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What are the effects of cannabis (weed)?

Cannabis, also known as weed, pot, marijuana, grass and dope, can have what appear to be both positive and negative effects on people when they take it.

Many people enjoy a sense of deep calm and happiness and, as it changes the way you think, everything can seem more profound. Both bad and good feelings and thoughts may seem exaggerated. Other people feel confused and anxious when they take cannabis.

Getting ‘the munchies’ is a common experience and people often binge eat when stoned. Feeling sick and drowsy are also common. 

Weed affects your judgement and makes driving dangerous. It can feel as if time has been slowed down.

It is a drug that affects your memory and long term use may cause problems with learning and concentrating. It can also lead to people losing motivation to do other things.

Regular use may also be associated with psychotic illness and episodes involving hallucinations and delusions. It may cause relapse in people with schizophrenia.

Cannabis may also interfere with fertility in both men and women.

How does weed make you feel?

As with any substance, the way cannabis makes you feel varies from person to person. For some people using the drug brings positive feelings and others find it unpleasant.

Common feelings from cannabis use or being ‘stoned’ include:

  • a sense of deep relaxation
  • feeling faint or sick (especially when not used to the drug)
  • feeling sleepy
  • confusion, anxiety, paranoia or panic attacks – mostly with stronger forms of cannabis, such as skunk or sinsemilla
  • being giggly and chatty

How you feel before you start taking cannabis may affect how you feel when you take it. If you are already feeling low, weed can make you feel worse. If you feel uncomfortable or nervy, you may be more likely to feel paranoid and anxious.

The exact mix of ingredients within the batch of cannabis you’re taking has an impact on how it makes you feel, as does how much and how often you take it.

Can you be addicted to weed?

NHS advice is that research shows one in ten regular users of cannabis will form a dependency to it. The risk of dependency is highest when people start using pot in their teens or use it every day.

Heavy users are at most risk of forming an addiction to cannabis and may find they get cravings for it that are difficult to resist and experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop.

Withdrawal symptoms from cannabis may include feeling irritable, nausea, difficulty sleeping, sweating and shaking and having an upset stomach.

Even those who do not become clinically and physically reliant on the drug may form an emotional dependency to it and find life without it difficult or frightening.

Often people who take cannabis also take other drugs or drink a lot of alcohol too, which they may become dependent upon.

People who smoke cannabis with tobacco may become addicted to nicotine

What does weed do to your body?

Some of the components in cannabis are the same as those in some medications used to relieve the pain and nausea. Though, conversely, a lot of people report that cannabis makes them feel sick.

Smoking cannabis is likely to cause some of the same impacts as smoking tobacco, even where tobacco is not mixed with it. It It can damage the lungs, inflame or cause asthma or bronchitis, make people wheezy and out of breath. 

Cannabis also affects unborn children when smoked during pregnancy and may impact on brain development. When mixed with tobacco it can cause babies to be small and premature. 

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How long does cannabis stay in system?

The amount smoked as well as your own physical composition will affect how long cannabis stays in your system. Influencing factors include your size, whether you’ve eaten and what other chemicals, substances or alcohol or also in your system.

Eating cannabis means it releases more slowly into your system – it can take up to an hour to feel the effects, but the feelings often remain for longer. It may still be possible to feel the impacts four or more hours later.

When smoking weed you are likely to feel stoned within a few moments and may last for a couple of hours.

The type of testing equipment used and how much of a drug is taken affect how long it can still be detected in a person’s system. It is likely to be traceable up to three days after use in most people and maybe up to a month after use in someone who has used it regularly for a period.

What to do if you are worried about cannabis use

Whilst cannabis use is currently against the law you should not be put off seeking help if you have been a user or if someone you know is in trouble with it. 

You can seek help from a GP or contact a drugs helpline. We at Port of Call are happy to advise you on the best route forward and to signpost you to services.

Anyone who is facing any kind of addition may not be able to give up without extra help and support. 

If you are worried about someone else’s cannabis use and they are are in denial of a problem, do try to talk to them. Try to stay calm and not to be accusatory. Do focus on how their drugs use is making you feel and emphasise that you care about them and are concerned for them. You may need to try this approach numerous times before someone is ready to accept they have a problem.

About the author: Martin Preston

Martin is our Founder and Chief Executive. Martin is himself in long term recovery and started Port of Call to help families navigate treatment options. In 2020 Martin will open Delamere Health Ltd, the UK’s first purpose built addiction treatment clinic.

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