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Marijuana Effect on the Human Body Essay Sample

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Marijuana Effect on the Human Body Essay Sample


According to an ancient Chinese book, marijuana dates back to 5,000 years. It is a psychoactive drug found and used worldwide under different names and purposes. The National Institute of Health carried out studies on the drug and it has been shown marijuana is dangerous to the human body. In the United States the drug is controlled since it produces dependence and addiction to the users (Straiker, 1999). Similarly it has been medically proven to alter euphoria and consciousness. On the contrary there are various medicinal properties of the drug, which include muscle relaxant, antiflammatory, anticonvulsant, appetite stimulant and many more.

This medicinal uses of the drug have led to a number of debates with many people showing doubt regarding the effectiveness of marijuana as a treatment of some of the diseases. These researchers argue that despite the fact that marijuana can give a short term relief to particular ailments; the resultant effects counter this advantage. Moreover marijuana leads to dependency in order for the effects of the disease to be kept at sustainable levels (University of South Florida Health Sciences Center 2002). Apart from this drawback there continues to be more research on marijuana and how effectively it can be used for the treatment of various diseases. There has been some notable relief on some cancer cases and AIDS patients. These patients that suffer from chemotherapy related illnesses such as nausea, depression, and the loss of weight have been noted to receive some relief after being administered with the treatment.

There are more than 426 chemical entities in marijuana. These chemicals include cannabinol (CBN), tetrahydocannabinol (THC), and cannabinol (CBD). Studies show marijuana cannabinoids to be immunomodulators thus able to either decrease or increase the function of the immune system. Cannabinoids are considered to modulate the functioning of the macrophages, NK cells as well as T and B lymphocytes. It is for this reason that cannainoids are said to aid the enhancement of contacting a disease. This susceptibility to infectious diseases has been reported among the teenagers that use the drug.

Nevertheless THC, a main psychoactive element in marijuana extracts produces multiple effects on the user such as impaired perception, moods, memory and cognition. The same component suppresses the immune system of the host more so a reduction in resistance to viral, protozoan and bacterial infection. The primary targets of the THC are the T lymphocytes, natural killer cells and the macrophages (Ashton and Darlington, 2008). Reports on animals being experimented on, show that indeed THC varies resistance to diseases. Similar effects are hypothesized to occur among humans. THC which is highly soluble alters the function of the cell membrane, thus distorting the immune cell. This distortion will in the end negatively affect a user’s immune function.

Short Term Effects

Both the long term and the short term effects of marijuana on the user are a danger to his or her health. The major chemical in the drug, tetrahydrocannibol (THC) is responsible for the elation that the drug users experience immediately after using it (University of South Florida Health Sciences Center 2002). The chemical is absorbed in the bloodstream, resulting to an increased heart rate, enlargement of the blood vessels in the eyes and the bronchial passages. However, when the drug is digested the effects are not immediate but show after an hour or so. On entering the brain, THC causes the released of endorphins responsible for the high feeling that is a craving for the users of the drug. On the other hand the release of dopamine creates pleasurable sensations like a perceived slowing down of time, creative and intense color and sounds. After the euphoria has receded, what follows is depression and sleepiness. There are users who feel anxious, fearful and panic as the euphoria slows down.

Effects on Body Organs

Marijuana has various effects on a number of body organs. This includes the brain, heart, and the lungs. The effects of smoking marijuana on the heart come immediately after smoking. There is a rapid increase in the heart beat with a subsequent drop in the blood pressure (Hashibe and Cui, 2006). The increase, which can be enhanced by the use of other drugs, is about 20 to 50 increase in beats per minute. This combination of a high heart rate and low blood pressure exposes the user to the risk of a heart attack. This is especially so within the first hour of using the drug.

Researchers believe smoking marijuana has more health risks compared to tobacco smoking. However both have similar health risks concerning the respiratory system. For instance both marijuana and tobacco smoking cause severe coughing on a daily basis, the production of phlegm and obstructed airways. There is a tendency to have chest illnesses and infections of the lungs (University of South Florida Health Sciences Center 2002). Nevertheless, since the concentration of carcinogenic hydrocarbons in marijuana is more compared to the cigarettes, the users of the former substance are prone to more exposure to the carcinogenic elements much longer. The risk is even more as the marijuana users tend to inhale deeply thus the smoke stays longer in the lungs compared to tobacco smokers. Similarly marijuana smokers are more susceptible to develop cancer of the neck and head.

Delta 9- tetrahydrocannabinol a major ingredient in marijuana influence the activity the nerve cells by acting on the cannabinoid receptors. There are areas in the brain that have a lot of these receptors while other areas have less. The areas in the brain responsible for the feelings of pleasure, time perception, concentration, memory, coordinated movement and thought tend to have a higher concentration of the cannabinoid receptors. It is for this reason that the users of marijuana have a deficit in these areas. Severe cases are reported when the drug is used in excess. In this case the user shows symptoms of hallucinations, impaired memory, delusion and disorientation.

