Dangers of Marijuana

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S., with an astonishing 22.2 million people in America actively using the drug in July, 2016 alone. While long-term problems and withdrawal symptoms are major concerns to those working to help people with marijuana use disorders, one of the biggest issues is the fact that people with other substance use disorders often start out using marijuana before experimenting with other drugs. Marijuana is just the beginning before people move on to more powerful alternatives including nicotine, alcoholcocaine, and methamphetamine.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports the following statistics about marijuana use.

  • Marijuana accounted for 17% of substance abuse treatment admissions in the United States in 2008.
  • In 2009, nearly 17 million people in the United States, aged 12 and older, had used marijuana in the month prior to the study.
  • Between 2002 and 2008, marijuana usage rates increased every year.
  • In 2009, 42% of high school seniors in the United States had used marijuana at least once.


The short-term effects of marijuana occur because THC rapidly moves from the lungs into the blood. This chemical acts on cannabinoid receptors, leading to a “high” for users. These receptors are found in the parts of the brain that influence concentration, thinking, sensory and time perception, pleasure, memory and coordination. The effects may include :

  • Severe anxiety, including fear that one is being watched or followed (paranoia)
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Very strange behaviour, seeing, hearing or smelling things that aren’t there, not being able to tell imagination from reality (psychosis)
  • Loss of a sense of personal identity
  • Lowered reaction time
  • Increased heart rate (risk of heart attack)
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Problems with coordination (impairing safe driving or playing sports)


The long-term effects of marijuana can lead to an adverse effect on memory and learning. Those who smoke marijuana consistently when young may experience cognitive impairment as adults even when no longer using the drug. The long-term effects of marijuana can be unpredictable and can also lead to a number of other unwanted effects, such as respiratory issues, difficulties learning and issues with problem-solving.  Additionally, marijuana use has been associated with certain mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and may even worsen symptoms in those with schizophrenia. Long terms effects may include :

  • Poor school performance and a higher chance of dropping out
  • Impaired thinking and ability to learn and perform complex tasks
  • Lower life satisfaction
  • Addiction (about 9% of adults and 17% of people who started smoking as teens)
  • Relationship problems, intimate partner violence
  • Antisocial behaviour

Studies have shown that marijuana withdrawal symptoms can appear less than 1 day after last use, reaching peak intensity between days 2 and 4, and can generally last for 7 to 10 days. Even after withdrawal symptoms have disappeared, it is important to seek treatment to address the underlying causes of the addiction.


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