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Is Weed Harmless? The Effects of Prolonged
Marijuana Use on Your Brain

Prolonged Marijuana Use

Marijuana's newfound legality in many states has a lot of people rethinking their attitudes toward the drug. A lot of misinformation has been pushed through the media for the past 100 years or so, comparing the effects of marijuana on your brain to an egg frying on a hot pan. 

We know now that marijuana isn't nearly as dangerous as it was reported to be, but is weed harmless? We're going to explore some of the lasting effects of weed in this article, taking a look at ways that you might be affected if you use marijuana for the long-run.

It's Legal, But is Weed Harmless?

As marijuana starts to stratify into different products and industries, it gets harder and harder to pin down "general" effects and things to expect. For example, you can smoke weed out of bongs and pipes, inhale it through pipes, or even infuse it into the food you eat. 

Additionally, medical marijuana has given rise to strains that are far more potent than the weed of the past. All of these factors play into the safety and long-term effects of marijuana.

That said, there are a few overarching themes, both positive and negative, that shine through about marijuana in general. We're going to take a look at the primary positive and negative effects that the research on marijuana has brought forth. 

If you're a person who has their mind made up about weed, this article may shake things up for you a bit. The drug isn't objectively good or bad, seeing as there are a number of well-documented negative effects combined with some overwhelmingly positive ones. 

Weed Can Become an Addiction

It's well known that marijuana isn't addictive in the sense that pain killers or other hard drugs are. You're not going to experience violent withdrawals when you stop, for example, and you can't die from an overdose of pot. 

That said, many people do get addicted to the habitual nature of marijuana use and find that it negatively affects their life. People start abusing weed when they feel like they need it when it's gone, even though using would negatively affect their life, job prospects, and relationships. 

There are certainly individuals that can use marijuana every day without having an addiction. Those are people, though, who could stop using if the circumstances of their life directed them to.

Long term marijuana use, especially starting in one's teens, can lead to an addiction that hurts a person's life. It's estimated that 1 in 10 people who use marijuana regularly will develop some form of addiction.

Users are More Likely to Develop Psychosis

The more an individual uses marijuana, the higher the chance that that person develops some form of psychotic mental illness. The last sentence sounds like an anti-pot PSA from the 50s, so let's break it down a little bit. 

Psychosis is a mental disorder wherein a person loses touch with reality in some form. That could mean hallucinations, distinct changes in personality, or various combinations of negative mental health signals. 

Typically, those who would develop some form of psychosis from a weed habit would already be prone to developing a mental illness in the first place. In other words, that psychosis would lie dormant and potentially come out at some point anyway. 

A lot of people have dormant illnesses that never come up, though, and it's entirely possible for a person who would otherwise be prone to developing psychosis to avoid manifesting symptoms altogether. 

That means that marijuana could be the thing that teases out the mental illness when it would be otherwise nonexistent. Most people won't experience this, but it's a possibility. 

Users May Experience Fewer Symptoms of Mental Illness

On the other side of things, marijuana is regularly used to treat illnesses like depression and anxiety. 

Naturally, the relaxing effect of marijuana on some people allows those individuals to break from their anxiety after use. That relaxed state is fertile ground to think critically about the sources of anxiety and make necessary changes, if not just to enjoy the feeling of calm. 

Some people find that their depression is improved from marijuana use, likely from the rush of dopamine or serotonin that comes after ingesting weed. For some, marijuana is a long-term solution to these issues and becomes a necessary part of life. 

The same goes for people who experience chronic pain. Pain medications are highly addictive, and long-term use of opioids and benzos can lead to severe addictions that have ruined a lot of lives. 

Marijuana offers a non-physically addictive alternative that can treat pain effectively in minutes. There's a laundry list of other illnesses that marijuana can help to treat as well. 

Changes in Brain Size and Function

A study from the National Academy of Sciences took a look at almost 50 adults who smoked or used marijuana at least three times a day over a period of 8 years. 

They also use a group of 60 individuals that didn't use any marijuana over the same time period. The research found that the individuals who used pot had less volume of gray matter in their orbitofrontal cortex.

While there was less gray matter, the brains of regular users of marijuana had greater connectivity in the brain. Connectivity is a term that denotes how well a person's mind can transfer information across different areas of the brain and function in harmony. 

The researchers have a hunch that the reason for increased connectivity and less gray matter likely has something to do with the interaction of THC and the brain's cannabinoid receptors. 

Cannabinoid receptors are a natural component of the brain that's activated when we use cannabis. Those receptors are crucial in the maintenance of a person's mood, appetite, and ability to remember. 

Looking for More Marijuana Insight?

So, is weed harmless? It depends on who you are and how you use it. 

There are some people who absolutely need medical marijuana to function in daily life. There are others who might be better off without it. 

Explore our site for more information on weed, developments in the industry, and more. 


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