The side effects of marijuana are such common afflictions among admitted stoners that they’re often taken for granted. Prime time sitcoms are riddled with disposable jokes about the side effects of smoking weed and we instinctively giggle away our curiosity. We relate to the protagonist wearing sunglasses on his way out the door so that his parents don’t see his bloodshot eyes. But it’s only recently that science is actually delving into these minor yet perplexing negative effects of marijuana and producing concrete proof and conclusive answers to the sources of such engrained pothead afflictions.
What’s the Deal with the Red Eyes?
Red, bloodshot eyes is the most visibly obvious signal of all out stoner affliction making it the most annoying of the side effects of marijuana – particularly if you’re trying to be inconspicuous about partaking in some herb. Ironically, all that pressure you’re feeling sneaking past your boss with those rouge peepers comes from a lack of pressure in your eyes. So how does a lack of pressure lead to one of the most annoying side effects of marijuana? The reduced pressure gives the tiny veins in your eyes room to expand. In fact, studies into the side effects of smoking weed conducted in the ‘70s indicated that smoking marijuana can reduce eye pressure by up to 25%. It may not be the fashion statement you want to make, but bloodshot eyes are actually the sign of one of the most valuable known health benefits of marijuana. The reduced pressure is also what makes weed such a resourceful medication for glaucoma.
Munchies May Be the Most Complex of the Side Effects of Marijuana
Recent studies into the side effects of marijuana have shown that the phenomenon we call “the munchies” is actually somewhat complex. No source is solely responsible for the increased hunger users feel. The one common link to this most tenacious of side effects of marijuana is the endocannabinoid system within the brain. A 2013 study published in Nature Neuroscience
used mice to examine potential reasons behind the increased appetite in weed smokers. Tests pointed to olfactory responses in the mice as indicators that a heightened sense of smell may actually give users the munchies. So how does smell figure into one of the most common side effects of marijuana? Taste and smell are closely linked senses. But they’re not the only aspects working against us in the case of the munchies.
Cannabinoid receptors prompt an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens to discharge dopamine, meaning one of the side effects of marijuana is simply being rewarded with a wonderful feeling when eating. In addition, the hypothalamus unleashes a hormone called ghrelin, provoking hunger. It’s not one offender but a TKO that results in one of the most notorious side effects of smoking weed. While you probably number the munchies among the negative effects of marijuana, increased appetite is a major reason for medical marijuana prescriptions among AIDS and chemotherapy patients.
Getting to the Source of Cotton Mouth
Finally, another of the side effects of marijuana commonly targeted in pop culture and the media, cotton mouth has been the scourge of stoners but has only recently been studied. Initial testing indicates that the submandibular glands beneath your tongue house two types of cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are responsible for a whopping 70% of your saliva production. When the THC bonds to these particular cannabinoid receptors, messages to produce saliva normally sent to your nervous system are halted. Like the munchies, cotton mouth is one of the most common side effects of marijuana because multiple factors are in play. The THC doesn’t simply bond to the receptors in your submandibular glands but also receptors in your brain.
Surprisingly, cotton mouth may lead to the discovery of additional health benefits of marijuana. One of the reasons so much study is going into the side effects of marijuana in regards to cotton mouth is to treat patients with salivary disorders.
As more information is revealed into potentially annoying side effects of marijuana, we’re also being made even more aware of the plant’s health benefits. In all three cases presented here, the exploration of the side effect turned up potential health benefits of marijuana. It seems likely that if restrictions on marijuana research in the United States were lifted, further health benefits would undoubtedly reveal themselves.