What are the effects of Marijuana use?

Marie Law Alphabiolabs

By Marie Law, Head of Toxicology at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 02/28/2023

In this article, we take a closer look at marijuana, what it does to the body, the short-term and long-term effects of marijuana use, and how long marijuana stays in your system.

What is marijuana?

Also known as cannabis, weed, dope or hash, marijuana is a plant-based drug derived from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant.

Popular among recreational drug users, it is often sold as a soft lump of dried green or brown herbs. However, it comes in many different forms including skunk, which is a particularly strong strain of the substance that is bright green and covered in crystals.

Marijuana is most commonly smoked or vaped, but some people also add it to food and drink products known as ‘edibles’ or ‘marijuana edibles’.

Other forms of marijuana include cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid commonly sold online and in select shops in the form of CBD oil, and cannabinol (CBN), a compound found in the cannabis plant that produces few, if any, psychoactive effects.

Marijuana is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it remains illegal at a federal level due to its potential for abuse and dependency.

However, some states have legalized marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational purposes.

Learn more about marijuana

What does it do to your body when you take marijuana?

It is important to remember that drugs affect people in different ways. Not everyone will have the same experience with the same substances, and drugs can even affect the same person differently when taken at a different time.

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug. The effect it has on the person taking it can depend on a variety of factors including the kind of person they are usually, their mood when taking it, how much marijuana they have taken, frequency of use, and how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the drug contains.

THC is the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana. When a person uses marijuana, THC is released into the system. This alters normal brain communication and affects emotions, thinking, memory, concentration, and movement.

Some people might feel relaxed and giggly after using marijuana while others can become anxious and paranoid.

Other side effects of marijuana include increased hunger and drowsiness. In some instances, sickness and nausea can occur, as can mild hallucinations.

Long-term use has also been linked to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

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Is marijuana addictive?

Yes, marijuana is addictive. People who use marijuana regularly may experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it, leading to the development of harmful addictions.

When an individual ingests marijuana, either through smoking, vaping, or eating it, this alters the way the brain works and causes it to release dopamine.

Dopamine, the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemical creates feelings of euphoria, pleasure, and reward. These powerful sensations cause some people to become addicted and dependent on marijuana.

People who use marijuana on a regular basis are also more likely to build up a tolerance to it. This means that they will require even more of the drug over time to experience the same ‘high’.

What are the physical effects of marijuana use?

Although the effects of marijuana can wear off in as little as an hour, depending on how much of the substance was consumed, using marijuana regularly has been linked to several physical health problems including:

  • Breathing issues
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Coughing
  • Fertility concerns
  • Insomnia/difficulty sleeping

Short-term physical effects of marijuana can include increased hunger, nausea, vomiting and drowsiness.

How can marijuana impact your mental health?

As well as the potential for developing physical health problems, people who use marijuana on a regular basis also put themselves at increased risk of developing psychological and mental health problems.

Heavy marijuana use has been linked to:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Memory problems
  • Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

What are the long-term effects of marijuana use?

The effects of marijuana can wear off in as little as an hour, depending on how much marijuana was consumed.

However, marijuana use over a prolonged period has been shown to cause several long-term effects and increase the risk of serious health problems, including:

  • Heart and blood pressure issues
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fertility concerns
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Poor mental health episodes

Can marijuana be used for medical purposes?

Although some states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes, it remains illegal at a federal level, and is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in clinical treatments.

However, certain drugs containing small amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive compound in marijuana/cannabis – are prescribed in medical settings for the treatment of certain conditions. These drugs include:

  • Marinol – synthetic THC in a capsule form, which can be prescribed to control nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients
  • Epidoloex – an oral solution containing no more than 0.1% THC and used to treat two types of epilepsy
  • Syndros – an oral THC solution used in the treatment of anorexia

How long does marijuana/THC stay in your body?

When a person consumes marijuana a proportion of the drug and its metabolites are released into the body and bloodstream.

A small amount of the drug is then excreted from the body in a variety of ways.

How long marijuana and THC remains in the system and how quickly someone might feel the effects depends on how the drug was consumed, how often it is used, how much marijuana was taken, how much THC is in it and the weight and metabolism of the individual.

When smoked, marijuana and its effects can be felt in as little as one minute. When eaten, the effects can be felt up to 45 minutes later and can last for several hours.

It can take days for someone to feel normal again after consuming marijuana.

Long after the drug was first consumed and the ‘high’ has worn off, marijuana use remains detectable by a drug test.

Drug testing methods that can be used to detect marijuana use include oral fluid (saliva) drug testing, urine drug testing, hair drug testing and nail drug testing.

How long does marijuana stay in your system?

What is the difference between THC and CBD?

Although both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) derive from the Cannabis sativa plant, and are classed as cannabinoids, there are some differences between the two.

THC is the main psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana and is responsible for the ‘high’ that people experience when using marijuana.

Unlike THC however, CBD produces few if any psychoactive effects.

Marijuana, which contains much higher amounts of THC, is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it remains illegal at a federal level due to its potential for abuse and dependency.

However, some states have legalized marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational purposes.

CBD products are legal at a federal level if they are hemp-derived and contain less than 0.3% (trace levels) of THC, although this varies from state-to-state, so it is important to understand the law in the state where you reside.

CBD vs THC – What’s the difference?

Where can I buy a drug test?

AlphaBiolabs offers two types of home drug tests, designed to give you peace of mind or enable you to seek support for a loved one who is struggling with substance misuse.

  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (pack of 3 – $34.95) – this easy-to-use home drug testing kit can detect drugs and their metabolites in a urine sample. The self-contained screening kit includes built-in test strips, allowing you to read the results in just 5 minutes
  • Drug and Alcohol Nail Test (from $99) – this test can detect drug use for a period of up to 12 months prior to samples being collected, with only a sample of fingernail clippings or toenail clippings required. Simply follow the instructions included in your test kit to collect your nail clipping samples and return them to our accredited laboratory for testing

Please be aware that our home drug test kits are for peace of mind only, and the results cannot be used in court or for legal reasons.

For confidential advice about which test might best suit your needs, you can email our Customer Services team at info@alphabiolabsusa.com.

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Marie Law AlphaBiolabs

Marie Law

Head of Toxicology at AlphaBiolabs
A highly-skilled and respected scientist with over 13 years’ experience in the field of forensics, Marie joined AlphaBiolabs in 2022 and oversees the company’s growing toxicology team. As Head of Toxicology, Marie’s day-to-day responsibilities include maintaining the highest quality testing standards for toxicology and further enhancing AlphaBiolabs’ drug and alcohol testing services for members of the public and the legal sector.

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