Before we start, we should note that a whole lot more research needs to be done in this area. Although cannabis has been used for centuries as a medicine and as an intoxicant we don’t know a great deal about the health effects of using it. That’s because there haven’t been many controlled studies on it, due to the way cannabis is classified by the law.
There have, however, been a few studies that do give us some idea about how the substance affects our brains and bodies. Weed contains at least 60 types of cannabinoids - which are chemical compounds that act on receptors throughout our brain.
THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of weed’s effects, including the happy high. THC resembles another cannabinoid naturally produced in our brains, anandamide, which regulates our mood, sleep, memory, and appetite.
So if you're curious to know what happens when you consume weed, here is a look at its effects -
1. It Impairs Your Memory
Smoking weed can impair memory, attention, and concentration. Impairment in memory occurs because cannabis alters information processing in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain responsible for memory formation. A 2012 review of available research published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, found that the immediate impairments on memory and concentration aren’t likely permanent. But a 2018 review by Colorado’s public health department concluded that daily users of cannabis can have impaired memory lasting more than a week after quitting.
2. It May Hinder Emotion Regulation
Although many people use marijuana to improve their anxiety and depression, it can actually make these issues worse for some people. Marijuana use and withdrawal may induce anxious and depressive symptoms, and it can also increase symptoms of underlying mental health concerns. Recent research demonstrates that long-term use can also impair structures that help to regulate difficult emotions.
3. It May Cause A Risk For Psychosis
Marijuana use can cause or exacerbate symptoms of psychosis, which may include paranoia or hallucinations. Individuals with certain genetic vulnerabilities may be at greater risk of developing psychosis with cannabis use. With higher potency THC available, including edibles, individuals may be at risk for more significant or earlier onset of mental health concerns such as psychosis. While this may not be the case for everyone, it is something to consider.
4. It May Hinder The Ability To Learn
Some research suggests that heavy cannabis use as a teen may lead to a reduction of IQ points that may not fully return in adulthood. One study out of New Zealand found that teens who started smoking before age 18 experienced an average IQ drop of eight points by the time they reached mid-adulthood.
5. It May Increase Neural Activity
THC can increase random neural activity in the brain, also known as "neural noise." Researchers suspect that the psychosis-like symptoms that people may experience after smoking weed can be attributed to this neural activity. This can result in anything from disorganized thoughts to alterations in your perceptions of reality. Neural noise can also interfere with other signals that transmit information in the brain.
So using weed is not all harm, but it does have certain effects that can be permanent sometimes.