Cannabis – Effects, Side Effects and Risks.

This text informs you about the effects of cannabis on the human body, possible side effects and the general risks of using cannabis.

The effects are perceived as positive.

A wide spectrum of action is characteristic. The effect of cannabis depends on:

  • The form of consumption (smoking, eating).
  • Consumer device (coupling, pipe).
  • Absorbed dose or THC content.
  • Environment (mood).
  • The person and his expectations.

Cannabis has a wide range of psychological effects. The effect depends on a number of factors. The effect can be influenced by both the dose and the form of consumption (smoking, food intake), as well as the context of consumption, personality and expectations of the consumer.Effects that are subjectively perceived to be positive can be described as follows:

  1.  Feeling. Intoxication is often characterized by euphoric sensations (“highs”) with simultaneous emotional calmness.
  2.  Thinking – general patterns of thinking fade into the background. New ideas and ideas combined with big thinking steps shape thinking influenced by cannabis.
  3.  Memory – Short-term memory is impaired. What happened 5 minutes ago is already forgotten. In a community of like-minded people, this is often seen as funny.
  4.  Perception – subjective perception is enhanced, otherwise irrelevant things are perceived more clearly. Due to impaired short-term memory, time seems to go slower.
  5.  Communication – The experience of hanging out with friends is enhanced, often combined with stupidity. Consumers feel they are better off putting themselves in the shoes of the other person.
  6.  Body sensations – on the one hand, the heart beats faster, on the other hand, consumers experience pleasant relaxation. At the same time, a feeling of lightness with slow movements spreads.

Sharp risks.

The immediate risks of using cannabis are primarily psychological. The problem is in the partial unpredictability of the effect. Consumers who are not yet familiar with the effects of cannabis use are particularly affected. But even with experienced users and high doses, unpleasant effects can occur:

1) Feeling. Instead of euphoria, fear and panic arise. Psychotic symptoms such as confusion and persecution mania (“paranoia”) are possible.
2) Thinking. The leaps in thoughts turn into an endless mess in the head. Consumers may not have a clear idea (“disorientation”), or they become fixed ideas.
3) Memory. Short-term memory impairment leads to memory blackouts and “film breaks”.
4) Perception. Consumers are prone to hypersensitivity and even hallucinations.
5) Communication. Instead of sharing experiences, consumers feel “trapped in their own film,” and only have a limited sense of their environment. They feel marginalized and can no longer communicate.
6) Body sensations. Heart palpitations, nausea, and dizziness may occur. Collapse of blood circulation is possible.

Long term consequences.

Long-term cannabis use is associated with psychological, social and physical risks. However, studies have often led to conflicting results.
Current knowledge suggests that alcohol does not cause serious brain damage. The harmful effects of cannabis smoke on the respiratory tract are considered to be undeniable, although the harmful effects of the tobacco smoked with it should also be taken into account.

Cannabis use during puberty is believed to have a negative impact on development.

Continuous use of cannabis can also lead to some addiction. This is often accompanied by a general tendency to withdraw from social isolation.

A wide range of possible long-term effects of cannabis use is being studied and researched through research.

So far, the following is known:

Physical consequences.

a) Long-term use of cannabis leads to a deterioration in cognitive functions (attention, concentration, learning ability). However, current evidence suggests that no permanent brain damage occurs.
b) Excessive cannabis use impairs lung function. In addition, the risk of lung cancer is increased because cannabis smoke contains more tar or carcinogenic substances than comparable amounts of tobacco smoke. If so-called joints are smoked, they usually also contain tobacco, which also contains carcinogens.
c) The impact of cannabis use on pregnancy and newborns is controversial.
d) Studies have also failed to provide clear evidence of the effects of cannabis on hormonal and immune systems. However, it cannot be ruled out that cannabis use during puberty may lead to developmental delays.

