Cannabis (marijuana) DrugFacts | National Institute on Substance Abuse (2023)

What is Marijuana?


Photo by NIDA

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds of theCannabis sativaÖdescribe marijuanaAttachment. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds. Extracts from the cannabis plant can also be made (see "marijuana extracts").

According toNational Survey on Drug Use and Health, Cannabis (marijuana) is one of the most consumed drugs in the United States and its use is widespread among young people. In 2021, 35.4% of 18-25 year olds (11.8 million people) reported having used marijuana in the past year.1According toMonitoring research of the future, rates of last year marijuana use among middle and high school students have remained relatively constant since the late 1990s. % reported daily marijuana use. Furthermore, many young people also use vaping devices to consume cannabis products. In 2022, nearly 20.6% of Grade 12 students said this was the casevaporized marijuanain the last year and 2.1% said they did it every day.2

The legalization of marijuana for recreational or medical adult use in a growing number of states could sway these opinions. Read more about marijuana as a medicine in ourDrugFacts: Marijuana as medicine.


Cannabis (marijuana) DrugFacts | National Institute on Substance Abuse (2)

Imagem por ©Shutterstock/Stefan Orsillo

How do people use marijuana?

People smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes (bases) or in pipes or hookahs (bongs). They also smoke in blunts, empty cigars partially or completely filled with marijuana. To avoid inhaling smoke, some people use vaporizers. These devices extract the active ingredients (including THC) from marijuana and collect its vapor in a storage unit. So a person inhales steam, not smoke. Some vaporizers use a liquid marijuana extract.

Can people mix marijuana into edibles (groceries), such as brownies, cookies or candy, or as tea. A recent popular method of consumption is smoking or eating various forms of THC-rich resins (see "marijuana extracts").

marijuana extracts

Smoking of THC-rich resins derived from the marijuana plant is on the rise. People call this practiceTo scrub. These extracts come in a variety of forms, such as:

  • hashish oil or honey oil- a sticky liquid
  • ceraÖCara- a smooth solid with a texture similar to a lip balm
  • overalls- a hard amber solid

These extracts can deliver extremely large amounts of THC to the body, and their use has landed some people in the emergency room. Another danger is in the preparation of these extracts, which usually contain butane (lighter fluid). Several people have caused fires, explosions and severe burns from using butane to make extracts at home.3,4

How does marijuana affect the brain?

Marijuana has both short-term and long-term effects on the brain.


Image by NIDA

short term effects

When a person smokes marijuana, THC quickly moves from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs in the body. THC is absorbed more slowly by the body when a person eats or drinks it. If so, you will usually feel the effects after 30 minutes to 1 hour.

THC acts on specific receptors on brain cells that normally respond to natural chemicals in a similar way to THC. These natural chemicals play a role in normal brain development and function.

Marijuana overactivates parts of the brain that contain the greatest number of these receptors. This causes the "high" that people feel. Other effects are:

  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • mood swings
  • impaired body movement
  • Difficulty thinking and solving problems
  • weak memory
  • Hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
  • delusions (when taken in high doses)
  • Psychosis (risk is greater with regular use of high potency marijuana)

long term effects

Marijuana also affects brain development. When people start using marijuana in their teens, the drug can impair thinking, memory and learning functions, as well as affect the way the brain makes connections between areas needed for these functions. Researchers are still studying how long marijuana's effects last and whether some changes may be permanent.

For example, a study from New Zealand, conducted in part by researchers at Duke University, showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing marijuana use disorder lost an average of 8 IQ points between ages. from 13 to 38. Skills did not fully return in those who quit marijuana in adulthood. Those who started smoking pot in adulthood showed no noticeable drop in IQ.5

In another recent twin study, those who used marijuana showed a significant decline in general knowledge and verbal skills (equivalent to 4 IQ points) between adolescence and early adulthood, but no significant decline was found among twins when one used marijuana and the other did not. . This suggests that the decrease in IQ in marijuana users may be due to something other than marijuana, such as: B. Common family factors (eg, genetics, family background).6The NIDA Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, a large longitudinal study, follows a large sample of American youth from late childhood through early adulthood to clarify how and to what extent marijuana and other substances, alone or in combination, combination, this young brain. Development. Read more about the ABCD study in ourLongitudinal Study of the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD Study)Web site.

An increase in the THC content of marijuana

The THC content in marijuana has steadily increased over the last few decades.7For a person new to marijuana use, this could mean exposure to higher levels of THC, with a greater likelihood of an adverse reaction. Higher THC levels may explain the increase in emergency room visits related to marijuana use.

