Pot may not seem as bad for you as booze and cigarettes, but it isn’t risk-free. And while smoking every other weekend might be a nice way to take the edge off, the more you toke, the greater the risk of complications. Marina Goldman, an addiction expert from the University of Pennsylvania’s Treatment Research Center, shares five potential side effects.
Slow reaction time. “Visual perception and motor speed may be impaired not only while you smoke, but for up to 28 days afterward,” says Goldman. “So if you’re driving and a car starts to come toward you, your reaction time to both perceive what’s happening and then to react appropriately may be slowed.”
Effects on memory. When ingested, marijuana binds to receptors in the brain meant for the body’s naturally occurring feel-good chemicals. “There are a large number of these receptors in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory, and during and after smoking, memory may be affected,” says Goldman. “How long the memory impairment lasts is still unknown, but studies have shown the effects can last at least as long as a few weeks after smoking.”
Numerous cancers. In addition to lung cancer, marijuana puts you at increased risk for cancers of the head and neck, and it’s been linked to breast cancer in mice, Goldman says.
Heart damage. “Smoking marijuana can actually change your blood pressure,” says Goldman. “In those who have pre-existing heart disease, it’s been shown to increase the risk of arrhythmias and heart attack, and it ups the chance of heart attack immediately post-administration by four times.”
Addiction. “People may have a predisposition to becoming addicted to marijuana, just like people have a predisposition to becoming addicted to cigarettes or alcohol,” says Goldman. “On average, about nine percent of pot smokers become addicted, while 30 percent of people become addicted to cigarettes and 15 percent to alcohol.”