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Cannabis: the facts – Healthy body

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Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.

The effects of cannabis vary from person to person:

  • you may feel chilled out, relaxed and happy
  • some people get the giggles or become more talkative
  • hunger pangs (“the munchies”) are common
  • colours may look more intense and music may sound better
  • time may feel like it’s slowing down

Cannabis can have other effects too:

  • if you’re not used to it, you may feel faint or sick
  • it can make you sleepy and lethargic
  • it can affect your memory
  • it makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk or sinsemilla
  • it interferes with your ability to drive safely

If you use cannabis regularly, it can make you demotivated and uninterested in other things going on in your life, such as education or work.

Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and concentrate.

Can you get addicted to cannabis?

Research shows that 10% of regular cannabis users become dependent on it. Your risk of getting addicted is higher if you start using it in your teens or use it every day.

As with other addictive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, you can develop a tolerance to cannabis. This means you need more to get the same effect.

If you stop using it, you may get withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.

If you smoke cannabis with tobacco, you’re likely to get addicted to nicotine and risk getting tobacco-related diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.

If you cut down or give up, you will experience withdrawal from nicotine as well as cannabis.

Cannabis and mental health

Regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that are not really there) and delusions (believing things that are not really true).

Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if:

  • you start using cannabis at a young age
  • you smoke stronger types, such as skunk
  • you smoke it regularly
  • you use it for a long time
  • you smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness

Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse.

Other risks of cannabis

Cannabis can be harmful to your lungs

People who smoke cannabis regularly are more likely to have bronchitis (where the lining of your lungs gets irritated and inflamed).

Like tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals, but it’s not clear whether this raises your risk of cancer.

If you mix cannabis with tobacco to smoke it, you risk getting tobacco-related lung diseases, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

You’re more likely to be injured in a road traffic accident

If you drive while under the influence of cannabis, you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. This is one reason why drug driving, like drink driving, is illegal.

Cannabis may affect your fertility

Research in animals suggests that cannabis can interfere with sperm production in males and ovulation in females.

If you’re pregnant, cannabis may harm your unborn baby

Research suggests that using cannabis regularly during pregnancy could affect your baby’s brain development.

Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco increases the risk of your baby being born small or premature.

Cannabis increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke

If you smoke it regularly for a long time, cannabis raises your chances of developing these conditions.

Research suggests it’s the cannabis smoke that increases the risk, not the active ingredients in the plant itself.

Does my age affect my risks?

Your risk of harm from cannabis, including the risk of schizophrenia, is higher if you start using it regularly in your teens.

One reason for this is that, during the teenage years, your brain is still growing and forming its connections, and cannabis interferes with this process.

Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. Two of these – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – are the active ingredients of a prescription drug called Sativex. This is used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.

Another cannabinoid drug, called Nabilone, is sometimes used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer.

Trials are under way to test cannabis-based drugs for other conditions including cancer pain, the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS, and epilepsy in children.

We will not know whether these treatments are effective until the trials have finished.

Trying to give up?

If you need support with giving up cannabis:

  • see your GP
  • visit Frank’s Find support page
  • call Frank’s free drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600
  • see Drugs: where to get help

You’ll find more information about cannabis on the Frank website.

Page last reviewed: 31 October 2017
Next review due: 31 October 2020

How cannabis (marijuana, weed, dope, pot) affects you, the risks and where to find help if you're trying to quit.

Smoking Weed Is Not Good For Your Heart, Studies Say

BALTIMORE (CNN) — You may love smoking weed, but it does not love your heart, according to the American Heart Association’s new scientific statement on marijuana.

“The American Heart Association recommends that people not smoke or vape any substance, including cannabis products, because of the potential harm to the heart, lungs and blood vessels,” said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, the deputy chief science and medical officer for the American Heart Association, in a statement.

The new scientific statement, published Wednesday in the AHA journal Circulation, examined existing research on the connection between cannabis and the heart.

The statement found using weed has “the potential to interfere with prescribed medications” as well as “trigger cardiovascular conditions or events, such as heart attacks and strokes,” said clinical pharmacologist Robert Page II, who chaired the medical writing group for the statement.

Anyone planning to use marijuana should discuss possible risks with their health professional first, said Page, who is a professor in the department of clinical pharmacy and physical medicine/rehabilitation at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Aurora, Colorado.

“If people choose to use cannabis for its medicinal or recreational effects, the oral and topical forms, for which doses can be measured, may reduce some of the potential harms,” Page said in a statement.

“It is also vitally important that people only use legal cannabis products because there are no controls on the quality or the contents of cannabis products sold on the street,” he added.

Heart complications

Some of the studies analyzed by the medical group found heart rhythm abnormalities, such as tachycardia and atrial fibrillation, could occur within the hour after weed containing THC is smoked. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive substance within marijuana that creates a “high.”

Tetrahydrocannabinol can also cause a faster heart rate, increase the heart’s need for oxygen, disrupt the walls of arteries and contribute to higher blood pressure while prone, according to other studies.

“Cannabis smoke contains components similar to tobacco smoke,” Page said, and studies show tobacco-like increases in carbon monoxide and tar in a weed smoker’s blood after smoking marijuana, regardless of the THC content.

Chest pain, heart attacks, heart rhythm disturbances and other serious heart conditions are associated with both tobacco and marijuana carbon monoxide intoxication, the statement said.

For anyone with existing heart disease, risks go up. Smoking weed has triggered heart attacks, a higher risk of strokes and heart failure in people with underlying heart disease, studies show.

In comparison, CBD, or cannabidiol, one of the other 80 chemicals in cannabis, does not give the “high” typically associated with THC. Nor does it appear to cause harm to the heart.

In fact, studies reviewed by the medical group showed possible links to lower blood pressure, reduced heart rate and less inflammation, which is an underlying culprit of the narrowing of the arteries that can lead to heart disease and strokes.

However, despite the hundreds of products currently being sold over the counter and online, there is only one CBD-derived product approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, the group wrote.

‘Urgent’ need for in-depth research

There is one caveat to all these research findings: Existing studies on marijuana and the heart are “short-term, observational and retrospective studies, which identify trends but do not prove cause and effect,” Page said.

There is an “urgent” need for “carefully designed, prospective short- and long-term studies regarding cannabis use and cardiovascular safety,” Page added.

But that’s tough to do in today’s climate, because marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the US Drug Enforcement Agency. That limits research dramatically, and the DEA should remove those restrictions so that scientists can better study marijuana’s effects, the group advised.

In addition, the medical group recommended cannabis to be part of the US Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco control and prevention efforts, which may mean that there would be age restrictions on who can purchase weed, retailer regulations and even excise taxes.

The American Heart Association is looking over the scientific statement and will be releasing new policy updates in coming weeks, according to Michelle Kirkwood, an AHA spokesperson.

“The public needs fact-based, valid scientific information about cannabis’s effect on the heart and blood vessels,” Page said.

“Research funding at federal and state levels must be increased to match the expansion of cannabis use — to clarify the potential therapeutic properties and to help us better understand the cardiovascular and public health implications of frequent cannabis use.”

The-CNN-Wire
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You may love smoking weed, but it does not love your heart, according to the American Heart Association's new scientific statement on marijuana.