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About Drugs

All drug use affects the brain and the body.

How the brain and body are impacted differs depending upon the type of drug used, the amount used and the frequency of use.

Different types of drugs impact the brain and body in different ways depending upon the type of drug used and the frequency of use. Learn more about drug types below.


 What is it?

Marijuana (Cannabis) is made from the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant. The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Marijuana may be green, brown or grayish in color. Marijuana can be inhaled through smoking with the use of rolled papers, a pipe, in a blunt or using a vaporizer. Marijuana can also be consumed as an "edible" which is the product of a food or beverage that includes marijuana. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. Some states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational use. Marijuana is illegal in Iowa.

 What does it do?

There is significant evidence that shows adverse and permanent changes to the functioning of the brain when marijuana is used during the developing years in humans. 

Also, the effects of marijuana differ depending upon the method of consumption. Both the onset of symptoms and the length in which the symptoms last depends upon if marijuana is inhaled or ingested. Ingestion of 'edibles' has caused significant concern across the United States, as legalization has led to statistically higher incidences of children ingesting marijuana, and increased hospitalizations of children and adults following exposure to marijuana or ingestion of marijuana.

 Side effects

Within a few minutes after inhaling marijuana smoke, a person’s heart rate speeds up, the bronchial passages (the pipes that let air in and out of your lungs) relax and become enlarged, and blood vessels in the eyes expand, making the eyes look red. While these and other effects seem harmless, they can take a toll on the body.

  • Increased heart rate is common and may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute or, in some cases, even double. This effect can be greater if other drugs are taken with marijuana. The increased heart rate forces the heart to work extra hard to keep up.
  • Similar to the effects of regular cigarettes, marijuana smoke irritates the lungs and can cause a chronic cough, often resulting in respiratory (lung and chest) problems.
  • The risk of experiencing depression and anxiety is increased with marijuana use.
  • Marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to lower birth weight and a higher risk for many developmental issues.


  • Marijuana. (n.d.). Retrieved June 08, 2017, from
  • Panlilio, LV, et al. Prior exposure to THC increases the addictive effects of nicotine in rats.
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence


Marijuana is often called weed, pot, grass, reefer, Mary Jane or MJ, fire or ganja, but has many other names, as well.


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