cannabis infographic
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
April 18, 2024 ·  7 min read

What Cannabis Does To Your Mind & Body Depending On How You Ingest It (Infographic)

Marijuana, its been in use for centuries for both recreational and medicinal purposes. Modern medicine, however, is only just starting to really look into the medicinal use of cannabis to treat certain conditions and diseases. The study of medical marijuana has been difficult, not just for legal reasons, but also because cannabis effects vary depending on the person taking them and the method that they consume it. 

We are clearing up some of the confusion by breaking down the various ways marijuana can be used.

Read: Seniors Choosing Cannabis over Opioids for Pain More Than Ever – 3 Possible Reasons Why

Cannabis Effects and Methods of Consumption

There are various ways you can use marijuana, and in turn, it can have different effects, based on the mode of consumption. Of course, like any drug, there are potential risks/side effects, and that risk can vary depending on how it’s used.

Cannabis Effects: Smoking

Typically smoking marijuana means you are smoking the dried flowers of the marijuana plant. (1, 2) There are several ways you can smoke it (2):

  • Joints
  • Blunts
  • Hand pipes
  • Water pipes (such as bongs)
  • Hookah

Cannabis Effects: Joints and Blunts

Joints and blunts both involve smoking the plant out of rolled paper, though a blunt refers to a hollowed-out cigar. Both pose a risk to your lung health and involve inhaling carcinogens, however blunts are much worse because of their size. Smoking one whole blunt is the equivalent of about six joints. (1)

Cannabis Effects: Hand Pipes

Hand pipes are small, portable devices where the cannabis is added to one end of it. It is then burned, and the smoke is trapped in the pipe and inhaled on the other side. Though it doesn’t contain the same toxic chemicals that can often be found in cigars and rolling papers, it does still involve inhaling smoke, which contains tar and other carcinogens. (2)

Cannabis Effects: Water Pipes

Water pipes such as bongs make for a smoother experience because you aren’t inhaling the dry heat that is produced when smoking a joint. That being said, you are still inhaling the smoke into your lungs. Bongs are not filters and do not filter out the dangerous chemicals. (1)

Cannabis Effects: Hookah

More often associated with smoking shisha (wet tobacco) than marijuana, the same health concerns exist with this method as they do with joints and blunts. This method is often used between rounds of shisha because the plant burns faster than the user can smoke it.(2)

Cannabis Effects: Vaporizing

Commonly referred to as vaping, this method involves “smoking” marijuana via an e-cigarette. The cannabis is heated to just below its combustion point to prevent burning. While this avoids certain carcinogens associated with inhaling smoke, vaping comes with its own concerns. (1)

The vitamin E acetate found in many vaping products is what causes most of these concerns. The CDC reports thousands of cases of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) and death. (1)

Related: Yes, Vaping Marijuana Has Risks (Maybe more than you realize)

Cannabis Effects: Dabbing

Dabs are a sticky oil of concentrated cannabis. They are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using solvents, most often butane or carbon dioxide. Not only is the extraction process for this dangerous and may have residual solvents or chemical contaminants that are a threat to your health. (3)

Another thing to keep in mind with dabbing is potency. Dabs are quite strong and you have a higher risk of “greening out” or overdoing it with this method. (2)

Cannabis Effects: Edibles

Butter and other oil or fat-based ingredients are used to make edibles because fat absorbs the active ingredients. The raw weed is activated when it is heated or baked. This creates an edible marijuana product that will make you high. (4)

Types of edibles can include (4):

  • Baked goods
  • Chocolate
  • Gummies
  • Gum

Though really you can make almost anything into an edible. These products of course don’t have the negative effects on your lung health that smoking does, however determining a proper dose can be more difficult. The high can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half to set in, and it can last for several hours. (4)

Edibles are often used for pain management and anxiety relief, however, it is easy to accidentally overdo it. If you have edibles in your home, it is important that they are clearly labeled and kept far out of reach of pets and children. (1)

Cannabis Effects: Sublinguals

These are any marijuana products that you take by placing underneath your tongue. (1) Sublingual include (1):