The popularity of edibles also increases the possibility of adverse reactions. Edibles take longer to digest and produce a high. Therefore, people may consume more to feel the effects faster, leading to dangerous results.

Higher levels of THC can also mean a greater risk of addiction when people are regularly exposed to high doses.

What are the other health effects of marijuana?

Consumption of marijuana can have a variety of effects, both physical and mental.

physical effects

  • breathing problems.Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and people who smoke marijuana frequently can experience the same breathing problems as people who smoke tobacco. These problems include daily coughing and phlegm, more frequent lung ailments, and an increased risk of lung infections. The researchers did not find an increased risk of lung cancer in people who smoke marijuana.8
  • heart rate increase.Marijuana increases heart rate up to 3 hours after smoking. This effect can increase the likelihood of a heart attack. Elderly people and people with heart conditions may be at greater risk.
  • Problems with child development during and after pregnancy.One study found that about 20% of pregnant women age 24 and younger tested positive for marijuana. However, this study also found that women were about twice as likely to test positive for marijuana use on a drug test than when they self-reported.9This suggests that self-reported rates of marijuana use among pregnant women are not an accurate measure of marijuana use and may underestimate it. In a dispensary study, nonmedical staff at marijuana dispensaries recommended marijuana to pregnant women for nausea, but medical experts warned against it. This worries medical experts, as marijuana use during pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight.10and increased risk of brain and behavioral problems in babies. When a pregnant woman uses marijuana, the drug can affect certain developing parts of the fetus' brain. Children exposed to marijuana in utero have an increased risk of attention problems,11Memory and problem solving compared to unexposed children.12Some research also suggests that moderate amounts of THC are excreted in the breast milk of nursing mothers.13With regular use, the THC in breast milk can reach levels that can affect the baby's brain development. Other recent research suggests an increased risk of premature birth.27More research is needed. read ourmarijuana investigation reportfor more information about marijuana and pregnancy.
  • severe nausea and vomitingRegular long-term marijuana use can cause some people to develop cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. This causes users to experience regular cycles of severe nausea, vomiting and dehydration, sometimes requiring emergency medical attention.14

Reports of vaping-related deaths

Chapéu Die Food and Drug Administrationalarmedhundreds of reports of serious vaping-related lung illnesses, including multiple deaths, to the public. They are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate the cause of these illnesses. Many of the suspect products tested by state and federal health officials have been identified as vaping products containing THC, the main psychotropic compound in marijuana. Some of the patients reported a mixture of THC and nicotine; and some reported just vaping nicotine. No substances were identified in any of the samples tested and it is unclear whether the illnesses are related to a single compound. Until more details are known, FDA officials have warned people against using high street vaping products and warned against modifying store bought products. They are also urging people and healthcare professionals to do the same.Messageany adverse effects. The CDC released informationbook pagefor consumers.


Cannabis (marijuana) DrugFacts | National Institute on Substance Abuse (4)

Photo by ©iStock/Adrian Hillman

mental effects

Long-term marijuana use has been linked to mental illness in some people, such as:

  • temporary hallucinations
  • temporal paranoia
  • Worsening of symptoms in patients withschizophrenia- a serious mental disorder with symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia and disorganized thinking

Marijuana use has also been linked to other mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts in teenagers. However, the results of the study are mixed.

Does inhaling second-hand marijuana smoke have any effect?

Failed a drug test?

While it's possible to fail a drug test after inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke, it's unlikely. Studies show that very little THC is released into the air when a person exhales. Research suggests that people who are not in an enclosed space and spend hours inhaling large amounts of smoke at close range are unlikely to pass a drug test.15,16Even if some THC were found in the blood, it would not be enough to fail a test.

Getting high from passive exposure?

Likewise, secondhand marijuana smoke is unlikely to make non-smokers in an enclosed space feel high through secondhand exposure. Studies have shown that under extreme conditions (inhaling heavy marijuana smoke for hours in an enclosed space), non-marijuana users report only mild effects from the drug from a nearby smoker.17

Other health effects?

More research is needed to determine whether secondhand marijuana smoke poses similar health risks to secondhand tobacco smoke. A recent study in mice suggests that secondhand marijuana smoke can damage the heart and blood vessels in the same way as secondhand tobacco smoke.20But researchers have not fully explored the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke in humans. What they do know is that the toxins and tar found in marijuana smoke can affect vulnerable individuals like children or people with asthma.

