Fact Sheet on Effects of Marijuana on the Body

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MEMORY/PERCEPTION/BEHAVIOR

1. Attention, memory and learning are impaired among heavy marijuana users, even after users discontinued its use for at least 24 hours. Heavy marijuana use is associated with residual neuropsychological effects even after a day of supervised abstinence from the drug. Heavy users displayed significantly greater impairment than light users on attention/executive functions, as evidenced particularly by greater preservations on card sorting and reduced learning of word lists. These differences remained after controlling for potential confounding variables, such as estimated levels of premorbid cognitive functioning, and for use of alcohol and other substances in the two groups. However, the question remains open as to whether this impairment is due to a residue of drug in the brain, a withdrawal effect from the drug, or a frank neurotoxic effect of the drug. ("The Residual Cognitive Effects of Heavy Marijuana Use in College Students," Pope, HG Jr., Yurgelun-Todd, D., Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, JAMA February 21, 1996.)

2. Impaired memory for recent events, difficulty concentrating, dreamlike states, impaired motor coordination, impaired driving and other psychomotor skills, slowed reaction time, impaired goal-directed mental activity, and altered peripheral vision are common associated effects. (Adams and Martin 1996; Fehr and Kalant 1983; Hollister 1988a; Institute of Medicine 1982; Tart 1971)

3. A roadside study of reckless drivers who were not impaired by alcohol, showed that 45% of these drivers tested positive for marijuana. (Dr. Dan Brookoff, published in the New England Journal of Medicine)

4. Marijuana smoking affects the brain and leads to impaired short-term memory, perception, judgment and motor skills. (Marijuana Facts: Parents Need to Know, National Institute on Drug Abuse )

5. In a survey of 150 marijuana using students, 59% surveyed report they sometimes forget what a conversation is about before it has ended. 41% report if they read while stoned they remembered less of what they had read hours later. (Dr. Richard Schwartz, Vienna Pediatric Associates in Psychiatric Annals as reported in NIDA Capsules)

NEUROBIOLOGICAL EFFECTS

6. Marijuana activates the same pleasure centers in the brain that are targeted by heroin, cocaine and alcohol. (Dr. Gaetano Di Chiara, University of Caligari, Italy)

CARDIOVASCULAR EFFECTS

7. Physiological effects of marijuana include an alteration of heart rate. Use of marijuana may result in intense anxiety, panic attacks or paranoia. (National Institute of Drug Abuse)

CHRONIC EFFECTS

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM EFFECTS

8. The daily use of 1 to 3 marijuana joints appears to produce approximately the same lung damage and potential cancer risk as smoking 5 times as many cigarettes. (UCLA) The study results suggest that the way smokers inhale marijuana, in addition to its chemical composition, increases the adverse physical effects. The same lung cancer risks associated with tobacco also apply to marijuana users, even though they smoke far less. (reported in NIDA Capsules)

9. Benzopyrene is the chemical in tobacco that causes lung cancer. An average marijuana cigarette contains nearly 50% more benzopyrene than a tobacco cigarette. An average marijuana cigarette contains 30 nanograms of this carcinogen compared to 21 nanograms in an average tobacco cigarette (Marijuana and Health, National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine Report, 1982) Benzopyrene suppresses a gene that controls growth of cells. When this gene is damaged the body becomes more susceptible to cancer. This gene is related to half of all human cancers and as many as 70% of lung cancers.

10. Marijuana users may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers have, such as chronic bronchitis and inflamed sinuses. (Marijuana Facts: Parents Need to Know, National Institute on Drug Abuse )

11. Marijuana...
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