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Short-Term Effects

The short-term effects of using marijuana vary dramatically among different people, but may include:

  • A pleasant euphoria
  • A sense of relaxation
  • Heightened sensory perception (e.g., brighter colors)
  • Laughter
  • Altered perception of time
  • Increased appetite

The THC in marijuana disrupts the functioning of the brain areas responsible for:

  • Forming new memories, causing impaired thinking
  • Shifting your attentional focus, interfering with the ability to learn and perform complicated tasks
  • Regulating balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time, so that users may not be able to drive safely, play sports, or engage in other physical activities

Pleasant Experiences with Marijuana Are By No Means Universal

The THC in marijuana activates the brain’s reward system, stimulating a flood of dopamine which contributes to the pleasurable “high” that recreational users seek. However, some people may experience:

  • Anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic, especially if they are inexperienced, have used too much, or if the marijuana has an unexpectedly high potency
  • An acute psychosis, which includes hallucinations, delusions, and a loss of the sense of personal identity (This is distinct from longer-lasting psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, that may be associated with the use of marijuana in vulnerable individuals.) See also: Marijuana and the Risk of Psychiatric Disorders.

Smoking Marijuana vs. Consuming Marijuana in Food or Drinks

When marijuana is smoked, THC and other chemicals in the plant pass from the lungs into the bloodstream, and are rapidly carried throughout the body to the brain. The user begins to experience effects almost immediately, and the effects generally last from 1 to 3 hours.

When marijuana is consumed in foods or beverages, significantly less THC is delivered to the bloodstream (vs. smoking an equivalent amount). The drug must first pass through the digestive system before effects are felt—usually appearing after 30 minutes to 1 hour. (Because of this delayed effects, people may inadvertently consume more THC than they intend to.) The effects may last for many hours.