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.

More On Substance Abuse and Addiction

Investigator: Prince Died of Opioid Overdose

article

Investigator: Prince Died of Opioid Overdose
Singer Prince died of an opioid overdose, an anonymous law enforcement official told reporters in June. He was 57 when he passed away on April 21, 201...
Preventing Drug Addiction Before It Starts

article

Preventing Drug Addiction Before It Starts
Substance misuse, or the improper use of a substance that may cause harm, is an important issue that needs to be addressed in the United States. In ge...
CDC: Drug and Firearm Deaths Up, Heart Disease and Cancer Deaths Down

article

CDC: Drug and Firearm Deaths Up, Heart Disease and Cancer Deaths Down
In a new report on American mortality rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that, while heart disease and cancer deaths...
How to Support Someone in Recovery

article

How to Support Someone in Recovery
Recovery is different for everyone, but it’s a process in which individuals work to create a positive change in their overall behavior, outlook and id...