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Experts Explain What Happens In Your Body If You Smoke Weed Daily, Weekly, Or Monthly

It’s not as cut & dry as you learned in D.A.R.E.

Sometimes picking up a joint can seem like the best way to wind down (particularly if you live in a place where it’s legal) — but you might be wondering what cannabis does to your body over time. It’s a complex plant, and its impact on your health is still being studied, with decades of legal restrictions slowly lifting.

Pot has been found to have more health benefits over the last few years, like alleviating chronic pain and helping insomnia. But depending on how often you smoke, there could be risks, too.

“Work from my lab and others does suggest that frequency of use correlates positively with cannabis-related problems,” Mitchell Earleywine Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Albany, tells Bustle. “But the effect isn’t particularly big.” Your experience will be pretty different if you’re an occasional weed-brownie-haver as opposed to a several-times-a-day vaper.

Whether you identify as an occasional or daily user, a bong ripper, or gummy-snacker, here’s what’s happening in your body when you use weed.

Occasional Use

Scientists are still trying to figure out how many of weed’s effects are temporary, what’s long-term, and how much dosage is required. (And then there’s the fact that men react differently to women when it comes to cannabinoids, which is often not used as a factor in studies.) “Occasional use by adults is generally safe, particularly for those who use the vaporizer,” Earleywine says.

One way a smoking session every few months may hurt your body is in immune response. There is evidence cannabinoids interferes in our resistance to infection. One study in Journal of Cannabis Research in 2020 found that heavy cannabis use — defined as seven or more hits in the past 30 days — tended to increase white blood cells, which indicates that the immune system is under strain, but it’s not clear if occasional use will have the same effects.

A single hit will significantly impair your balance, your reaction time, and your ability to form new memories, but these effects will wear off as your high does. “The impairment from cannabis relates to impaired ability to deal with unexpected events, like avoiding a car that comes out of nowhere,” Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tells Bustle. And 2015 study in Schizophrenia Bulletin has found that just one hit can cause paranoia in some people, which you probably knew.

Monthly Use

Determining whether risks increase with use when it comes to cannabis is a bit tricky. “Monthly use has no meaningful impact,” Jonathan Caukins Ph.D., professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College and an expert on cannabis legalization, tells Bustle.

Having a monthly smoke may to be linked to temporary harm to cognitive skills like memory, assimilation of new information, and attention, but it’s likely to be pass pretty quickly. According to a review of studies published in Journal of Addiction Medicine in 2012, a monthly user will “spring back” from this damage over four weeks of abstinence.

One study, published in 2014 by the Society Of Prevention Research, looked at boys throughout their lives, from 7th grade to age 35. Monthly weed use was common, and it didn’t seem to make a difference to the 35-year-olds’ health issues, medications, injuries, or hospitalizations. Men who didn’t smoke weed had the same outcomes.

Weekly Use

When you smoke weekly, health risks go up. A 2020 study of 3,400 people published in JACC Cardiovascular Imaging found that weekly users showed problems with the left ventricles of their hearts and shifts in their heart structure. Regular use has also been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, particularly in the first few hours after a session.

A 2011 review of weekly users, published in Indian Journal of Psychiatry, found that going cold turkey for a month can restore cognitive powers, from reaction time to memory and dexterity. Other studies, though, only showed partial recovery. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse & Addiction did a roundup of studies in 2019 that found weekly smoking was much less likely to produce permanent cognitive problems than daily smoking.

For all the fearmongering, even daily use of weed isn’t going to be that harmful, all things considered. A 2015 study published in Annals of the American Thoracic Society stated fairly definitively that, even after 20 years of daily use, weed smokers were still able to expel the same amount of air from their lungs as non-smokers.

The scientific opinion on daily smoking and lung cancer isn’t clear either. Cancer Research UK found that some studies believe there is a link, while others don’t believe the indications are strong enough. They point out that the huge variation in the strength of weed, the fact that people sometimes smoke it with tobacco, and the different ways individuals process it all make a link hard to pin down. “Although cannabis does increase symptoms of bronchitis like coughing and wheezing, it does not appear to elevate risk for lung cancer,” Earleywine says.

There’s an argument that daily, heavy spliff use may actually alter the structure of your brain. “Daily use has many dangers, including most obviously altering brain pathways,” Caukins says. A 2014 study published in PNAS found that daily users seemed to have a smaller orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps with emotional and decision-oriented processing, but also had denser links between different parts of the brain. A 2017 study published in Pediatric Neurology also found that chronic weed use was linked to damage in the brain’s white matter.

“One effect is subtle memory deficits,” Johnson says. “These seems to disappear with about a month of abstinence.” Daily use can also result in dependence, he says, which means you start feeling irritable, sleepless and lose your appetite whenever you stop.

The Bottom Line

“The data on cannabis and altered brain structure only seem to appear in those who used the plant heavily while still very young,” Earleywine cautions. And these findings have been hard to replicate. “Plenty of daily users have literally no problems related to the plant, and some occasional users consume in unsafe ways,” he says. “Those who begin use early in life tend to show more problems with the plant than those who start when they are older.”

So frequency may not be the be-all and end-all for determining how weed is affecting your health; what time of day you smoke, how you do it, and how young you were when you began smoking are all factors, too.

Readers should note that laws governing cannabis, hemp and CBD are evolving, as is information about the efficacy and safety of those substances. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as legal or medical advice. Always consult your physician prior to trying any substance or supplement.

Jonathan Caukins Ph.D.

Mitchell Earleywine Ph.D.

Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D.

