The Effects of Marijuana on Your Body
Marijuana is made from the shredded and dried parts of the cannabis plant, including the flowers, seeds, leaves, and stems. It’s also known as pot, weed, hash, and dozens of other names. While many people smoke or vape it, you can also consume marijuana as an ingredient in food, brewed tea, or oils.
Different methods of taking the drug may affect your body differently. When you inhale marijuana smoke into your lungs, the drug is quickly released into your bloodstream and makes its way to your brain and other organs. It takes a little longer to feel the effects if you eat or drink marijuana.
There is ongoing controversy around the effects of marijuana on the body. People report various physical and psychological effects, from harm and discomfort to pain relief and relaxation.
Here’s what happens to your body when this drug enters your bloodstream.
Marijuana can be used in some states for medical reasons, and in some areas, recreational use is legal as well. No matter how you use marijuana, the drug can cause immediate and long-term effects, such as changes in perception and increased heart rate. Over time, smoking marijuana may cause chronic cough and other health issues.
The effects of marijuana on the body are often immediate. Longer-term effects may depend on how you take it, how much you use, and how often you use it. The exact effects are hard to determine because marijuana has been illegal in the U.S., making studies difficult and expensive to conduct.
But in recent years, the medicinal properties of marijuana are gaining public acceptance. As of 2017, 29 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana to some extent. THC and another ingredient called cannabidiol (CBD) are the main substances of therapeutic interest. The National Institutes of Health funded research into the possible medicinal uses of THC and CBD, which is still ongoing.
With the potential for increased recreational use, knowing the effects that marijuana can have on your body is as important as ever. Read on to see how it affects each system in your body.
Much like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is made up of a variety of toxic chemicals, including ammonia and hydrogen cyanide, which can irritate your bronchial passages and lungs. If you’re a regular smoker, you’re more likely to wheeze, cough, and produce phlegm. You’re also at an increased risk of bronchitis and lung infections. Marijuana may aggravate existing respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.
Marijuana smoke contains carcinogens, so it may increase your risk of lung cancer too. However, studies on the subject have had mixed results. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana smoke causes lung cancer. More research is needed.
THC moves from your lungs into your bloodstream and throughout your body. Within minutes, your heart rate may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute. That rapid heartbeat can continue for up to three hours. If you have heart disease, this could raise your risk of heart attack.
One of the telltale signs of recent marijuana use is bloodshot eyes. The eyes look red because marijuana causes blood vessels in the eyes to expand.
THC can also lower pressure in the eyes, which can ease symptoms of glaucoma for a few hours. More research is needed to understand the active ingredients in marijuana and whether it’s a good treatment for glaucoma.
In the long term, marijuana has a possible positive effect on your circulatory system. Research isn’t conclusive yet, but marijuana may help stop the growth of blood vessels that feed cancerous tumors. Opportunities exist in both cancer treatment and prevention, but more research is needed.
The effects of marijuana extend throughout the central nervous system (CNS). Marijuana is thought to ease pain and inflammation and help control spasms and seizures. Still, there are some long-term negative effects on the CNS to consider.
THC triggers your brain to release large amounts of dopamine, a naturally occurring “feel good” chemical. It’s what gives you a pleasant high. It may heighten your sensory perception and your perception of time. In the hippocampus, THC changes the way you process information, so your judgment may be impaired. The hippocampus is responsible for memory, so it may also be difficult to form new memories when you’re high.
Changes also take place in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, brain areas that play roles in movement and balance. Marijuana may alter your balance, coordination, and reflex response. All those changes mean that it’s not safe to drive.
Very large doses of marijuana or high concentrations of THC can cause hallucinations or delusions. According to the NIDA, there may be an association between marijuana use and some mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. More research is needed to understand the connection. You may want to avoid marijuana if you have schizophrenia, as it may make symptoms worse.
When you come down from the high, you may feel tired or a bit depressed. In some people, marijuana can cause anxiety. About 30 percent of marijuana users develop a marijuana use disorder. Addiction is considered rare, but very real. Symptoms of withdrawal may include irritability, insomnia, and loss of appetite.
In people younger than 25 years, whose brains have not yet fully developed, marijuana can have a lasting impact on thinking and memory processes. Using marijuana while pregnant can also affect the brain of your unborn baby. Your child may have trouble with memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills.What happens when you smoke or ingest marijuana? Learn the effects it has on your body with this interactive graphic.
