Impact of marijuana and alcohol on the body


Dezeray Meyers

Data for top graph: Drug Abuse Statistics Data for bottom graph: Center for Disease Control Statistics

Marijuana and alcohol are commonly used in today’s society, but many people have no idea about the overall effects these substances can have on one’s health.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Among 12th graders, 36.4 percent reported using marijuana at least once in the past year, up from 31.5 percent 5 years ago.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse continues to say that only 22.7 percent of high school seniors saw risks in occasionally using the substance. The numbers continue to decrease over time.
In an article from the American Addiction Centers, alcohol has declined significantly between high school students in the past few years.
“In 2018, 19% of 10th graders and 30% of 12th graders reported past-month use of alcohol, compared to 26% of 10th graders and 39% of 12th graders in 2013,” American Addiction Centers said.
Alcohol is an ingredient found in beer, wine, and spirits to cause drunkenness. This substance can also be used as an ingredient in certain kinds of food to increase flavor.
Marijuana is a drug that can be used in a variety of ways. A person can either smoke, vape, or use it as an ingredient in food and beverages. stated in an article, depending on how someone ingests it, marijuana can affect the body differently.
“When you inhale cannabis [marijuana] smoke into the lungs, the compounds immediately enter the bloodstream and quickly make their way to the brain and other organs. The effects may onset within seconds to minutes,” said. “When you eat or drink cannabis-containing products, the compounds need to first pass through the digestive system and liver before reaching the bloodstream. The effects may onset within minutes to hours.”
These effects are caused by the chemical THC. Although it is responsible for the intoxicating effects Marijuana may have, it also has potential for medicinal outcomes.

Marijuana: Mental and physical effects on health
According to, Marijuana can cause memory problems, dopamine release, slowed reaction time, and impaired judgment. These effects may only occur when a substance is consistently used.
Each strain of the substance can cause different effects at different times, the plant has three different strains: indica, sativa, or hybrid.
THC changes the way the hippocampus processes information, often causing the brain’s ability to form new memories. This chemical also alters the way the brain processes information. In other words, it affects the brain’s judgment.
“Cannabis [Marijuana] may alter the balance, coordination, and reflex response. This could affect things such as the ability to drive,” said.
Although these effects may seem negative, the same source mentions that marijuana can lower pressure, for a short period of time, within the eyes and relieve symptoms for glaucoma. This proves that not all effects marijuana has are negative effects.
Physical effects that can occur include a decrease in the immune system. This may seem like a negative outcome, but this may be helpful for people with an autoimmune condition.
As we move down the anatomy, marijuana has the potential to increase the risk of bronchitis.
“Cannabis smoke contains a mixture of chemicals that can irritate the lungs and bronchial passages, similar to tobacco smoke,” said.
A more positive result marijuana has on the body is the outcome it has on the digestive system, marijuana increases appetite. This may lower the risk of vomiting and nausea, but long term use could possibly cause it. This is usually more helpful for patients who are struggling with AIDS and cancer.
One clear side effect of marijuana that many people may recognize are the red eyes. This is caused by a jump in heart rate and expansion of blood cells.
“Within minutes, the heart rate may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute. That rapid heart rate can continue for up to 3 hours,” said.
Another clear side effect is the dopamine release, also known as the feeling of being high. This is the brain releasing more dopamine causing the feeling of euphoria. This also heightens the sensory perception.

Marijuana: Short and Long term effects
According to an article from Drug Free World, short term effects can include short term memory loss, paranoia, hallucinating senses like smell, hearing, and objects that are not there, loss sense of personal identity, lowered reaction time, increase of heart rate that could possibly lead to a heart attack, increase the risk of a stroke, problems with coordination causing driving to be unsafe, sexual problems with males, and can possibly increase the chance of a female to catch STD’s.
Long term effects may include a decline in IQ, impaired thinking and ability to learn complex tasks, severe cannabis use disorder, and may decrease the chances of getting good jobs.
“In addition to the immediate effects of cannabis, there may be longer-term effects depending on how you take it, how much you use, and how often you use it,” said. mentions that THC can be a long term benefit for glaucoma patients. They also mention that marijuana contains carcinogens, which could theoretically cause lung cancer, but according to that source, the National Institute of Drug Abuse mentions that there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana smoke causes lung cancer, but more research is needed.
Long term memory loss can occur especially for people under the age of 25 due to the brain being underdeveloped. Smoking while pregnant can also cause a lasting detrimental impact on concentration and problem solving skills for the child.

