusion (Nestoros et al., 2017). Being affected by marijuana, brain neurons change their usual patterns of interaction and cause the user to experience himself and reality somewhat different. Further, cannabinoid receptors activated by marijuana have been linked to increased reception of oxytocin, a hormone associated with social bonding and reward. Thus, marijuana increases satisfaction derived out of social contact on a neural level (Wei et al., 2015).
Among numerous brain functions that are affected by marijuana use, memory is one of the most researched ones. Studies found that in the short-term, marijuana significantly impairs short-term memory. In other words, being under influence of this drug makes it difficult to create and remember new connections between neurons which creates obstacles in remembering and recollecting recent events and ideas. Yet, it was found not to have any effect on the existing memories, meaning that they could still be accessed while under the influence of marijuana. As for the long-term effects on memory, marijuana has been linked to impaired long-term verbal memory that remains even after the person has stopped using the drug (Schoeler, & Bhattacharyya, 2013). This means that in the long-term, marijuana use gets in the way of one’s learning and retrieval capacities.
It is commonly believed that marijuana is an innocent drug that does not cause addiction. Yet, this belief is not necessarily true. The fact that regular marijuana users’ attempts to quit using this substance are commonly associated with withdrawal symptoms suggest that it is possible to develop marijuana addiction after all. When regular users attempt to stop using marijuana, they experience numerous psychological and physical symptoms that push them back into their substance abuse habit. The most commonly noted withdrawal symptoms among marijuana users are strong marijuana cravings, mood changes, decreased appetite and sleep disturbances. The most common physical symptoms are headache and weight gain (Levin et al., 2014). These symptoms make it difficult for many people to leave the marijuana habit behind even if they now think that it causes difficulties in their current lives. Thus, marijuana should be regarded as a potentially addictive drug by anyone who considers using it.
Occasional use of marijuana is commonly regarded by young people as an interesting, enlighten experience that offers an opportunity to take a look at the world and oneself from a very different standpoint. Yet, turning to the regular use of marijuana is associated personality and productivity changes that are unlikely to be regarded as desired my modern young people. Namely, while the very state of altered consciousness may be seen as the pleasurable, regular and frequent use of marijuana is associated with the overall lower level of subjective well-being (Allen & Holder, 2014). People who start turning to this drug frequently start to have difficulties learning and forming new ideas because of the negative effect it has on one’s memory function. They find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time which gets in the way of getting the necessary work done. Further, regular users of marijuana tend to lose focus of their priorities in life and are likely to stop setting goals or embarking on long-term projects. From motivated and driven people marijuana users may turn to passive life, focused merely on daily business and objectives that promise to provide immediate satisfaction. Lastly, marijuana use was found to be the first step on the way to trying other, more addictive and dangerous drugs, like, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA (Allen & Holder, 2014).
Drawing conclusions, marijuana is a popular recreational drug that has more negative effects on users’ physical and psychological health than most people are aware of. First and foremost, marijuana use activates cannabinoid receptors in different parts of the brain, and thus, alters various brain functions. Secondly, it impairs one’s short-term and long-term memory, reducing the learning and retrieving information. Thirdly, marijuana is an addictive substance and an attempt to quit after using it frequently is associated with numerous unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Overall, frequent use of marijuana causes people to lose focus of any bigger and long-term goals they might have had as well as reduces the cognitive and learning abilities needed to achieve these goals. Hence, it is necessary to conclude that marijuana is not as harmless as it is commonly believed and everyone should think twice before agreeing to it.
- Allen, J., & Holder, M. D. (2014). Marijuana Use and Well-Being in University Students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(2), 301-321. Retrieved from https://pasadenacc.on.worldcat.org/oclc/5679136636.
- Levin, K.,Copersino, M.L., Heishman, S.J., Liu, F., Kelly, D.L., Boggs, D.L.,& Gorelicka, D.A. (2010). Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms in Non-Treatment-Seeking Adult Cannabis Smokers. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 111(1-2), 120-127. Retrieved from https://pasadenacc.on.worldcat.org/oclc/673258202.
- Nestoros, J.N., Vakonaki, E., Tzatzarakis, M.N., Alegakis, A., Skondras, M.D., & Tsatsakis, A.M. (2017). Long lasting effects of chronic heavy cannabis abuse. American Journal of Addiction, 26(4), 335-342. Retrieved from https://pasadenacc.on.worldcat.org/oclc/7036396750.
- Schoeler, T., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2013). The effect of cannabis use on memory function: an update. Substance Abuse Rehabilitation, 4, 11-27. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931635/.
- Wei, D., Lee, D., Cox, C.D., Karsten, C.A., Peñagarikano, O., Geschwind, D.H., Gall, C.M., & Piomellia, D. (2015). Endocannabinoid signaling mediates oxytocin-driven social reward. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45), 14084-14089. Retrieved from https://pasadenacc.on.worldcat.org/oclc/5923797615.