The typical high associated with smoking marijuana lasts about two hours. However, ingesting marijuana orally can prompt a high that lasts considerably longer, possibly up to 6 hours. Either way, motor impairments may persist for some time after the initial effects have waned. These include altered time perceptions, impaired hand-eye coordination, and memory lapses.
The effects of smoking marijuana are usually apparent within a few minutes following the first use and peak after about 30 minutes. Most marijuana effects will wane within five hours after the last use, but particularly potent strains may produce effects for up to one day.
The duration of a high depends on several factors, including a person’s level of tolerance. For example, an individual who uses marijuana daily will not experience a high for as long as a person who uses it infrequently.
Marijuana High Effects
Many effects can manifest during a high, which vary in intensity and character. Among the most typical effects of marijuana use is an increase in sensations and perceptual clarity. Visual perception can be altered, colors may appear more vivid, and patterns are more easily distinguishable.
Other potential effects of a marijuana high include the following:
- Increased appetite (the “munchies”)
- Altered time and pain perception
- Intensified sense of hearing, taste, and smell
- Higher sensitivity to heat, cold, and pressure
- Objects appear more well-defined
How Does Marijuana Work in the Brain?
The active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive element responsible for marijuana’s effects. THC accomplishes this by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system. Once there, it interferes with chemicals associated with cognition, motor skills, and other psychological and physiological processes.
Specific brain regions, including the hippocampus, the cerebral cortex, and the cerebellum, have higher levels of cannabinoid receptors. When an individual uses marijuana, the following functions may be impacted:
- Feelings of pleasure
- Sensory processing
- Time perception
Additionally, a person high on marijuana may become much more aware of normal, automatic movements and motor control processes. However, this drug’s effects on a person’s mental state vary between individuals and depend on the strain. In general, emotions may be dulled or intensified, prompting the user to act inappropriately or oddly in otherwise everyday situations.
Marijuana effects depend upon several factors related to the route of administration and the drug’s quality. For example, if marijuana is ingested orally, the effects will be more moderate but may last for several hours. Also, a first-time user may not feel the same effects as a long-term user.
Mental effects of THC may include the following:
- Mood changes
- Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
- Impaired coordination and motor skills
- Impaired memory
High dose THC strains may also produce hallucinations and delusions, which are symptoms of psychosis. In fact, chronic marijuana use has been linked to odd mental states in some users, with effects such as hallucinations, paranoia, and an exacerbation of symptoms in those with schizophrenia.
Furthermore, marijuana use has been associated with mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Whether use itself is the catalyst for these problems or merely worsens them is not clear.
Acute (short-term) physical effects of marijuana use include increased heart rate and either elevated or lowered blood pressure. These symptoms transpire because, within a few minutes after marijuana is inhaled, a person’s heart rate accelerates, and breathing passages become loose and enlarged. Heart rate may increase by 20-50 beats each minute or more. Additionally, ocular blood vessels dilate, making them appear red and irritated.
The main body effects of marijuana include the following:
- Dizziness or a head rush
- Increased heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
- Slower digestion
Chronic effects include problems related to the cardiovascular system. For instance, marijuana elevates the heart rate for an average of 72 minutes after smoking. This effect heightens the risk of a heart attack. Older persons and those with heart-related problems may be at a higher risk for this to occur.
Other issues related to chronic marijuana use may include the following:
Breathing Difficulties – Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and individuals who use the drug in this way repeatedly long-term can have similar breathing issues as those who smoke tobacco products. These problems may include persistent cough, phlegm, more frequent lung illnesses, and an increased risk of lung infections.
Severe Nausea and Vomiting – Although uncommon, marijuana can cause a disorder called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. This condition is hallmarked by regular cycles of severe nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. If severe enough, this condition may need emergency medical intervention.
Factors That Influence Effects
One significant factor that influences the effects of marijuana is the particular strain being used. Some strains impact the brain and body more than others. Still, the way cannabis affects an individual will largely depend on personal factors, both physiological and psychological, including the following:
- Height and weight
- Overall health status
- Amount of THC in the dose
- Level of tolerance
- Presence of other substances
- Route of administration
- Individual expectations
- Past marijuana use
Duration in the Body
THC enters the bloodstream somewhat rapidly after marijuana is smoked. If marijuana is ingested orally, it takes longer to be absorbed into the blood—typically anywhere from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours.
Once in the blood, THC is broken down into molecules known as metabolites. The majority of THC (65 percent) is passed through feces, while over 30 percent leaves the body excreted in the urine. THC in urine can be found up to 72 hours after the last dose of marijuana.
Long-term use, however, can be identified weeks or months after last use. As with other drugs, marijuana can be detected in hair follicles for a minimum of 90 days.
When ingested, some of its byproducts are stored in the fat tissues. This is why it use can be identified for more prolonged periods in long-term, regular users. Rather than being highly water-soluble, these byproducts remain in fat cells and are gradually released over time.
Signs of a Problem
As opposed to those who don’t use marijuana, those who frequently smoke weed or use marijuana in excessive amounts report the following:
- Lower life satisfaction
- More relationship issues
- Poorer mental and physical health
People also report less academic and career success. For example, marijuana use has been linked to a higher likelihood of dropping out of school. It’s also been associated with more job absenteeism, accidents, and injuries.
Signs of Marijuana Abuse
Many people who use marijuana for a prolonged period and attempt to stop entirely report withdrawal symptoms that dissuade them from maintaining abstinence. These symptoms include the following:
- Drug cravings
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances
Addiction occurs when an individual can no longer control or stop using marijuana. Indeed, it’s estimated that nearly one-third of regular users are at least psychologically addicted.
Treatment for Marijuana Abuse
Marijuana abuse, dependence, and addiction are not considered as severe as many other substance addictions. That said, it use has the potential to be damaging to one’s health and well-being. It can also cause other life problems, such as damaged relationships and challenges with school or work.
Just Believe Recovery offers comprehensive, personalized treatment programs that include various therapies, services, and activities vital for recovery, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, 12-step group support, substance abuse education, art and music therapy, aftercare planning, and more!