Alshaarawy, O. (2019) Total and differential white blood cell count in cannabis users: results from the cross-sectional National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2016. J Cannabis Res1, 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-019-0007-8

Crean, R. D., Crane, N. A., & Mason, B. J. (2011). An evidence based review of acute and long-term effects of cannabis use on executive cognitive functions. Journal of addiction medicine, 5(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1097/ADM.0b013e31820c23fa

Hall W. (2015). What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use?. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 110(1), 19–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.12703

Filbey, F. M., Aslan, S., Calhoun, V. D., Spence, J. S., Damaraju, E., Caprihan, A., & Segall, J. (2014). Long-term effects of marijuana use on the brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(47), 16913–16918. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1415297111

Freeman, D., Dunn, G., Murray, R. M., Evans, N., Lister, R., Antley, A., Slater, M., Godlewska, B., Cornish, R., Williams, J., Di Simplicio, M., Igoumenou, A., Brenneisen, R., Tunbridge, E. M., Harrison, P. J., Harmer, C. J., Cowen, P., & Morrison, P. D. (2015). How cannabis causes paranoia: using the intravenous administration of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to identify key cognitive mechanisms leading to paranoia. Schizophrenia bulletin, 41(2), 391–399. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbu098

Kempker, J. A., Honig, E. G., & Martin, G. S. (2015). The effects of marijuana exposure on expiratory airflow. A study of adults who participated in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Study. Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 12(2), 135–141. https://doi.org/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201407-333OC

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This article was originally published on April 20, 2016

Cannabis’ impact on your health is still being studied, with decades of legal restrictions slowly lifting.

What Smoking Marijuana Every Day Does to Your Body

With medical marijuana legal in states like California, Colorado, Illinois and a growing list, adoption of the drug is becoming more and more commonplace—as is consumption. We consulted doctors and medical resources to discover what happens if you smoke marijuana every day. (Note: do not use marijuana without consulting a medical professional first.)

First, The Positive Effects

Marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of health issues. Read on to discover how it can be used best.

It Can Relieve Your Pain

Marijuana is often used as a source of pain relief, as you can get a medical card for it to treat issues like cancer or inflammation. “German researchers found that marijuana-based remedies increased the number of people who reported a 50% or more reduction in pain relief,” says WebMD . “In a small study of 47 patients with Parkinson’s disease, Israeli researchers found a 27% improvement in pain with marijuana use.”

It Can Lead to Less Anxiety

“I found Marijuana at the age of 19,” says Peter Pryor, M.D. “It has always been a bit of a godsend for me because it helps me daily with anxiety and many other benefits.” (Read on to discover how marijuana can also increase anxiety for some.)

It Can Regulate Blood Sugar

Insulin is which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin resistance is linked to a greater risk of diabetes. However, according to Mary Clifton, M.D , marijuana offers “less insulin resistance.”

It Can Lower Your Cholesterol

Millions of Americans live with high cholesterol, which can increase the risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. However, according to Dr. Clifton, “people who use cannabinoid formulations regularly are found to have lower overall cholesterol.”

It Can Lower Your BMI (If You Don’t Snack)

Despite the common feeling of having “the munchies” after using marijuana, cannabis users tend to weigh less and are less likely to be obese. They have a “lower BMI,” says Dr. Clifton. According to the CDC , BMI (aka body mass index) “is a screening tool used to identify individuals who are underweight, overweight, or obese.”

Now, The Negative Effects

“Your mileage may vary,” as the expression goes, but using marijuana every day may have negative effects, also. Here are a few noted by the doctors.

You Can Develop Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD)

“This means that these users develop such an ironclad tolerance to marijuana that they have to consume increasing amounts to feel the same euphoric sensations,” says Dr. Sal Raichbach . “This leads to decreased reactivity to dopamine, which suggests a possible correlation to the dampening of the reward system of the brain and an increase in negative emotion and addiction severity.”

It Could Increase Your Cardiovascular Risk

“Marijuana has been shown to cause a fast heartbeat and elevated blood pressure, which can be dangerous for people with heart disease,” says Dr. Sanul Corrielus . “It may also aggravate other pre-existing heart conditions in long-term users and those who are older—placing them at greater risk of a cardiovascular event,” says Dr. Norris.

It Can Tamper Your Coordination and Response Issues

“Coordination and response time are adversely affected and short term memory is often impaired,” says Dr. Jason Levine . “Coordination issues in conjunction with an altered experience of time are likely to blame for impaired driving and an increase in car accidents.”

It Can Lead to Respiratory Issues

“While smoking cannabis daily has less of an impact than smoking cigarettes,” says Dr. Carey Clark, “some people who smoke cannabis can end up with issues like chronic cough and excess mucus or phlegm production.” “The most deadly aspect is that it increases your risk of lung cancer 7% per year,” says Osita Onugha, MD . “However,” says Dr. Lili Barsky, “these symptoms can improve with cessation.”

It Can Cause Memory Issues

“Long-term marijuana use can decrease an individual’s performance on memory-related tasks and cause a decrease in motivation and interest in everyday activities,” says Dr. Chris Norris . “The effect of cannabis temporarily prevents the brain from developing new memories and learning new things, which is a form of short-term memory.”

It Can Affect Your Developing Brain

“The brain continues to develop through adolescence and into adulthood, and those areas of the brain that control executive functioning, processing, judgment, and decision making are the last to develop,” says Dr. Randall Dwenger . “Marijuana use can impair this brain development and have a long-lasting impact on the individual’s future.”

It Can Increase Your Anxiety

“A 2017 national survey of more than 9,000 Americans found that 81 percent believed marijuana had one or more health benefits. Nearly half of these respondents listed “anxiety, stress, and depression relief” as one of these potential benefits,” reports Healthline. “But there also seems to be just as many people who say marijuana makes their anxiety worse.” As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID .

We consulted doctors to discover what happens to your body if you smoke marijuana every day. There's good news and bad news to report.