Effects on the Immune System

The effect of marijuana on the immune system continues to be a hot debate among researchers. At the present the researchers are concentrating on animals and the consequent results indicate that marijuana causes some alteration in the immune system. The psychoactive compounds in marijuana referred to as cannabinoids are primary in the suppression of the functioning of the immune system and inflammation. This means that marijuana may be beneficial to an individual with an inflammatory disease as opposed to someone who suffers from an infectitious disease like HIV.

The effectiveness of the research can only be useful if the results’ coming from the use of the animal specimen holds true to human beings. This will in effect lead to the further research and the development of more effective drugs to cure some of the diseases. If for instance the cannabinoids found in marijuana prove to be valuable immune suppressors then the component can be the best response to inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

All animals require lymphocytes in order to effectively fight diseases. This substance is responsible to ensure the animal develops resistance to infections. The most important lymphocytes found inside all animals are the B lymphocytes (B cells) and the T lymphocytes (T cells). Both the cells are a product of the bone marrow of the animals. The T cells, which flow in the blood, mature and are stored in the animal’s thymus. The cells have the responsibility the shield the body from an infection of the viruses.  On the contrary the B cells mature and are stored in the spleen (Ashton and Darlington, 2008). These cells just like the T cells are a component of the blood and circulate inside the body. An additional responsibility of the B cells is the secretion of antibodies to attack and destroy a foreign substance in the body. In this way the antigen or foreign substance is engulfed and destroyed thus preventing infection. THC together with other cannabinoids holds back the proliferation of the T cells; instead boost the proliferation of the B cells.

According to studies on mice done by several researchers, there are no changes in both B cell and T cells. This had followed an acute or continual exposure of the immune parameters on THC. The acute and chronic exposure lasted for one hour and 1-2 weeks respectively (University of South Florida Health Sciences Center 2002). However, on the 14th day, the T lymphocytes increased by 20 whereas the B lymphocytes recorded an increase by 26. Similarly an exposure to THC has had a significant decline in herpes viruses’ immunity that is depended on the T lymphocyte. The experiment indicated THC had the effect of reducing the resistance to infection. This was specific to the drug being drawn in and gave the impression of the connection to a cannabinoid receptor. It is now evident that THC has a direct effect on the way the T lymphocytes functions. The T cells, after they have matured can differentiate such that they lyses and destroy body elements that are likely to be harmful. In addition close examinations from a number of studies have come up with the conclusion that THC is responsible for the suppression of the CTL lytic process.

Apart from the lymphocytes there are the macrophages whose essential role is to defend the invasion of the microbes in the body. This role the macrophages are able to achieve through the two functions of antigen presentation and phagocytosis. The macrophages after phagocytosis would present the antigen for examination to the T helper cells (Straiker, 1999). The observation by researchers noted that the THC suppressed the presentation of antigens. The macrophages also have the responsibility to restrict virus replication both inside the macrophage and the viral-permissive cells. According to studies an attempt to have a macrophage pretreatment with THC led to a condition whereby their ability for virus replication was inhibited such that it was dependant on a particular dose (Ashton and Darlington, 2008). In addition a deadly pathogen, pneumophilia has been shown to flourish in a THC environment. This pathogen has the negative effect to curtail the amoebicidal activity of the macrophage. For instance the exposure of THC resulted to the macrophage inability to overcome the activities of amoebae that can cause deadly diseases to humans.

Lung immunity is guaranteed by the presence of the alveolar macrophages which are located within the alveolus. This location is disadvantageous as it makes them exposed to the full blown effect of the drugs. The alveolar macrophages are vital not only because they defend the lungs from fungi and bacterial infection but also because their cytokines secretion regulates both their activity and that of other cells that effect the immune system. Studies carried out on habitual users of marijuana found out that the drug considerably impairs activities of the alveolar macrophage (tumoricidal and antibacterial) and also compromised their ability for the production of inflammatory cytokines.

There are other studies that have demonstrated similar findings that indeed smoke from marijuana and THC have the effect of reduction of antibacterial activity of the alveolar macrophages. In their observations the researchers were able to note significant deficiencies in the functions of the alveolar macrophages. Marijuana smokers face the problem in the secretion of inflammatory cytokines whereas they still have the ability to emit inhibitory cytokine. This in turn has important implication on how the drug affects the pulmonary defenses.

The other important defense against microbes and tumors is the natural killer (NK) cells. These cells can be stimulated such that they become more powerful killer cells. The activity of natural killer cells can be suppressed by the concentration of THC above 10 um (Hashibe and Cui 2006). According to studies the treatment of THC was responsible for the suppression of the activity of IL-2 through the disruption the cell IL-2 receptor system. However, chronic exposure of the mice to THC, IL-2 showed similarity only for the short term treatment whereby there were sturdy reductions.

There continues to be more studies on marijuana and how it affects the human immune system. So far the studies have been centered on animals and a relation being drawn to human beings. Nevertheless there have been some human based reports that still need to be scrutinized and be subjected to further research. On the other hand there are arguments in favor of marijuana boosting the immune system. These arguments have not been effectively substantiated and tend to be ignored by practitioners.

