Hokie Health: How marijuana impacts the brain and body
On July 1, 2021, the Commonwealth of Virginia will legalize simple possession and home cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 years and over. However, federal law prohibits the use, possession, or cultivation of marijuana at educational institutions; this applies to students, employees, and members of the general public on ALL of Virginia Tech’s campuses.
Consistent with federal law, University Policy No. 1020: Policy on a Drug-Free University will not change.
Additionally, Virginia Tech cares about the health of all members of our community so it is important to understand the risks and health implications associated with marijuana use.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), using marijuana has short- and long-term adverse effects on brain health. As the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the active ingredient in marijuana that makes a user feel high - increases, so do the effects on the brain. Frequent users of marijuana can experience issues with attention, memory, learning, motor coordination, and decision making. These issues can have implications on a user’s mood and can impact relationships with loved ones and colleagues. Using marijuana during teen or adolescent years can cause long-term or permanent damage to brain development, affecting memory, attention, and learning.
Additionally, marijuana impacts physical health and well-being. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that people who smoke marijuana frequently tend to have the same breathing issues as those who smoke tobacco, and are more likely to develop chronic bronchitis, respiratory infections, and pneumonia. Smoking marijuana in any form harms lung tissue and causes damage to small blood vessels.
The perception that one cannot become addicted to marijuana is a myth. The CDC reports that approximately one in 10 people who use marijuana will develop an addiction. That number jumps to one in six for someone who begins to use as a teenager. People who become dependent on marijuana may need to increase how much of the drug they consume over time in order to achieve the same high. Dependence and addiction to marijuana can also lead to a variety of negative consequences such as legal and financial difficulties, problems with interpersonal relationships, lack of motivation, and adverse educational and professional outcomes and achievement.
If you need help managing substance use, employees and their dependents covered by Virginia Tech’s health care plans have access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If you are a non-benefited employee, Hokie Wellness can help with available resources similar to what is provided through EAP.
If you are or know a student who is interested in or actively in recovery, The Virginia Tech Recovery Community works to ensure that students do not have to choose between their recovery and their education. Anyone is welcome to attend meetings. To connect, either email email@example.com or call 540-231-2233 to make an appointment.
Hokie Wellness serves Virginia Tech to foster a healthier community by providing prevention services, education, outreach, and resources to employees and students. If you have questions, need assistance, or want to join the Hokie Wellness Google group to stay up to date with monthly updates, contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.