Dear Dr. Mo: I’m worried that smoking marijuana might make me gain weight – is it true that this could happen?
Dear reader: Consuming marijuana classically produces symptoms of increased appetite (so called the munchies) and in principle, it could lead to weight gain in otherwise healthy individuals. This, in addition to its anti-nausea effect (anti-emetic) is the reason marijuana is sometimes prescribed to cancer patients to alleviate some of their symptoms (from both the illness and its therapy).
It also often causes a dry mouth, which is usually noted by users and I should say that the munchies really should be the least of your concerns when smoking marijuana.
Let me explain.
I’ve heard people claim otherwise but the fact is that intoxication with marijuana does significantly impair motor function and consequently seriously interferes with driving ability – being high or being drunk makes almost no difference.
It can also cause a heart to race (tachycardia) and induce serious discomfort and even a panic attack.
Heavy marijuana use over long time is strongly linked to Amotivational syndrome, which is characterized by apathy and boredom – if this sounds too esoteric, let me put it into a real clinical scenario: A man comes in complaining of a loss of energy and mental strength to such high degree that he is no longer able to play with his 5 year old son.
It turned out that the only outstanding thing in his history was years of recreational marijuana smoking, to help him relax from stresses at work.
The most concerning medical consequences of smoking marijuana over the long term are in fact very similar to those from smoking tobacco – lung cancer and respiratory disease. In addition, men need to worry about infertility as marijuana does affect the quality and quantity of sperm and if you factor in the prolonged period of smoking it as guy ages, the effects compound rendering that individual virtually infertile.
Spiraling out of the Amotivational syndrome is a potential of marijuana to induce paranoia in susceptible individuals. A recently concluded in-depth investigation led by Professor Daniel Freeman, PHD, of the University of Oxford has reached a conclusion that people who smoke marijuana are much more likely to have paranoia than people who don’t use the drug.
The study was published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.
So you see why I said that gaining some weight should be the least of your worries albeit not an insignificant one.
Marijuana is a controlled substance and for a good reason – it is best to avoid it entirely. The long-term consequences from its consumption are apparent only at the end, when little can be done to repair the damage.
Yours in Health,