Marijuana FAQ

 What happens when someone smokes marijuana?

The way marijuana affects each person depends on many factors, including the user’s previous experience with the drug, the strength of the strain, the user’s expectations, how the drug is consumed, and whether the person has been drinking or using other drugs. Effects of marijuana can include:

  • Feelings of relaxation or feeling “high”

  • Increase in appetite and thirst

  • Feelings of anxiety and paranoia

  • Distorted perceptions

  • Trouble with thinking and problem solving

  • Loss of motor coordination

  • Problems with memory and learning

  • Disrupted sleep

  • Physical effects, such as increased heart rate and breathing problems

These can impact a person’s learning, academic performance, relationships, and athletic performance.

 What is the active ingredient in marijuana?

All forms of marijuana are mind-altering. In other words, they change how the brain works. The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Marijuana’s affects on users depends on its strength or potency, which is related to the amount of THC it contains.

 What are edibles and are they safe?

Edibles are food products that are infused with marijuana.  Many people underestimate the potency of edibles. Edibles effects everyone differently and the experience is often unpredictable especially for a novice user.

  • The effects from smoking marijuana only takes minutes. Edibles, however, take between 1-3 hours because food is absorbed into the bloodstream through the liver. Because it takes longer, the user may end up consuming larger amounts of the drug while thinking the drug isn't working.
  • The amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is very difficult to measure and is often unknown in these food products.  
  • If the user has other medications in his or her system, their body may metabolize different amounts of THC, causing THC levels in the bloodstream to dangerously increase five-fold.
  • Overdose symptoms from eating marijuana are often more severe than symptoms of an overdose from smoking marijuana.

 What are concentrates and are they safe?

A marijuana concentrate is a highly potent THC concentrated mass containing extraordinarily high THC levels that could range from 40 to 90%.  This form of marijuana can be up to four times stronger in THC content than high grade or top shelf marijuana, which normally measures around 20% THC levels.

Also known as: 710 (the word “OIL” flipped and spelled backwards), wax, ear wax, honey oil, budder, butane is hash oil, butane honey oil (BHO), shatter, dabs (dabbing), black glass, and errl.

Being a highly concentrated form of marijuana, the effects upon the user are usually more psychologically and physically intense than plant marijuana use. Negative side effects of using concentrates include a rapid heartbeat, blackouts, feeling like something is crawling under the skin, loss of consciousness and psychotic symptoms, including paranoia and hallucinations.

Concentrates are VERY dangerous to make and SHOULD NOT be made at home.  

 How long does marijuana stay in the user's body?

The THC in marijuana is rapidly absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs. Generally, traces of THC can be detected by standard urine tests several days after marijuana has been used. In chronic heavy users, traces can sometimes be detected for weeks after someone stops using.

 What are the long-term effects of marijuana use?

Findings show that regular use of marijuana or THC may play a role in some kinds of cancer. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per day may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day.

Smoking marijuana can also cause problems in the respiratory and immune systems. People who smoke marijuana often develop the same kinds of breathing problems that cigarette smokers have, including coughing and wheezing. They also tend to have more chest colds and are at greater risk of getting lung infections. 

 What does marijuana do to the brain?

Some studies show that when people smoke large amounts of marijuana for years, the drug takes its toll on mental functions. Heavy or daily use of marijuana affects the parts of the brain that control memory, attention, and learning. A working short-term memory is needed to learn and perform tasks that call for more than one or two steps.

 Will using marijuana have an impact on my academic achievement?

Students who use marijuana tend to have poorer educational outcomes than non-using students due to marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory and learning.   Marijuana use in adolescence into emerging adulthood has been shown to be associated with structural and functional changes during brain development that can manifest as poor planning, impaired executive functioning and spatial and attention deficits.  Because its use is known to interfere with concentration, memory, and paying close attention, it makes it more difficult to study and retain information. Early chronic marijuana use can lower IQ scores by as much as eight points. 

Researchers found that students who used marijuana, both frequently and occasionally, had academic problems and are more likely to:

  • Skip classes

  • Study less

  • Earn lower grades

  • Drop out of school

  • Fail to find or keep employment

The more a student smokes, the worse their academic outcome. Students who smoke marijuana over 15 times a month drop out of college twice as much as those who used marijuana about two times a month. Even those who used marijuana only a few times a month are 66 percent more likely to be discontinuously enrolled than those who used marijuana less.

 How does marijuana affect driving?

Marijuana impairs the skills required to drive safely: alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Marijuana use can make it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. Data have also shown that while smoking marijuana, people show the same lack of coordination on standard "drunk driver" tests as do people who have had too much to drink.

 What is Marijuana Addiction?

Marijuana addiction is characterized as compulsive, often uncontrollable marijuana craving, seeking and use, even though it negatively affects family relationships, school performance, athletic performance and/or recreational activities. Marijuana addiction could be described as chronically making the firm decision not to use marijuana followed shortly by a relapse due to experiencing overwhelming compulsive urges to use marijuana despite the firm decision not to. This contradiction is characteristic of an addiction problem. Marijuana is both emotionally and mentally addictive.

Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction: 

  • Marijuana tolerance: Either need for markedly increased amounts of marijuana to achieve intoxication, or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of marijuana. 
  • Greater use of marijuana than intended: Marijuana taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • Unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control marijuana use. 
  • A great deal of time spent using marijuana.
  • Marijuana use causing a reduction in social, occupational or recreational activities. 
  • Continued marijuana use despite knowing it will cause significant problems. 

 Where can I go to talk about my marijuana use?

There are many resources for you here at UMass Amherst where you can explore your marijuana use in a supportive non-judgmental environment. 


For more information, see the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.