The Straight Dope About Smoking Weed

The Straight Dope About Smoking Weed

Smoking weed isn’t exactly news. Users inhale smoke produced by burning dried marijuana leaves or “buds”, thus releasing marijuana’s primary psychoactive compounds THC. THC is quickly absorbed by the lungs and discharged into the bloodstream. Smoking weed is the fastest way users experience physiological changes caused by marijuana compounds.

  • Dried marijuana leaves are crushed and rolled into cigarette like cylinders often called “joints”. Most users apply the same kind of rolling papers used to roll tobacco cigarettes.

Marijuana can also be packed into small “bowls” found on handheld pipes and smoked. Bongs are larger devices that use water vapor to to allow users to inhale pot smoke more deeply without experiencing a burning throat or coughing.

Within a few minutes of taking one or two “hits” on a joint, blunt, bong or pipe, the majority of pot users report;

  • Feeling relaxed, talkative, light-headed and slightly euphoric
  • Feeling anxious or “paranoid”, i.e., people high on pot may think law enforcement is outside waiting to arrest them or robbers are already inside their home
  • A pleasant sensation of time distortion, usually involving hours passing by quickly without the user realizing how much time has actually passed
  • Heightened sensory awareness–music sounds unusually and intensely interesting, colors seem more vivid and may even appear “animated”
  • Inability to concentrate on tasks, especially tasks that require attention to detail or quick reflexes
  • Psychoactive effects can last up to three or four hours, depending the amount of THC contained in the marijuana smoked.

Side Effects of Smoking Weed

  • Heart and respiratory rates increase as THC enters the bloodstream
  • Expansion and inflammation of blood vessels in the eyes produces “red eyes”
  • Depressed motor skills lead to uncoordinated, clumsy movements
  • Dry mouth caused by inhibition of salivary receptors adjacent to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors

Potential Consequences


Long-term marijuana use is associated with increased incidences of lung, esophageal, bladder and testicle cancer.

Chronic and Acute Bronchitis

Marijuana smoke causes airway damage that can lead to chronic and/or acute bronchitis, decreased lung defenses against diseases and lung inflammation

Reduced Brain Volume

Research has shown repeatedly that daily pot smokers have smaller orbitofrontal cortexes than those who are not long-term marijuana users. The OFC is not only associated with addiction but also brain signaling and connectivity.

Male Infertility

Men who are daily marijuana smokers have been shown to have low sperm counts and “incapacitated” sperm that are not healthy enough to induce fertilization.

Suppression of the Immune System

Chemicals found in marijuana exert immunosuppressant properties on the user’s body that degenerate the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease.

Permanent Memory Damage

According to a study released in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Over a 25 year span, researchers studied the pot practices of 3,400 Americans. The more weed they smoked, the worse they performed on memory tests. This is a polite way of saying that pot can cause brain damage, especially in teenagers and young adults who’s brains are not fully developed.

Harmful to the Lungs

According to reports from the American Lung Association, many of the same irritants, toxins and carcinogens found in tobacco are present in the smoke created by marijuana combustion. While pot smoke damages the cell lining of the lungs, which can lead to chronic bronchitis, it can also effect the immune system, making it harder for a person’s body to fight off infection and other diseases.

Diminished Productivity

In one study, postal workers that tested positive for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in weed, were 55 percent more likely to get in an accident, 85 percent more likely to suffer an on the job injury and missed 75 percent more work than employees with no THC in their system. This might be why your neighbor is constantly getting your mail.

Addiction – Not a Myth

Weed smokers develop a tolerance to the drug and must use more and more to achieve the same or similar “highs” that they did in the early days of their consumption. Furthermore, heavy-users can develop marijuana withdrawal syndrome after stopping. The condition is difficult enough that many pot smokers go back to the drug to alleviate the symptoms.

This is information that the public doesn’t normally hear from the big green marijuana publicity machine. The best course of action to reduce any negative effects from smoking weed is to abstain. If that’s not an option, remember to proceed with caution and practice moderation in all things. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to seek help or treatment if marijuana has begun to cause problems in your life or the life of a friend or a loved one. 

Recent Events

Despite your own personal stance on whether or not marijuana should be legalized – Ohioans, for instance, just voted no around the same time that Alaskans were legally lighting up – there’s a lot of conflicting information surrounding the issue of smoking weed. Most healthcare experts concede that it isn’t as dangerous as, say, heroin or crystal meth. But contrary to what the pro-pot lobby would have people believe, it’s not necessarily harmless either.

Certain species of marijuana plants Indica and Sativa contain higher levels of THC and cannabidiol (CBD) than other marijuana plant strains. In addition, pot plants can be genetically manipulated by professional pot cultivators to smell, taste and have different coloring than the traditional, greenish-yellow marijuana plant.

Since 1965, writes U.S. News and World Report, law enforcement has made an estimated 22 million arrests for weed infractions. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began a marijuana eradication program in 1977 that continues to this day. Every effort at “stemming” – pun intended – the tied of pot has failed. A Gallup poll reveals that 44 percent of Americans admit to smoking weed in 2015 compared to 24 percent in the ’70s.

  • Marijuana “brownies” are also consumed for the purpose of getting high as well.