What happens to your body when you use medical marijuana


Smoking marijuana, i.e. even the first puff, has an almost immediate effect on your brain, heart rate and sense of perception. Marijuana may have long-term effects on health as well, even though claimed otherwise by habitual users.

Marijuana, or cannabis, has an extensive history of traditional uses as a botanical medicine and an industrial material all throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, and it has been used for at least 5,000 years.

What Is Medical Marijuana

Unlike “pot” (the recreationally used illegal drug), the term medical marijuana refers to the use of the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant along with its pure extracts, for the purpose of improving a symptom or treating a disease. For it to be effective, “it must be sourced from a medicinal-grade cannabis plant that has been meticulously grown without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers”.

Marijuana’s incredible healing properties can be attributed to its critical levels of medical terpenes and flavonoids as well as a very high cannabidiol (CBD) content. Even though marijuana has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) except in Colorado and Washington State, more and more physicians are prescribing it, swearing by its effectiveness and health benefits.

What are the Effects of Marijuana on the Body?

When marijuana smoke is inhaled into the lungs, the effect is immediate; marijuana is quickly released into the bloodstream, slowly reaching your brain and other organs. Smoking it is the most effective way for it to have a quick result; when drank or absorbed through food, it takes a little longer to take effect.

Here’s what happens to the body when marijuana is ingested:

Respiratory System

Marijuana smoke is made up of an assortment of toxic chemicals (including ammonia and hydrogen cyanide) which, much like tobacco smoke, may severely irritate your bronchial passages and lungs. Apart from wheezing, coughing and producing phlegm on a regular basis, you are looking at increased risk of bronchitis and lung infections. On top of that, marijuana has the potential to elevate your risk of developing lung cancer, as its smoke contains carcinogens. According to some studies, “marijuana may aggravate existing respiratory illnesses like asthma and cystic fibrosis”.

Circulatory System

Marijuana has a very serious effect on the circulatory system, as THC is carried throughout your body and it moves from your lungs straight into your bloodstream. Your heart rate may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute within minutes, and this may continue for up to three hours. Still, marijuana can potentially stop the growth of blood vessels that feed cancerous tumors.

Bloodshot eyes are one of the telltale signs of recent marijuana use.

Central Nervous System

Once THC enters your circulatory system, it quickly enters your bloodstream and gets transported to your brain and the rest of your organs. The brain (under THC) releases large amounts of dopamine, which may not only make you feel good, but heighten your sensory perception, as well as your perception of time. THC changes the way information is processed in the hippocampus, leading to your judgment being impaired. New memories are rarely created when you’re high.

Your balance may also be upset due to the changes that take place in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, as can your coordination and reflex response. It is not uncommon for large doses of marijuana to cause hallucinations or delusions. In some people, marijuana can cause anxiety, while the symptoms of withdrawal are known to include insomnia, irritability and loss of appetite.

It is estimated that about nine percent of marijuana users develop an addiction, with young people whose brains are not fully developed facing a lasting impact on their thinking and memory skills.

Pregnant marijuana users will face additional issues, i.e. marijuana intake affects the brain development of your unborn baby. The child may be more prone to trouble with concentration, memory and problem-solving skills.

The pharmacologic effects of marijuana are thought to ease pain and inflammation. It may also be of use in controlling seizures and spasms.

Digestive System

Smoking marijuana often causes a burning in your mouth and throat. Taking THC orally is processed in your liver.

Using medical marijuana is recommended for people living with cancer or AIDS as it can help increase appetite. Also, marijuana can ease nausea and vomiting.

Immune System

Some research indicates that THC might damage the immune system, making you vulnerable to infections and illness. However, further research is needed.

What Diseases Can it Help Treat?

There’s still an ongoing research and debate on the effectiveness of medical marijuana. Those who swear by its effect claim that medical marijuana has an important role in many body processes, including immune functions, metabolic regulation, pain, cravings, anxiety and bone growth.

Common ailments being treated with medical marijuana include:

Degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia

Mood disorders

Parkinson’s disease

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Multiple sclerosis


Sunburn (with cannabis oil)

Potential side effects of medical cannabis are also numerous, and should be taken very seriously.

To everyone who is looking to use medical marijuana for curing an illness, it is advised they first consult with their appointed MD; while marijuana may potentially help ease or cure symptoms of one illness, it may potentially be the cause of another. If you are ill, don’t take it without having someone around, in case of a side-effect occurring.

Samantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. You can read more of her posts at Ripped.me