How does marijuana affect a person's life?

Compared to non-marijuana users, heavy users often report the following:

  • less life satisfaction
  • worse mental health
  • worse physical health
  • more relationship problems

People also report lower academic and professional success. For example, marijuana use is associated with a higher likelihood of dropping out of school.18This is also linked to more absenteeism, accidents and injuries.19

Is marijuana a gateway drug?

The use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana is likely to precede the use of other drugs.21,22 Animal studies have shown that early exposure to addictive substances, including THC, can alter the brain's response to other drugs. For example, when rodents are repeatedly exposed to THC at an early age, they show an increased response to other addictive substances, such as morphine or nicotine, in areas of the brain that control reward and are more likely to exhibit similar behaviors. To addiction.23,24

While these results support the idea of ​​marijuana as a "gateway drug", most people who use marijuana do not use other "harder" drugs. It is also important to note that factors other than biological mechanisms such as B. a person's social environment are also crucial to a person's risk of drug use and addiction. Read more about marijuana as a gateway drug in ourmarijuana investigation report.

Can a person overdose on marijuana?

EoverdoseIt occurs when a person uses enough of the drug to produce life- or death-threatening symptoms. There are no reports of teens or adults dying from marijuana alone. However, some people who use marijuana can experience some very unpleasant side effects, especially when using high-THC marijuana products. Patients have reported symptoms such as anxiety and paranoia and, in rare cases, an extreme psychotic reaction (which may include delusions and hallucinations) that may prompt them to seek emergency room treatment.

While a psychotic reaction can occur after any type of use, emergency responders have seen an increasing number of cases involving marijuana edibles. Some people (especially tweens and teens) who know very little about edibles don't realize that it takes longer for the body to feel the effects of marijuana when you eat it than when you smoke it. So they consume more edibles because they're trying to get high faster or they think they're not consuming enough. Additionally, some babies and young children have become seriously ill after ingesting marijuana or marijuana edibles left at home.

Is marijuana addictive?

Marijuana use can lead to the development of substance use disorder, a general medical condition in which a person is unable to stop using despite causing health and social problems in their life. Severe substance use disorders are also known as dependence. Research suggests that between 9 and 30 percent of those who use marijuana may develop some level of marijuana use disorder.25People who start using marijuana before age 18 are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder.26

Many longtime marijuana users who try to quit report mild withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult to quit. These include:

  • Always humor
  • insomnia
  • decreased appetite
  • Anguish
  • wishes

What treatments are available for marijuana use disorders?

There are currently no medications available to treat cannabis use disorders, but behavioral support has been shown to be effective. Examples include therapy and motivational incentives (rewards for patients who remain drug-free). Ongoing research could lead to new drugs that ease withdrawal symptoms, block the effects of marijuana and prevent relapse.

points to remember

  • Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds of theCannabis sativaÖCannabis is an indica plant..
  • The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other related compounds.
  • People use marijuana by smoking, eating, drinking or inhaling it.
  • Smoking and vaping THC-rich extracts from the marijuana plant (a practice calledTo scrub) is at the top.
  • THC overactivates certain brain cell receptors, resulting in effects such as:
    • altered senses
    • mood swings
    • impaired body movement
    • Difficulty thinking and solving problems
    • memory and learning difficulties
  • Marijuana use can have a variety of health effects, including:
    • hallucinations and paranoia
    • breathing problems
    • possible damage to the fetal brain in pregnant women
  • The amount of THC in marijuana has steadily increased over the past few decades, causing more harmful effects in some people.
  • A person is unlikely to fail a drug test or get high from passive exposure to inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke.
  • There are no reports of teens and adults dying from marijuana use alone, but marijuana use can produce some very unpleasant side effects, including anxiety and paranoia and, in rare cases, extreme psychotic reactions.
  • Marijuana use can lead to a substance use disorder, which in severe cases can become an addiction.
  • There are currently no medications available to treat marijuana use disorders, but behavioral support can be effective.

To know more

For more information about marijuana and marijuana use, visit our:

  • Marihuana-Website
  • Drug data on driving under the influence


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  2. Miech, R.A., Johnston, L.D., Patrick, M.E., O'Malley, P.M., Bachman, J.G. e Schulenberg, J.E. (2023).Monitoring the results of the future national survey on drug use, 1975-2022.Supervision of future series of monographs. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.
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This publication is at your disposal and may be reproducedIn your totalitywithout permission from NIDA. Source is requested in the following language: Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institute of Health; US Department of Health and Human Services


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