Marijuana is a mixture of leaves and the flowering tops of the Indian hempplant Cannabis Sativa, smoked or eaten for its hallucinogenic andpleasure-giving effects. The psychoactive ingredient of marijuana,tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is concentrated in the flowering tops of thehemp plant; hashish, a drug prepared from the plant resin, has about eighttimes more THC than marijuana.
Hemp grows throughout temperate regions,with the more potent varieties produced in dry, hot, upland climates. Expectfor limited medical purposes, cultivating hemp for marijuana is illegal in allbut a few countries.Marijuana has a lot of slang names including pot, grass, weed, hash,and about 200 other names.
Marijuana is by far the world’s most commonlyused illicit drug and far more dangerous than most users realize. So, there isjust cause for alarm when adolescent marijuana use increases, as it did in themid-1990’s, and the age at which youngsters first experiment with pot startsto drop.Many users describe two phases of marijuana intoxication: initialstimulation, giddiness, and euphoria, followed by sedation and tranquillity.
Mood changes are often accompanied by altered perceptions of time andspace and of one’s bodily dimensions. The thinking processes becomedisrupted by fragmentary ideas and memories. Many users report increasedappetite, heightened sensory awareness, and pleasure. Negative effects caninclude confusion, acute panic reactions, anxiety attacks, fear, a sense ofhelplessness, and loss of self-control.Like alcohol intoxication, marijuana intoxication impairs reading,comprehension, memory, speech, problem solving ability, and reaction time.The effects on the intellect of long-term use are unknown. Consistentevidence that marijuana induces or causes brain damage does not exist.
Medical research has indicated that the drug is effective in relieving some ofthe symptoms of glaucoma and in treating the nausea induced by cancerchemotherapy and radiation treatments.The plant Cannabis sativa is the source of both marijuana and hashish.The leaves, flowers, and twigs of the plant are crushed to produce marijuana:its concentrated resin is hashish. Both drugs are usually smoked, sometimesin a pipe or water pipe, but most often in loosely rolled cigarettes known as”joints.” Some users will slice open and hollow out cigars, replacing thetobacco with marijuana, to make what are called “blunts.
” Joints and bluntsmay be laced with other substances, including crack cocaine and the potenthallucinogen phencyclidine (PCP), substantially altering effects of the drug.Smoking, however, is not the sole route of administration. Marijuana can bebrewed into tea or mixed in baked products (cookies or brownies). Theireffects are similar: a state of relaxation, accelerated heart rate, perceivedslowing of time, and a sense of heightened hearing, taste, touch, and smell.These effects can be quite different, however, depending on the amount ofdrug consumed and the circumstances under which it is taken.
Marijuana andhashish are not thought to produce psychological dependence except whentaken in large daily doses. The drugs can be dangerous, however, especiallywhen smoked before driving. Although the chronic effects are not yet certain,marijuana is probably injurious to the lungs in much the same way thattobacco is.
A source of concern is its regular use by children and teenagers,because the intoxication markedly alters thinking and interferes withlearning. A consensus exists among physicians and others working withchildren and adolescents that use is undesirable and may interfere withpsychological and possibly physical maturation.Cannabis has been used as a folk remedy for centuries, but it has nowell established medical use today. Experimental work has been done usingits active ingredient, delta-9-tetahydrocannabinol (THC), for treatingalcoholism, seizures, pain, the nausea produced by anti-cancer medications,and glaucoma. Its usefulness for glaucoma patients more doubtful. For the highly popular form of marijuana called Sinsemilla (from theSpanish “without seeds”), made from just the buds and flowering tops offemale plants, THC content averages 7.5 percent and ranges as high as 24percent.
As for hashish, a resin made from flowers of the female plant, THClevels may be five to ten times higher than crude Marijuana’s.A mild hallucinogen, marijuana has some of alcohol’s depressant anddisinhibiting properties. User reaction, however, is heavily influenced byexpectations and past experience, and may first-time users feel nothing at all. Effects of smoking are generally felt within a few minutes and peak in10 to 30 minutes.
They include dry mouth and throat, increased heart rate,impaired coordination and balance, delayed reaction time, and diminishedshort-term memory. Moderate doses tent to induce a sense of well-being anda dreamy stat of relaxation that encourages fantasies, renders some usershighly suggestible, and distorts perception (making in dangerous to operatemachinery, drive a car or boat, or ride a bicycle). Stronger doses prompt moreintense and often disturbing reactions including paranoia and hallucinations. Most of marijuana’s short-term effects wear off within two or threehours.
The drug itself, however, tends to linger on. THC is a fat-solublesubstance and will accumulate in fatty tissues in the liver, lungs, testes, andother organs. Two days after smoking marijuana, one-quarter of the THCcontent may still be retained. It will show up in urine tests three days afteruse, the traces may be picked up by sensitive blood tests two to four weekslater.Chronic marijuana smokers are prey to chest colds, bronchitis,emphysema, and bronchial asthma. Persistent use will damage lungs andairways and raise the risk of cancer. There is just as much exposure tocancer-causing chemicals from smoking one marijuana joint as smoking fivetobacco cigarettes.
And there is evidence that marijuana may limit the abilityof the immune system to fight infection and disease.Marijuana also affects hormones. Regular use can delay the onset ofpuberty in young men and reduce sperm production. For women, regular usemay disrupt normal monthly menstrual cycles and inhibit ovulation.
Whenpregnant women use marijuana, they run the risk of having smaller babieswith lower birth weights, who are more likely than other babies to develophealth problems. Some studies have also found indications of developmentaldelays in children exposed to marijuana before birth.Teens and marijuana. Although dangers exist for marijuana users of allages, risk is greatest for the young. For them, the impact of marijuana anlearning is critical, and pot often proves pivotal in the failure to master vitalinterpersonal coping skills or make appropriate life-style choices.
Thus,marijuana can inhibit maturity.Another concern is marijuana’s role as a “gateway drug,” which makessubsequent use of more potent and disabling substances more likely. TheCenter on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University foundadolescents who smoke pot 85 times more likely to use cocaine than theirnon-pot smoking peers. And 60 percent of youngsters who use marijuanabefore they turn 15 later go on to use cocaine. But many teens encounter serious trouble well short of the “gateway.
“Marijuana is, by itself, a high risk substance for adolescents. More thanadults, they are likely to be victims of automobile accidents caused bymarijuana’s impact on judgment and perception. Casual sex, prompted bycompromised judgment or marijuana’s disinhibiting effects, leaves themvulnerable not only to sexually transmitted diseases (STD’S).Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the samerespiratory problems that tobacco smokers have. These individuals may havedaily caught and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis, and more frequentchest colds.
Continuing to smoke marijuana can lead to abnormal functioningof lung tissue injured or destroyed by marijuana smoke.Regardless of the THC content, the amount of tar inhaled by marijuanasmokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed are three to five timesgreater than among tobacco smokers. This may be due to the marijuana usersinhaling more deeply and holding the smoke in the lungs.
Here is a claim that somebody firmly believes but is proved wrong.”Critical skills related to attention, memory and learning are impaired amongheavy users of marijuana…” Most people think of marijuana users asdreamers with the attention spand of a gnat and no memory worth the name.Wrong. This picture emerging from psychology labs in that there is at most akernel of truth in this stereotype, while some studies find no evidence of evensubtle mental impairment in heavy users.
And even those that do are open toa range of interpretations–not necessarily worrying to marijuana users.