by Andrew K. Arnett

There is no doubt that marijuana is a magical herb, but much about it remains a mystery. A hit off a bong could send one on a relaxing euphoric trip. And, in a different setting, smoking a doobie could leave you agitated, confused or even paranoid.

The effects of Cannabis sativa are hard to predict. What we have determined, for sure, is that marijuana can have a wide spectrum of effects upon users. These effects can even be contradictory, such as inducing deep relaxation as well as increasing anxiety. This comes from a number of factors.

For starters, there is the potency of the weed to consider. How one feels after a pull from a joint may differ greatly from dabbing butane honey oil. Let us not forget that pot itself has changed, over the course of time.

Back in the sixties, pot contained on average 1 percent THC. By the nineties, it went up to 4 percent. Nowadays, it’s around 13 percent. When you dab, you’re smoking a concentrate which contains up to 90 percent THC. This variance in potency creates a challenge to determining short and long term effects upon users. Other factors influencing impact include user temperament, set and setting, and frequency of use, to name a few.

Psychological Effects

The effects of marijuana may include euphoria, altered perception of time, heightened sensory awareness, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and trouble concentrating, among others.

There are over 400 active chemical compounds found in marijuana. Two of the more prevalent ones are Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (“Delta-9-THC”) and cannabidiol (CBD). Scientists have found significant differences between THC and CBD, which may explain why pot can be unpredictable.

THC in the brain releases the “feel good” chemical dopamine into your body, but it can also have a paradoxical effect. Studying reaction times to usual vs. oddball stimuli, researchers found THC can trigger more psychotic symptoms, including paranoia, hallucinations and agitation. Conversely, CBD has the opposite effect in displaying antipsychotic properties that help counteract a potentially negative experience.

In a different study, research has shown that marijuana can effect sleep and dream cycles. Pot smokers sometimes have trouble recalling their dreams, and there may be a reason for this.

Using cannabis before bed can reduce frequency and density of rapid eye movement (REM) during the sleep cycle, which has been linked to a more restful sleep, but less dreaming. Typically, when regular users quit using, they often experience disturbances in sleep patterns including an increase in REM sleep.

There are studies which indicate a link between pot use and memory impairment, however, the relationship between cannabis use and working memory (WM) neural circuitry is unclear. Further studies are needed.

Can marijuana effect creativity? Research has shown there may be a link between marijuana and creativity, through its display of psychotomimetic symptoms, which leads to connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, a factor in creativity. These and other studies are still in a nascent stage, and further research could yield valuable insights into the effects of cannabis upon the mind.

Physical Effects

If smoked, pot can can cause coughing, wheezing and increased phlegm production. Marijuana can have an effect on the circulatory system by increasing your heart rate by up to 50 beats per minute. This may raise the risk of heart attack in those with heart disease. Expanded blood vessels are also the reason why stoners’ eyes become red.

Marijuana can also impact the digestive system by easing symptoms of nausea and vomiting. In addition, it can increase ones appetite and in this way may benefit those suffering from AIDS and cancer.

Smoking cannabis may result in exposure to carcinogens like smoke and butane. However, unlike tobacco, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), no conclusive evidence shows that pot actually causes lung cancer. Another study from 2007-2010 shows overall lung function may not be impaired, even over a period of years of daily use. Still, more research is needed in this field.

Medicinal Effects

A recent study has shown that marijuana can help fight diabetes by decreasing insulin resistance, and improving blood sugar levels. This corroborates previous findings which link marijuana use to lower prevalence rates of diabetes and obesity, despite smokers’ penchant for the munchies.

In addition to diabetes, marijuana has been found to alleviate or assist those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, AIDS/HIV, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and cancer.

Despite its potential to heal, marijuana research is greatly hampered by the U.S. government because it is classified as a Schedule I drug, placing it in the same company as heroin and methamphetamine. This designation should be reconsidered, on its medicinal potentials alone.

This story by Andrew Arnett was originally published in 2015 @ Sativa Magazine.


Marijuana, REM Sleep, and Dreams