Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana has become legal in many states in the past several years. The increase of marijuana use among adults and teens has increased as well in the past several years. Further, many states still deem marijuana use illegal. Overall, marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance in the United States.

Components of Marijuana

The effects of marijuana are both physical and psychoactive, or mind-altering.

The main psychoactive component of marijuana is 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When cannabis is smoked, the THC is absorbed through the linings of the lungs and into the bloodstream, after which it crosses the blood-brain barrier. The absorption of THC into the brain stimulates the area of the brain that controls pleasure. The brain then releases dopamine, which causes happiness. The effects of THC vary greatly depending on the make-up of a person’s body, health, and genetics. Further, the potency of the strain of marijuana being used can determine the particular effects.

Another component of marijuana is cannabidiol (CBD). The CBD compound is a component of marijuana that is non-psychoactive. CBD counteracts the effects of THC and can decrease the level of paranoia or anxiety that an individual is feeling. CBD has been shown to have many beneficial uses in the treatment of psychological and chronic diseases. CBD has been used to diminish symptoms of epilepsy as well as decrease the side effects of chemotherapy.

Common effects of marijuana include:

  • A greater sense of well-being
  • Increased relaxation
  • Changes in the sense of time
  • Increase in anxiety, panic, fear
  • Hallucinations


Benefits of Marijuana Use

Research has shown that there are benefits of marijuana use including pain relief for individuals suffering with chronic illnesses such as cancer. The use of marijuana also increases the appetite of individuals receiving chemotherapy and other treatments for cancer and chronic diseases that decrease appetite and have side-effects such as nausea. Further, marijuana has shown benefits for individuals suffering with depression, anxiety, and panic disorders.


Harm that Marijuana Use May Cause

There is some evidence documented in research that marijuana may negatively affect learning, attention, and memory for up to 24 hours after being used. Chronic long-term use of marijuana has been shown to cause several negative effects. These negative effects will not be experienced by everyone that uses marijuana long-term, but do occur to people with genetic risk factors. Negative effects that one may experience due to chronic long-term marijuana use include:

  • Acute Psychosis or Chronic Psychosis
  • Anxiety
  • Depersonalization or Derealization
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depressive Disorders
  • Symptoms of Mania
  • Suicidal Ideation and/or Suicidal Behaviors

It should be noted that marijuana itself does not directly cause these disorders or negative side-effects. Environmental and genetic factors predispose certain individuals to develop these symptoms and/or disorders.

Steffanie Kelshaw, LPC, CSAC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor at Mount Vernon Center. If you have further questions regarding how marijuana use may affect you or your loved ones psychologically, please contact the Mount Vernon Center via