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With national marijuana legalization seeming like it's only a matter of time, more and more people are engaging in the occasional puff. And whether you smoke pot or eat it à la brownie...or cookie...or lollipop...(seriously, has the job "marijuana sous chef" been created yet?), the chemicals you inhale or ingest can mess with your body in really bizarre ways.
We don't need to sit here and tell you that weed gets you high and makes you do dumb things like eat an entire stack of Oreos in 15 minutes. (Not that we would know...) But the herbal remedy—which has been recommended to appease some ailments like chemotherapy aftereffects—can have some serious effects that you might not even be aware of.
Here, Stefan Kertesz, M.D., associate professor in the division of preventive medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham; and Francesca Filbey, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Texas, Dallas, explain how your body functions when it's under the influence.
If you can talk coherently to your mother on the phone, do the New York Times Sunday crossword, and clean your entire apartment while high, you're an anomaly. For most people, smoking or ingesting weed can turn you into a straight-up zombie. Blame it on the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) causing a ruckus in your brain's orbital frontal cortex.
Thank you, obvious science. When you consume marijuana, the cannabinoids interfere with the appetite-suppressing receptors, which tell you when you're full. Instead of telling you to stop eating, your pleasure hormones (endorphins) trick you into eating more. We feel bloated just thinking about this.
The hippocampus—hilarious word, key component for memory—gets cloudy when THC infects it. Good luck trying to remember...anything.
You're literally burning your airways. Simply put, the chemicals within marijuana—and other air pollutants like cigarette smoke—annoy your lungs, which cause you to cough like, well, a smoker (you know, that deep, hacking cough that feels like an earthquake). The difference between smoking weed versus tobacco, is that people tend to not physically smoke as much weed as tobacco, says Kertesz, so they don't reap as many potential harmful side effects. (Another explanation might be because pot has some anti-inflammatory properties.)
In case you're one of those people who are always sick, a study from 2006 found that marijuana decreases immune cell activity and suppresses your inflammatory responses, which can boost your susceptibility to viruses and infections. Um, no.
And that's not even the worst part. A literature review in the Journal of the Tennessee Dental Association suggests that weed can inflame your gums—potentially loosening your teeth (OMG, nooooooo).
While researchers are still unclear as to how marijuana affects brain development later in life, if you habitually lit up during your adolescence (we're looking at all you Green Day, punk rockers), certain structures in you noggin shrink, which affects how your brain communicates with the rest of your body, says Filbey. One study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that marijuana users' IQs were five points lower than non-smokers. So, about those SAT scores....
You should also check out:
The Scientific Reason Pot Gives You the Munchies (opens in new tab)
A New Study Finds That Marijuana May Help Treat Depression (opens in new tab)
When I'm not stalking future-but-never-going-to-happen husbands on Facebook, you can catch me eating at one of NYC's B-rated or below dining establishments—A-rated restaurants are for basics. Fun fact: Bloody Marys got me into eating celery on the regular. And for your safety, please do not disturb before 10 a.m. or coffee, whichever comes first.
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