Psychological and social consequences.

a. Continuous use can lead to psychological and mild physical dependence.
b. It is widely believed that cannabis can cause psychosis. However, the research on this is not clear.
c. Consistent and heavy cannabis use may be associated with a general trend towards withdrawal. Affected persons are often indifferent to daily tasks (school, work, etc.). For a long time, in this context, there has been talk of the so-called “amotivational syndrome” caused by cannabis use. Today, the assumption of a one-dimensional causal relationship no longer stands up to scrutiny. Rather, human characteristics that are present independently of cannabis use should be used to explain a demotivated state of mind.

Cannabis and psychosis.

Cannabis use, especially high doses of THC, can cause acute psychotic symptoms. They usually go away after a few days.
Independent cannabis psychosis has not been proven. On the other hand, it is assumed that vulnerable (susceptible) people who use cannabis are more likely to develop previously latent psychotic illness than abstainers.

It is relatively undeniable that psychotic symptoms are possible after taking cannabis. Toxic psychosis can be triggered, especially after taking high doses of THC, which is characterized by disorientation, hallucinations, depersonalization (impaired sense of self), and paranoid symptoms. However, these symptoms disappear after a few days of abstinence and usually do not cause any collateral damage.

In this context, research has long debated the independence of “cannabis psychosis,” that is, a persistent psychosis that is caused solely by cannabis use. Today it is believed that there is no such thing as “cannabis psychosis”, but in these cases the clinical picture of schizophrenia is present. However, it is unclear whether people with schizophrenia will suffer from this severe illness without using cannabis. It is believed that there are people who are vulnerable to schizophrenia and that cannabis can cause latent (latent) psychosis. The “trigger hypothesis” has yet to be scientifically proven, but there are some indications.

About one percent of the population is usually at risk of schizophrenia. The disease usually occurs between puberty and 30 years of age. It seems that genetic factors play an important role here. It is noteworthy that among patients with schizophrenia, the proportion of cannabis users is higher than among the rest of the population. These patients, probably like other users, enjoy the relaxing effects of cannabis.

However, studies have shown that this has a rather unfavorable effect on the course of the disease and more relapses (resumption of psychotic attacks) are recorded than in teetotalers.

Cannabis addiction.

Regular use of cannabis can lead to psychological and mild physical dependence.
Unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop consumption are characteristic of addiction.
Such attempts are usually characterized by typical symptoms such as restlessness, nervousness, anxiety, or depression.
There are no definite external signs of dependence. 

Psychosocial risk factors for the development of addiction are primarily:

  • Unstable mental health.
  • Only friends who use drugs.
  • Early onset of cannabis use (before age 16).
  • Lack of social support (in the family, from friends).
  • General lack of social prospects (eg unemployment).
  • Critical life events (eg separation).

It is only in the recent past that studies have shown that long-term cannabis use may be associated with the development of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. Both are important criteria for the existence of physical dependence. However, physical dependence is not nearly as pronounced as, for example, in persons dependent on alcohol or opiates. However, the psychological dependence associated with a strong desire to consume can be very strong. Affected cannabis users are no longer able to reduce their use or have already made several unsuccessful attempts to stop using it.

It is estimated that about 4-7 percent of all cannabis users develop addiction.

The risk of becoming addicted is not the same for all users. Depending on the degree of presence of so-called psychosocial risk factors, a person may be more or less at risk of developing addiction.

Psychological problems such as depression are thought to increase the risk of cannabis abuse in the sense of “self-medication”. Thus, in many cases, the “real” problem is not primarily the effect of the substance, but rather the underlying psychological problem.

Early onset of regular cannabis use is an important risk factor: the earlier you start smoking cannabis regularly, the more likely you are to develop later, such as addiction problems. Another risk factor that should be mentioned is early initiation of cigarette and alcohol use.

The risk of switching to other “harder” drugs has long been discussed under the heading “drug to enter”. The observation that almost all heroin addicts previously smoked cannabis was used as an opportunity to accuse cannabis of switching to heroin. However, what is true of heroin addicts in retrospect does not apply to cannabis users. In fact, only a very small proportion of cannabis users switch to other drugs.

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