  • Tinctures
  • Films
  • Dissolvable tablets

These are commonly used in medicine because they are simple to take, particularly for children, and it is easy to control the dosage. They are fast-acting and produce no adverse effects on the lungs. They can be expensive, however, because they require large amounts of cannabis to make. (1)

The Facts on Cannabis and How it Works

What many people don’t know is that we actually produce some amount of cannabinoids in our bodies already. (5) The cannabis that we consume, however, comes from the leaves, stems, and flowers of the cannabis plant. (4)

The endocannabinoid system inside our bodies has a network of receptors that bind with cannabis. (5) The two primary receptors are (5):

  • CB1
  • CB2

There are more than 80 cannabinoids in the marijuana plant, however tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). (5)


THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most abundant cannabinoid. It binds with CB1 receptors in our brains and reproductive organs. THC releases dopamine into the brain and is the cannabinoid responsible for making you feel “high”. Pain management and relief are commonly associated with THC. (5)


The second-most abundant cannabinoid, CBD (cannabidiol) does not have a psychoactive effect on the brain, meaning that you can’t get high from CBD. It binds with CB2 receptors in the immune system and helps to reduce or balance the mental effects of THC. (5) Medicinally CBD is used for (5):

  • Inflammation reduction
  • Migraine relief
  • Arthritis pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer symptom management

Modern medicine is only really just beginning to study the effects and potential uses of both CBD and THC for the treatment of diseases and chronic conditions, though they have been used by many cultures for thousands of years. 

Read: Cannabis and the Entourage Effect: Why Cannabis Can’t Always Be Reduced to Just THC

Medical Benefits of Cannabis

The push for allowing the prescription and use of medical marijuana products is growing. Though studies aren’t entirely conclusive in many cases, there are thousands of patients who have found them to be extremely beneficial for a wide variety of conditions.

Some of these illnesses and conditions include (5):

  • Epilepsy
  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer

For each of these the research is largely based on tinctures and not on smoking due to the inherent health risks associated with smoking.


Marijuana has shown to help control and reduce seizures in children with both Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes. (6) Using medical marijuana has helped 5% of patients with Dravet syndrome become completely seizure-free, something that was unheard of with that condition before. (7)

In all cases, the cannabis tinctures were used in conjunction with the patients’ existing seizure medications, not as a stand-alone treatment. (6, 7)

Chronic Pain

A study published in the journal Health Affairs found that 62% of people who use marijuana use it to manage chronic pain. More research needs to be done to determine how effective it is because much of the actual evidence is anecdotal. (8)

Many people who suffer from chronic pain, for instance, prefer to use marijuana as a treatment because it is safer than other drugs such as opioids. (8)


Another common use of marijuana is to help reduce anxiety. (9) Both THC and CBD have shown to be effective in this case and research has shown that (9):

  • THC decreases anxiety at low doses and increases it at high doses
  • CBD decreases anxiety at all doses

That being said, most scientists agree that the use of marijuana to treat anxiety is effective in the short term, however, long-term reliance puts the user at high risk for substance use disorders. (9)


Though there is currently no conclusive evidence to show that cannabis is an effective treatment for cancer in human trials, there have been promising studies done in animal and laboratory settings. (10)

THC and other cannabinoids have caused the slow growth and/or death of certain types of cancer cells in the petri dish setting, in addition to some animal studies. Currently, cannabis is only used to help manage cancer and cancer treatment symptoms. (10)

These include (10):

  • Some small studies that show marijuana can treat cancer-related nausea and vomiting
  • Using inhaled marijuana to help treat neuropathic pain associated with cancer treatments

Before doctors can include marijuana in a patient’s cancer treatment plan more research needs to be done. (10)

The Bottom Line

Cannabis effects vary greatly in what and how intense they are. Much of how the drug will affect you depends on your personal tolerance, what type of marijuana you use, and what method you choose to consume it with.

It is always important to consider all risks before using any marijuana products. This includes health risks and potential drug interactions with medications and other substances. Moreover, if you do choose to use marijuana, either for medical purposes or recreation, don’t drive or operate heavy machinery while high.

Keep Reading: France to Start Distributing Free Medical Cannabis