Marijuana as medicine

Whether or nor marijuana has a medicinal value has continued to elicit various opinions from a number of persons and individual researchers. Nevertheless despite the negative effects of the drug on the human body there are some notable benefits. These benefits according to some researchers have side effects that annihilate any thought of the drug being useful to humans (Straiker, 1999). The major component in the drug THC has been useful for the treatment of a number of medical conditions. This conditions which have got a wide interest and attention in the United States include nausea induced by chemotherapy, glaucoma, neuropathic pain, AIDS wasting and multiple sclerosis.

According to a number of researchers the confirmed medicinal uses of the drug include weight loss, easing vomiting, nausea and anorexia. There are also some other confirmed uses which include the treatment of asthma, painful conditions, glaucoma and movement disorders (Doblin and Kleiman, 1995). There are some effects which have been reported but have not been effectively confirmed include the treatment of epilepsy, allergies, depression, inflammation, bipolar and anxiety disorders. This is however still more research being carried out on other diseases such as cancer, fever, blood pressure and neuroprotection.

Nevertheless, there have been some clinical trials on some American organizations that have been able to prove that indeed cannabis can be a useful to aid in the treatment of AIDS and cancer patients. These patients who experience nausea, depression and the loss of weight coming as a result of chemotherapy are given some relief.

Medical marijuana has also been noted to be useful in the treatment of glaucoma. This condition whereby the eyeball experiences an increased pressure leading to the patient losing sight gradually can be effectively treated by marijuana as it reduces the pressure from within. There has been much debate on this treatment but the data on some of the patients show the effects were not long-lived (Doblin and Kleiman, 1995). There was need for the doses to be more frequent in order for the condition to be sustained. This fact has threatened to lead to toxicity within the system. Similarly the concerns raised on this treatment ifs that it can result to the decrease of the flow of blood to optic nerve. For this reason marijuana has been proven to be a less effective therapeutic for the treatment of glaucoma. However, it has been a useful means for the researchers and medical personnel to continue with research in order to come up with a more effective drug.


The debate about the medicinal value of marijuana continues to be a subject of interest to many researchers and patients of various chronic diseases. Already in some hospitals the drug is being used to treat some of the aftermath of chemotherapy among cancer patients. These include depression, vomiting and nausea etc. Despite this, there are concerns about the effects of marijuana on the human bodies. The components of the drug are said to affect negatively some of the body organs. Because of the deep inhalation of the marijuana smokers, the effect of the smoke to the lungs has been perceived to be more potent compared to tobacco smokers. The smoke, apart from affecting the lungs, also affects on the brain cells, and the heart. The users exhibit similar effects to the tobacco smokers such as severe coughing, obstructed airways and the production of phlegm.

Apart from the negative effect that the smoke has to the body organs; the marijuana smokers inhibit the proper functioning of their immune system. According to the experiment carried out on a number of animals and indeed marijuana smokers, THC affects the defenses of the host to protozoan, viral and bacterial infection. This defect comes as a result of the cannabiniod immunosuppressive action on how the macrophages function. This further explains the fact that the marijuana smokers that are HIV-positive rapidly develop the symptoms of AIDS compared to the non marijuana smokers.

THC increases proliferation of B lymphocytes and the suppression of the proliferation of the T lymphocytes. The studies carried out on mice demonstrated both an increase in the levels of B lymphocytes and the T lymphocytes. Primarily THC has an effect in the way the T lymphocytes functions. It also suppresses the lysing of the Cytotoxic T lymphocytes inside the cells that have been affected. In addition THC impairs the functions of the macrophages through suppression of their action against viruses and bacteria.

When the macrophages were treated with THC the end results was the inability to prevention of virus replication. This could only be remedied only if the macrophages become dependent on a particular dose. Similarly marijuana smokers have an impaired tumoricidal and antibacterial activities centered on the alveolar macrophages. The effect of marijuana on this organ is more pronounced which includes inhibition of tumor and bacterial killing, phagocytosis suppression, and a reduced ability in the production of inflammatory cytokines.


Ashton J, Smith P & Darlington C (2008). The effect of Delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol on the extinction of an adverse associative memory. Pharmacology 81(1): 18-20

Doblin, R & Kleiman, M (1995). The medical use of marijuana: The case for clinical trials. Journal of Addictive Diseases 14(1) 1995: 5-13. 

Hashibe M, Morgenstern H & Cui Y, (2006).Marijuana use and the risk of lung and upper aero digestive tract cancers: Results of a population-based case-control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 15(10):1829–1834,

Straiker A (1999).Cannabinoid CB1 Receptors and Ligands in Vertebrate Retina: Localization and Function of an Endogenous Signaling System. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 96(25):14565-70

University of South Florida Health Sciences Center (2002). Smoking Pot Alters More Than Mood — Human Immune System Affected, USF/UCLA Study Finds. Science Daily. Retrieved May 20, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2002/08/020828062229.htm

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