Marijuana use is becoming more and more widespread, and many states in the U.S. are even making marijuana legal. Is this drug as innocuous as it seems?
A marijuana case study
The report from the emergency room doctor reads as follows: “Patient reports that she was smoking marijuana, then began to feel nauseous, complains of abdominal pain and vomiting. CT and ultrasound ordered, evaluate liver, gallbladder, pancreas.”
As a sonographer, I have seen multiple patients come into the hospital for marijuana-related maladies. Many of these patients are repeat patients, who come into the emergency department routinely for the same issue.
They don’t realize (or sometimes don’t even care about) the damage that they are inflicting on their bodies by continued use of marijuana.
What is marijuana?
“Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds . . . [and] is the most commonly used addictive drug after tobacco and alcohol” (Drug Facts).
There are multiple slang names for the drug, including “pot,” “weed” and “Mary Jane.”
“Marijuana is most commonly smoked using pipes, bongs, paper-wrapped joints, blunts and other devices . . . [and] can also be consumed through dozens of different products including e-cigarettes, candy, brownies and other baked goods, capsules, beverages and many more” (“Marijuana and Lung Health”).
The concept of “medical marijuana” is an argument that frequently comes up when the legality and morality of marijuana use is up for debate.
The FDA has approved a few medications derived from marijuana for specific illnesses, but this in no way means that self-prescribed “medical marijuana” is safe.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says, “Researchers generally consider medications like these, which use purified chemicals derived from or based on those in the marijuana plant, to be more promising therapeutically than use of the whole marijuana plant or its crude extracts. Development of drugs from botanicals such as the marijuana plant poses numerous challenges. Botanicals may contain hundreds of unknown, active chemicals, and it can be difficult to develop a product with accurate and consistent doses of these chemicals. Use of marijuana as medicine also poses other problems such as the adverse health effects of smoking and THC-induced cognitive impairment.”
In many states, marijuana is still technically illegal. However, most states are moving toward legalizing marijuana, and even some of those that are not currently pushing this agenda don’t come down very hard on those who break this law.
Health effects of marijuana
Most people who use marijuana do so under the assumption that they are having harmless fun that doesn’t hurt anybody. We often convince ourselves that we can occasionally do something harmful (whatever it might be) but not go any further, and that we can stop at any time if we choose to. We humans have a great capacity to deceive ourselves.
Ask yourself honestly: Does it seem like using marijuana is compatible with being a holy, sanctified, pure child of God who has been called out of the world?Some argue that smoking marijuana in moderation is akin to alcohol consumption in moderation. The reality is that marijuana is far more harmful to your body than alcohol in moderation.
Specifically regarding the liver, one study found that “chronic marijuana usage, on its own or in association with other drugs, was associated with hepatic morphologic and enzymatic alterations. This indicates that cannabinoids are possible hepatotoxic substances.”
In short, the study showed that the vast majority of people who used only marijuana (that is, not in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol) experienced elevated liver enzymes, enlarged livers, and enlarged spleens, thus indicating damage to these organs (“Possible Hepatotoxicity of Chronic Marijuana Usage”).
Your liver is resilient; its purpose and function is to process blood and filter it of toxins, which is why in moderation, alcohol is not harmful to it. However, it is not designed to withstand repeated assaults, such as chronic marijuana usage or alcohol abuse.
But marijuana affects more than just your liver. Here are a few additional examples of marijuana’s negative effects on the body:
- Your lungs: “Smoking marijuana clearly damages the human lung. Research shows that smoking marijuana causes chronic bronchitis and marijuana smoke has been shown to injure the cell linings of the large airways.” Marijuana smokers can have “symptoms such as chronic cough, phlegm production, wheeze and acute bronchitis,” among other symptoms. “Marijuana can harm more than just the lungs and respiratory system—it can also affect the immune system and the body’s ability to fight disease . . . Frequent marijuana-only smokers have more healthcare visits for respiratory conditions compared to nonsmokers” (“Marijuana and Lung Health”).
- Your heart: “Marijuana can make the heart beat faster and can make blood pressure higher immediately after use. It could also lead to increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and other vascular diseases” (“Marijuana and Heart Health”).
- Your brain: Studies show that marijuana has “an immediate impact on thinking, attention, memory, coordination, movement, and time perception.” Marijuana has also been proven to negatively affect brain development. Young people especially are susceptible to the drug’s harmful effects and can suffer permanent brain damage (“Marijuana and Brain Health”).
Some studies have also looked at violence and marijuana use. For example, “A Review of Cases of Marijuana and Violence” presented “14 cases of violence with chronic marijuana users that highlight reoccurring consequences of: marijuana induced paranoia (exaggerated, unfounded distrust) and marijuana induced psychosis (radical personality change, loss of contact with reality).”
This is not an exhaustive list. The negative effects of marijuana are evident in other ways as well, including mental health, addiction and driving impairment. There has also been an association identified between marijuana use and certain types of cancer (“Marijuana and Public Health: Cancer”).
The bottom line is this: Every system in your body interacts with the other systems. You cannot damage one organ in your body without damaging others as well. The human body has a remarkable ability to repair and heal itself—but only up to a certain point. If we repeatedly engage in behavior that assaults our health, eventually we will reach the point where our bodies are permanently damaged and can no longer recover.
You may not see the negative effects for years, but make no mistake—they exist.
Spiritual effects of marijuana
Clearly, the use of marijuana is detrimental to our physical health, but is this at all related to our spiritual health? Let’s look at a few passages that are relevant to the subject.
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. The context of this passage is sexual immorality, but we can readily apply this to other kinds of immorality and destructive behavior as well: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit [which] is in you, [which] you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
- Romans 12:1-2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren . . . present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We are to use our bodies in service of God’s plan and will. If this is not our focus, then we need to reevaluate our priorities.
- Genesis 4:6. When Cain was jealous of his brother and being tempted to sin, God asked him: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (emphasis added). We are not to let ourselves get in the habit of giving in to temptation. We must constantly fight against temptation, lest we “receive the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:13).
- Romans 6:12-13: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts . . . but present yourselves . . . as instruments of righteousness to God.” Satan will tempt us in whatever ways are most effective.
- 2 Timothy 3:4. We must not be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
- 1 Thessalonians 4:4: “That each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor” (English Standard Version). We must have self-control.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:7: “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (ESV).
Ask yourself honestly: Does it seem like using marijuana is compatible with being a holy, sanctified, pure child of God who has been called out of the world?
If you do smoke marijuana, or use it in another way, what should you do about it now? Hopefully, based on the information above, you now believe that you should stop doing so, but how do you break this habit (or even addiction) that has become ingrained in your life?
You must be willing to put in the work to overcome this. You have to want to stop more than you want to continue. Prayer, fasting and Bible study are essential tools if you are to overcome addiction.
You can also seek counsel with a minister or trusted friend who will hold you accountable. Therapists and support groups can also be an encouraging resource.
It’s important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t put yourself in situations where you are likely to face additional temptation. If your group of friends is likely to be engaged in this behavior, you need to be willing to remove yourself from this situation so that you won’t feel additional peer pressure to sin.
For additional guidance on how to overcome addiction, here are a few articles that can help:
- “Confronting Addiction.”
- “Freedom From Addiction.”
- “There’s a Proverb for That: ‘I’m Addicted. Help Me!’”
Finally, we must always keep this in mind: We have a merciful Father who wants us to repent and turn to Him, and He will help us in doing so. Notice these verses:
- 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
- 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Breaking habits and overcoming addiction take immense work, but when you are successful, your physical health—and your spiritual health—will be immeasurably improved.