Mind Matters

Mind Matters: The Body's Response to Marijuana

Mind Matters: The Body's Response to Marijuana
Order Free Publication in:
English Download PDF 2.14 MB

Hi there! Mind Matters (formerly referred to as Mind Over Matter) is a series that explores the ways that different drugs affect your brain, body, and life. For a limited time, hard copies of the older Mind Over Matter series with Sara Bellum are still available from our clearinghouse.

In this issue, we are going to talk about marijuana.

In 2017, only 13% of 8th graders had ever used marijuana in their lives.*

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is made of dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis satvia or Cannabis indica plant. Some people use marijuana to get high. You might have heard marijuana called other names, like “weed” or “pot.”

People think that because marijuana is natural, it can’t be bad for them. But marijuana has hundreds of chemicals in it that can affect your body in many ways.

How do people use marijuana?

Image of a vaporizer, tea pot, and marijuana leaves.

People can smoke marijuana rolled up like cigarettes, put it into tea, or cook it into food or candy. Some people think that it is safer to inhale marijuana using electronic cigarettes, or vaporizers, because they are not inhaling smoke. This is called “vaping.” But studies show that vaping can be harmful because you still inhale chemicals.

How does marijuana work?

Marijuana changes how the brain works. It attaches to parts of your brain, and for most people, it tells your brain and body to feel calm and relaxed.

How does marijuana affect your brain and body?

Short-Term Effects

  1. Feel less coordinated and react more slowly
  2. Altered sense of time
  3. Feeling relaxed
  4. Anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic (when taken in high doses)
  5. Feeling really hungry
  6. Fast heart rate

Long-Term Effects

  1. Problems with memory and learning skills
  2. Problems with breathing
  3. Cough or lung sickness
  4. Severe nausea and vomiting

Can you become addicted to marijuana?

Image of a boy feeling sick.

Yes, you can. Over time, marijuana can change the way your brain works. If you stop using marijuana, your body can get confused and you can start to feel sick. This makes it hard to stop using marijuana. This is called addiction.

Anyone can become addicted to marijuana. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or where you live. There is no way to predict who is likely to become addicted.


Did you know that using marijuana as a teen can change how your brain grows?

That’s because your brain is still growing and changing until you get into your 20s.

What about medical marijuana?

Research shows that some of the chemicals in marijuana can help people with cancer and other serious diseases. But this doesn’t mean that anyone who is sick should use marijuana. The government has approved a few medicines in pill form that have marijuana chemicals in them but don’t make you high. Only a doctor can give you these medicines. This is not the same type of marijuana that people usually smoke. Scientists are looking at ways that marijuana can help with other conditions, but it will take years of research.

Is marijuana legal?

Laws about marijuana for recreational use vary by state but it is not legal for teens in any state.

What if someone I know needs help?

If you think a friend or family member has a problem with drugs, talk to an adult you trust, like a parent, coach, or teacher, right away. Remember, treatment is available and people can get better.

For more information, go to teens.drugabuse.gov.

* Johnston, et al. (2018). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use: 1975–2017: Overview, key findings on adolescent drug use. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.

Content on this site is available for your use and may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from NIDA. Citation of the source is appreciated, using the following language: Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Syndication Storefront: Select NIDA content is available for you to use on your own site.  Through HHS Syndication Storefront, you may promote this high-quality content on your website and it will take on the look and feel of your site.  This syndicated content will also update content in real-time, leaving you free from having to perform manual updates.