What Happens If You Smoke Marijuana?

The Short-Term Effects Can Vary Widely

Effects of Marijuana
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Question: What Happens If You Smoke Marijuana?

Answer: How marijuana affects the individual user depends on many different factors, including the user's previous experience. Believe it or not, some people report not feeling anything at all when they smoke marijuana. Most users, however, report feeling relaxed or "high."

Some people who smoke marijuana report having sudden feelings of anxiety and paranoid thoughts.

These responses are more likely to occur with use of higher potency marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Research also shows that regular use of marijuana is linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety and a loss of motivation or drive - when users lose interest in activities that they previously enjoyed.

Short-Term Discomforts of Smoking Weed

The effects of smoking marijuana can be unpredictable, especially when it is mixed with other drugs, research shows.

Some of the common discomforts found when using marijuana include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Accelerated heart rate

Short-Term Hazards

Short-term hazards of smoking marijuana include:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Lack of attention and focus
  • Poor driving skills
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty in thinking

Long-Term Hazards

Long-term hazards of marijuana use include:

  • An increased risk of developing lung, head and neck cancers
  • Lack of motivation
  • Decreased sperm count in men
  • Irregular menstruation in women
  • Respiratory problems
  • Heightened risk of infections, especially the lungs
  • Poor short-term recall
  • Inability to shift attention normally
  • Inability to understand complex information

Unpredictable Reactions

The NIDA reports that marijuana can affect each person differently according to:

  • Biology (his or her genes)
  • Marijuana's strength or potency (how much THC it has)
  • Previous experience with the drug
  • How it's taken (smoked versus ingested)
  • Whether alcohol or other drugs are involved

Again researchers say, the way that marijuana affects smokers varies greatly between users and varies according to the potency of the drug. Some people can smoke weed and never seem to have any negative reactions, while others can smoke it and have an extremely negative experience, sometimes referred to as "totally freaking out."

Not Your Grandfather's Pot

Studies have found that the marijuana available today is much different in terms of potency compared with that which was generally available in the 1960s when use of the drug first began to become widespread in the United States.

Today's strains of the plant contain much more of the active ingredient in marijuana: tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, researchers say. That makes today's weed much more potent than that smoked by the hippies and flower children of the Woodstock generation.

Edible Marijuana Products More Potent?

Also today, with the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in some areas, more edible products containing marijuana are on the market. When marijuana is ingested it is absorbed by the body more slowly and the effects can last longer and be stronger.

In states where recreational marijuana use is now legal, emergency rooms have reported an increase of cases involving negative reactions to marijuana and many of those were traced to edible marijuana products.

Has smoking marijuana become a problem for you? Take the Marijuana Screening Quiz

Back to: Marijuana FAQ for Teens


National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Marijuana." DrugFacts Updated January 2014

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Want to Know More?- Some FAQs about Marijuana." Marijuana: Facts for Teens Updated October 2013

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Marijuana." Research Report Series Updated July 2012

The Partnership at DrugFree.org. "Marijuana." Drug Guide. Accessed April 2014.

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