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Cannabis sativa, more commonly known as marijuana, is a drug that has been legalized in various states for medicinal reasons and legalized in some states for recreational use as well. The drug has a long history of use and abuse in the United States.
Even though some states have legalized it, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to classify cannabis products as Schedule I controlled substances, placing them in a class of drugs with supposedly no medical uses and with the potential for significant abuse. Nonetheless, numerous research studies indicate that cannabis products do have some medicinal uses, and certainly, the prevailing attitude by many has shifted to the notion that marijuana is no more harmful than legal substances like tobacco and alcohol. Whether or not marijuana is used for recreational purposes or for medicinal reasons, the use of the drug produces various side effects.
The experience of having the “munchies” after using cannabis products is widespread. Even though some people don’t have this experience, it appears that the vast majority of individuals who use cannabis products do report increased feelings of hunger at some time. The specific mechanism of how cannabis results in increased hunger in individuals is not fully recognized; however, some of what is known has been described in several recent research studies that have looked at the appetite-stimulating effects of cannabis products in people and in animal models, particularly in rodents.
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According to numerous sources, such as a much-cited research article published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, there are several possible mechanisms associated with an increase of hunger and marijuana use.
Although most individuals would probably think that gorging on pastry, peanut butter, ice cream, etc., after using marijuana is a negative side effect of the use of cannabis products, this side effect of increasing hunger is extremely useful in treating individuals who have lost weight due to decreased appetite as a result of chemotherapy or having diseases like HIV. Cannabis products can increase appetite in these individuals and help them maintain a healthier weight, which can affect their recovery in a positive manner.
A classic indicator that an individual may have used marijuana products is bloodshot or red eyes. Bloodshot or red eyes is actually an aspect of a therapeutic use of cannabis (or THC itself) in the treatment of glaucoma, a disorder of the optic nerve that has been associated with increases in intraocular pressure in the eyes. The use of THC may help to decrease this pressure and slow the progression of the damage.
THC has the effect of dilating blood vessels and capillaries, and lowering blood pressure. This results in increased blood flow in all areas of the body, including the eyes, and this reduces the pressure in the eyes. The increased blood flow in the eyes is responsible for the redness that occurs, whereas the decreased pressure is a result of the dilation of arteries and capillaries, and might be an effective treatment for glaucoma.
This effect is dose-dependent. Depending on the potency of the THC in marijuana, it may produce differing effects in individuals, such that if individuals consume low-potency THC strains of marijuana, it will not be as evident. However, when very high-potency forms of cannabis are ingested, such as edible cannabis products, the effect will be quite evident. Thus, simply smoking marijuana products is not necessarily associated with having red eyes because this effect can be clearly seen in individuals who use cannabis edibles, which typically have higher concentrations of THC than marijuana, which is smoked.The Effects of Drugs
It also is possible that some individuals may develop an allergy to the byproducts associated with smoking cannabis products, and this can affect their eyes; however, this is a far rarer instance. Most often, it is not the smoke from marijuana that results in bloodshot eyes but the potency of the THC in the product.
Another telltale symptom associated with cannabis use is dry mouth (sometimes referred to as cottonmouth and technically known as xerostomia). This side effect has been the subject of numerous research studies and again involves the cannabinoid receptors in the body.
The cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are located in the brain and also in the submandibular glands found beneath the bottom of the mouth that are responsible for producing nearly three-quarters of saliva. When THC binds to these receptors, these glands stop receiving messages from the peripheral nervous system (in this case, the parasympathetic nervous system), and there is a reduction in the production of saliva. THC also binds to these receptor sites in the brain, and this also reduces the production of saliva.
For individuals who use marijuana medicinally, the above side effects can be quite exasperating. There are several ways to counteract these side effects that may or may not be useful, depending on the situation.
Recreational users of cannabis products who suffer from these issues are advised to get into a recovery program for a cannabis use disorder.