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General overview

Marijuana is a flowering plant which has been used for many years as a psychoactive drug. It contains, amongst many other chemicals, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC which elicits feelings of euphoria (elevated mood), muscle relaxation, an increased appetite and perceptual changes.

Marijuana is also currently being used in medicine to help patients with issues such as nausea caused by chemotherapeutic drugs, and to help manage chronic pain caused by cancer. 

Side effects

Marijuana does unfortunately cause a lot of unwanted effects and they may include the following:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Short-term memory impairment.
  • Impaired motor skills.
  • Feelings of paranoia or severe anxiety.
THC is rapidly absorbed by the body, especially when inhaled, and these mentioned effects can occur within minutes after use. They can then last for anywhere between 2-6 hours.

The paranoia and anxiety which is experienced by the user can be so intense that they then develop a panic attack. This may then result in the person experiencing physical symptoms such as a rapid heart beat, chest pain, shortness of breath and excessive sweating. These symptoms then result in more fear being experienced and the person is then stuck in a vicious cycle where the anxiety and paranoia worsens. 

These individuals may then also start experiencing visual or auditory hallucinations which can then worsen the anxiety and paranoia.

If the user starts to become a danger to themselves or to others when in this state, or if they start to develop psychotic symptoms such as; inappropriate behaviours, hallucination or delusions, then they need to present to an emergency centre as soon as possible for appropriate management.

Long-term use of marijuana 

Chronic use of marijuana can lead to long-term health issues and these may include the following problems:

  • Chronic bronchitis.
  • Impaired memory and attention.
  • Cannabis dependence syndrome.
  • Decreased alertness and executive functioning.
  • Declined IQ with persistent and heavy use of the drug from adolescent years.
  • Development of psychosis.
  • Premature delivery and/or low birth weight of a newborn baby when used during pregnancy.
  • Reduced fertility in both men and women.
  • Arteritis (inflammation and narrowing of the arteries) which may lead to amputation of peripheral limbs as well as heart attacks and strokes.

Conclusion

It's important to take note that marijuana on it's own can cause paranoia and anxiety. These emotions can become exponentially dramatic when the user is fearful of issues such as feeling that they are about to die, that they'll be caught out by their family members or that they may get into trouble with the law.

The best way to avoid these situations then is to abstain from using marijuana. Unless there's a valid medical indication for its use, then it should be avoided altogether.

Many users may find it difficult to stop using this drug, so it's suggested that they visit their family doctor suggest an appropriate rehabilitation facility for them. Here, they can join group sessions where they can relate to people with the same problem. They may also make use of psychologists to aid in cognitive-behaviour therapies (CBT) which help in changing the person's perception regarding drug use and can also help in incorporating coping skills to better deal with anxiety.

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