The main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana in any form is delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, shortened to THC. Cannabinoids act on a specific receptor that is widely distributed in the brain regions involved in cognition, memory reward, pain perception, and motor coordination.
A lot depends upon the user's mental state before smoking, the environment and the user's expectations. Marijuana causes perceptual changes which make the user more aware of other peoples' feelings, enhance the enjoyment of music and give a general feeling of euphoria. It can also make the user feel agitated if they are in a situation which is not pleasant - if they are with strangers or trying to hide the fact that they are using - which is often referred to as a paranoia. Using marijuana with other drugs, such as alcohol, can make the user feel dizzy and disoriented.
Marijuana causes a number of physical changes. It can produce an increased pulse rate, a decrease in blood pressure, an opening of the airway leading to the lungs and suppression of the vomit reflex. It can also produce bloodshot eyes, dry mouth, dizziness and an increased appetite. Sometimes short term memory loss can occur, although this passes as the effects of the drug wear off.
ACUTE EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA
Marijuana produces euphoria and relaxation, perceptual alterations, time distortion, and the intensification of ordinary sensory experiences, such as eating, watching films, and listening to music. When used in a social setting, it may produce infectious laughter and talkativeness. Short-term memory and attention, motor skills, reaction time, and skilled activities are impaired.
The most common unpleasant side-effects of occasional marijuana use are anxiety and panic reactions. These effects may be reported by users, and they are a common reason for discontinuation of use; more experienced users may occasionally report these effects after receiving a much larger than usual dose of THC.
Marijuana smoking or ingestion of THC increases the heart rate by 20-50% within a few minutes to a quarter-of-an-hour; this effect lasts for up to 3 hours. Blood pressure is increased while the person is sitting, and decreased while standing.
SUMMARY OF ADVERSE EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA
- Anxiety and panic.
- Impaired attention, memory, and psychomotor performance while intoxicated.
- Possibly an increased risk of accident if a person drives a motor vehicle while intoxicated with cannabis, especially if cannabis is used with alcohol.
- Increased risk of psychotic symptoms among those who are vulnerable because of personal or family history of psychosis.
In novice marijuana users, rarely in regular users, marijuana may precipitate reactive or neurotic depressions.
The majority of all adverse responses to marijuana are panic reactions in which people begin to fear that they are dying or losing their minds. Panic reactions, or "bad trips", may become so severe as to be incapacitating. Smith (1981) reports that roughly 50% of marijuana smokers in the United States have on some occasion experienced this adverse reaction.
The longer marijuana has been used, the more pronounced the cognitive impairment.
The most common disturbing reaction to marijuana is acute anxiety. The user becomes fearful of dying or going insane. Mounting anxiety may lead to panic. The reaction is not a psychosis; there are no hallucinations. The anxiety reaction or delusional disorder is a milder version of the frightening LSD experience known as a bad trip. A truly nightmarish experience is rare under the influence of marijuana, because it is less potent than hallucinogenic or psychedelic drugs and the user is better able to control its effects.
Use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs is often followed by flashbacks - the recurrence of emotions and perceptions originally experienced under the influence of the drug. They usually last only a few seconds and are not necessarily disturbing, but sometimes they become a persistent problem, which has been labeled post-hallucinogen perception disorder. Marijuana smoking may precipitate flashbacks in psychedelic drug users. A few reports suggest that marijuana flashbacks also occur without the previous use of psychedelic drugs.
Read some of the comments from people who have had experiences with marijuana and anxiety
Comment: Hi, I've had panic attacks for more than 1.5 years now. Fortunately, I can now control the attacks and am aware that "I am not going to have a heart attack"
Approximately twelve acquaintances of mine have since discussed, through different conversations, evidence of having panic attacks. Speeding heart beat, panic, going to hospital, etc. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM HAD THEIR FIRST ATTACK while consuming marijuana, including me. About half of them, including me, were heavy smokers (minimum 1 joint/day).
- Created: 02 October 2008
- Last Updated: 14 January 2014