Effects of Marijuana Use on Oral Health
With changing legislation and evolving laws regarding the use of cannabis, more and more people are legally trying marijuana. Cannabis is most commonly inhaled as smoke but is also available in other forms such as topical ointments, edible snacks, and concentrated oils that are used in vape pens. Depending on how you consume marijuana, there could be adverse effects on your oral health if you’re not careful. Here’s what you can expect if you’re a regular marijuana smoker.
Greater Risk of Periodontal Disease
Similar to the effects of tobacco, smoking marijuana has been connected to periodontal disease, gingivitis, and general irritation of the gums. The carcinogens present when smoking marijuana can have a negative effect on the entire body, particularly the gums and teeth. When inhaling smoke, the high temperatures can be especially irritating to the gums, which can lead to swelling, sensitivity, and even bleeding in the gums. The more you smoke and the longer you regularly use marijuana throughout your lifetime, the more at risk you are for periodontal disease.
To help prevent gum disease, dentists recommend a careful and diligent oral hygiene routine that involves brushing the teeth twice per day and flossing once a day. If you are noticing gum sensitivity and irritation, you may want to consider consuming cannabis in a different form other than smoking. Marijuana edibles and ointments, although there may be other health issues to consider with these, won’t irritate the gums the same way as inhaling smoke. If you use marijuana medicinally, be sure to ask your doctor which form may be best for you.
Staining and Discoloration of the Teeth
The smoke from marijuana can also have a staining effect on your teeth if you are not practicing good oral hygiene. Even when brushing and flossing regularly and seeing your dentist for routine teeth cleanings every six months, there is a risk of discoloration. Again, the carcinogens in marijuana smoke can leave stains on the teeth when inhaling regularly. Although tobacco smoke appears to cause a more pronounced discoloration than marijuana, inhaling smoke of any kind will eventually stain the teeth if done repeatedly.
To combat discoloration and staining of the teeth due to smoking marijuana, you should think about whitening treatments to keep your smile looking bright. Of course, there are some things to consider before whitening your teeth, such as dental sensitivity, irritation of the gums, and other issues that may need to be resolved before a professional teeth whitening treatment can be done. You can always ask your dentist if you’re a good candidate for teeth whitening to help with chronic discoloration.
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common side effect of smoking marijuana and is experienced by most cannabis users to some degree. Unfortunately, it can have a very negative impact on your oral health in the long run. Saliva is necessary to balance the PH of your mouth, as well as prevent tooth decay, bad breath, fungal infections in the mouth, inflammation of the tongue, and more. A healthy level of saliva is also needed for chewing and speaking, so you can see why dry mouth is not ideal for your dental health.
Some things you can do to help with the symptoms of dry mouth are staying hydrated, avoiding sugary or acidic food and drinks, limit your caffeine intake, and use a mouthwash specifically designed for dry mouth. It could also help to chew sugar-free gum or hard candies to stimulate the flow of saliva. It’s essential to try to keep your saliva production at a certain level to avoid the harmful effects of dry mouth, particularly bad breath and tooth decay.
Increased Levels of Bacteria and Tooth Decay
For people who have been smoking marijuana for more extended periods of time, it’s not uncommon to see irritated gums start to separate from the teeth. This separation creates a pocket between the gums and teeth where plaque and bacteria can grow. This eventually will result in gum disease, tooth decay, bad breath, and other dental issues if not treated by a dental professional.
Additionally, according to the American Dental Association, some research suggests that smoke from cannabis can have an immunosuppressive effect on the mouth. This can lead to higher levels of bacteria and oral candidiasis colonies in people who regularly smoke marijuana. Again, this puts the patient at risk for tooth decay and cavities. It’s important to speak to your dentist about this risk and how to best prevent bacteria in the mouth from causing tooth decay. Practicing good oral hygiene and regularly visiting your dentist will go a long way with countering this particular issue.
Overall Oral Health Implications of Marijuana Use
To summarize, continued smoking of marijuana paired with poor oral hygiene can be a dangerous combination when it comes to your oral health. Some of the issues patients encounter often include:
- Periodontal Disease
- Stained Teeth
- Dry Mouth
- Bad Breath
- Tooth Decay
- Increased Bacteria in the Mouth
By visiting your dentist regularly for routine dental exams, teeth cleanings, and consultations, patients can stay on top of their oral health and avoid some of these common problems. If you are a regular marijuana smoker, consider discussing preventative tips and available treatments with your dental professional to help keep your teeth strong and healthy. Contact Absolute Dental to schedule an appointment today!With evolving laws regarding the use of cannabis, more and more people are legally trying marijuana. It can have effects on your oral health if you’re not careful. Here’s what you can expect if you’re a regular marijuana smoker. ]]>