Alcohol: Mental and physical effects on health
Alcohol does not have an affect on the body after the first sip. These effects may vary depending on the amount of time the substance is used.
“Many people assume the occasional beer or glass of wine at mealtimes or special occasions doesn’t pose much cause for concern,” another article from said. “But drinking any amount of alcohol can potentially lead to unwanted health consequences.”
Drinking alcohol can cause the common but also critical disease called Pancreatitis. This condition is the inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis causes abdominal pain, rapid heart rate, fevers, low blood pressure, vomiting, and many other concerning symptoms. It is a long term condition and can have serious complications.
“A damaged pancreas can also prevent the body from producing enough insulin to use sugar,” said.
As reported by, the pancreas helps regulate how the body responds to glucose. If the pancreas and liver do not function properly, it can lower blood sugar. This may cause other serious health conditions like diabetes.
Another impact of alcohol is that it reduces the ability to communicate. It causes words to be slurred and disrupts the communication between the brain and body. This is a result of the central nervous system being attacked.
The digestive system could be destroyed from alcohol as well. Drinking destroys the tissue in the digestive tract. This effect prevents the body from digesting food and absorbing nutrients, later causing malnutrition in long-term drinkers.
Alcohol also affects the circulatory system, meaning the system that circulates blood through the body including the heart. Chronic drinking raises risks for heart-related health problems. Not getting enough vitamins can cause anemia and fatigueness.
Muscle systems are weakened due to alcohol. It causes the bones to become thinner resulting in fractures being more common. The healing process is slowed down as an outcome. Muscles can also cramp more and eventually atrophy. also mentions the effect it has on the immune system, alcohol causes a weakened immune system which makes it easier for someone to get sick. A weakened immune system makes it a struggle for someone to fight viruses.
“People who drink heavily over a long period of time are also more likely to develop pneumonia or tuberculosis than the general population,” said. “Experts link about 10 percent of the Trusted Source of all tuberculosis cases worldwide to alcohol consumption.”
Mental effects can include memory or concentration issues, impulse control, and mood changes. Frequent drinking worsens mental health and well-being. Alcohol may also worsen anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
According to, alcohol may induce its own mental issues, such as alcohol-induced bipolar disorder, psychotic disorder, sleep disorder, depressive disorder, and alcohol-induced anxiety disorder.
Unfortunately, drinking often will cause people to eventually build a tolerance. This could cause them to become dependent on the substance. Dependence is a way to become addicted to alcohol. People drink more alcohol to feel the feelings they once did before as they get used to the original dosage they would be used to taking.
“Tolerance and dependence can both happen as symptoms of alcohol use disorder, a mental health condition previously referred to as alcoholism,” said.
Symptoms of alcoholism may include cravings, withdrawal, inability to stop drinking, difficulty stopping over time, and being drawn to alcohol related activities.

Alcohol: Short and long term effects
Short term effects of alcohol are temporary. As reported by, these effects include drowsiness, a sense of euphoria, changes in mood, impulsive behavior, slurred speech, vomiting, diarrhea, head pain, loss of coordination, trouble focusing or making decisions, and loss of consciousness or a blackout. This can also include changes in hearing, perception, and vision making it difficult and unsafe to drive.
“Some of these effects, like a relaxed mood or lowered inhibitions, might show up quickly, after just one drink,” said. “Others, like loss of consciousness or slurred speech, may develop after a few drinks.”
Alcohol is a diuretic meaning it removes liquids from the blood through the renal system at a faster rate. The renal system includes the kidneys, ureters, and bladders. Dehydration causes nausea, headaches, and dizziness. These effects may not appear for a few hours. It depends on what someone drank, how much someone has drunk, and if that person has decided to drink water.
Lastly, the next morning many people experience a hangover. As stated by the Mayo Clinic, a hangover is a group of unpleasant signs and symptoms that develop from drinking too much. Some feelings in a hangover are headaches, vomiting, muscle aches, stomach pains, and the feeling of weakness.
“These effects might not last very long, but that doesn’t make them insignificant,” said. “Impulsiveness, loss of coordination, and changes in mood can affect your judgment and behavior and contribute to more far-reaching effects, including accidents, injuries, and decisions you later regret.”
Long term effects from frequently drinking alcohol include anxiety, sleeping issues like insomnia, weakened immune system, changes in weight and appetite, problems in memory and difficult time focusing.
According to the CDC(Center for Disease Control), frequent drinking can cause strokes, high blood pressure, liver disease, digestion issues, and cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.

Both substances: Withdrawals and addiction
The CDC says that marijuana use disorder includes using more marijuana than normal, craving marijuana, using marijuana even though it may be causing problems in that a person’s life, using marijuana in high risk situations such as driving, needing to use more marijuana to get the same high, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms from marijuana when stop using the substance.
“One study estimated that approximately 3 in 10 people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder,” CDC said.
The stronger the THC is in the strain of marijuana, the stronger effect it has on the brain. The THC varies from how the plant is grown and genetics.
“Researchers do not yet know the full extent of the consequences when the body and brain are exposed to high concentrations of THC or how recent increases in concentrations affect the risk of someone developing marijuana use disorder,” CDC said.
Excessive drinking varies with each gender. According to another article from the CDC, binge drinking for females is considered four or more drinks in a single occasion while for men it is five or more drinks. Heavy drinking for females is eight or more drinks per week and males are 15 or more drinks per week. Most people who drink excessively are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent.
“Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is marked by a craving for alcohol and the inability to stop drinking despite any negative impacts,” an article from Addiction Center said.
Addiction may include drinking more than intended, the inability to end unhealthy drinking habits, needing more alcohol to feel the effects, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, craving alcohol, drinking despite health consequences, and drinking regardless of consequences drinking brings into someone’s life.
“These can include headache, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and sweating. These symptoms typically subside 48 hours after the last drink was consumed,” addiction center said. “Five percent of people who go through alcohol withdrawal will experience delirium tremens, which comes with severe hallucinations and delusions.”
Overall, marijuana and alcohol have good and bad effects on someone’s health. It is safer to do them in moderation if a person chooses to do them at all.