Marijuana Effects on Health and Brain Function

A boy smoking marijuana.

Science continues to give us a glimpse into the way marijuana affects users. Over the last 20 years, the research has become increasingly clear about the harms of altering brain chemistry through the use of pot and the level of the active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in marijuana products. Here are just a few of the negative ways marijuana use affects otherwise healthy areas of the body:

  • Heart: The risk of a heart attack increases by four times in the hour after use, and it can provoke chest pain in patients with heart disease.
  • Lungs: Carcinogens contained in the smoke of marijuana can be irritants to the lungs, resulting in greater prevalence of bronchitis, cough and phlegm production. Marijuana smoke contains 50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.
  • Mental Health: Marijuana shows a significant link to mental illnesses like schizophrenia, psychosis, depression and anxiety.
  • Memory: Specific areas of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention and reaction time are significantly and negatively affected. In fact, the negative after-effects can last up to 28 days after the last usage.
  • Adolescent Brain Development: The part of the brain that regulates the planning for complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making and social behavior isn’t completely developed until a person is in their mid-20s. As such, teens’ developing brains are especially susceptible to the effects of marijuana use.
  • Pregnancy:- Smoking pot during pregnancy has been shown to decrease birth weight, affect brain development and cause side effects well into adulthood.

To learn more about these effects, please visit:

But What About Marijuana For Medical Purposes?

Medicinal uses of marijuana have become increasingly popular in the last 20 years.  And for good reason — individual components of the marijuana plant have become popular in some forms of research and, in other countries, for treating pain related to specific diseases.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has approved millions of dollars for research into possible medical uses of marijuana. Furthermore, there have been more than a dozen studies commissioned to research the medicinal benefits.

This does not mean, however, marijuana needs to be smoked to receive these potential benefits.  Just like opium has a specific medical value (morphine), we may see a medical value of marijuana — but in a truly medicinal form, not by smoking it.

To learn more about the medicinal benefits of marijuana, as well as the research that’s being conducted, please visit