Advertisement

Recreational Marijuana: How Safe Is it?

Recreational Marijuana: How Safe Is it?

When Cheech and Chong lit up the movie screens with their marijuana-fogged dialogue they probably never imagined cannabis would become legal. But today more than 20 states have authorized medical marijuana, while Colorado and Washington have legalized personal use. So we say it’s time to back-up -- carefully -- and take a look at the health risks associated with recreational marijuana use.

The active ingredient in marijuana (THC or 9 delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) has been engineered to be much more concentrated in today’s crops than it was in the 1970s. That, combined with the highly individual way the drug affects the brain (20-somethings, listen up, you’re still developing neural wiring), makes it hard to predict who might be at risk for marijuana-related long-term problems. What is known, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is that regular or heavy use is linked to traffic accidents and reduced lung function (the smoke contains carcinogens) and can encourage addictions. In addition, for some folks, THC’s effect on neurotransmitters may increase the risk for depression and the development of psychosis. It can also cause memory and attention deficits. And -- particular to eating THC -- there may be an increased risk of panic or anxiety.

Our advice? Go for a free 2-fer: An exercise high from aerobic routines, like interval walking, boosts both serotonin and endorphin levels. You’ll get smokin’ hot without craving a peanut butter and jelly pizza.

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

Pregnancy and Opioid Addiction
Pregnancy and Opioid Addiction
Alicia Keyes craved root beer floats while pregnant with her second child, Genesis; Victoria Beckham was marmalade-crazed while carrying daughter Harp...
Read More
How can I prevent a prescription painkiller overdose?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
About 19 women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose in the U.S. You can prevent overd...
More Answers
Why might elderly people be hesitant to take prescribed opioid medication?
Dr. Timothy W. Fong, MDDr. Timothy W. Fong, MD
Doctors sometimes see elderly adults who are hesitant to take prescription opioid medication. "Doc, ...
More Answers
How Is Substance Abuse of Prescription Drugs Treated?
How Is Substance Abuse of Prescription Drugs Treated?