Marijuana is a green-gray mix of the shredded, dried leaves and flowers of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. Marijuana smoke has a permeating, distinct sweet and sour odor that usually overpowers other smells until it dissipates. Marijuana has a myriad of nicknames: weed, pot, ganja, bud, grass, herb, Mary Jane, MJ, etc. The main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), seems to be increasing in concentration like crazy over time. In 1974, the THC levels averaged 1%, increased to 4% in 1994, then reached up to 9.6% in 2008. In some cases, THC levels of 24% are showing up in today’s weed of a stronger variety. In 2012, the average was said to be about 15%.
As you can see from this drastic statistic, marijuana has evolved a lot over the years and almost seems like it could be a completely different drug with a THC percentage that high. THC is the mind-altering factor in marijuana.
History of Marijuana Use
According to history, marijuana was developed in Central Asia (mainly Mongolia and southern Siberia). Its first use was in ancient China for medicinal purposes. It was used as an anesthetic for surgery operations. Apparently, this drug has traveled far and wide before hitting the United States. After China, it was carried from farmers to Korea in 2000 B.C. It was then brought over to Russia and Ukraine. Eventually, it ended up in Britain during the 5th Century, before entering South America during the 19th Century. Marijuana finally made its way into North America. This country, in particular, saw marijuana during the 1910 Mexican Revolution for the first time. The origin of the term “marijuana” remains unknown.
Marijuana can be administered in a few different ways. For edible consumption, it can be prepared into foods such as brownies, candies, cookies, or other sweet treats. Sometimes, it is brewed into a tea. Additionally, a popular way to take marijuana is eating it in honey hash oil, which is almost pure liquid THC, a potent marijuana resin product. People normally smoke it, sometimes from a joint (a marijuana filled hand-rolled cigarette), from a bong (water pipes), or in blunts (marijuana filled cigars).
Addiction to marijuana remains a valid concern, as a larger number of people seem to be getting hooked on it. There are a lot of unwanted effects which stem from marijuana use, some short-term and some long-term. Some of these short-term effects are distorted sense of time, slowed reaction time, dizziness, irritability, short-term forgetfulness, paranoia, poor coordination of movement, increased heartbeat, and becoming easily distracted. Some research has shown a link between marijuana and conditions like anxiety, depression, and short-term psychosis.
Longterm Effects of Marijuana Use
Some long-term effects from marijuana are suppressed immune system, lack of mental clarity, mood changes, unable to retain information, lack of motivation, drowsiness, and reduced sexual capacity. Additionally, a major research study reported that a single cannabis joint could cause five times more damage to the lungs than a regular cigarette. Marijuana affects the immune and nervous systems. Marijuana can cause additional heath issues if the person already has a condition such as low blood pressure or diabetes. The user’s risk to get a heart attack is four times higher than normal during the first hour after inhaling marijuana.
Marijuana is also linked to respiratory illnesses. A study showed that people that smoked marijuana often had more problems with their health and missed more work days as opposed to those who didn’t. Marijuana smoke is an irritant to the lungs and can cause a daily cough and phlegm production. Allegedly, some workers who had a lot of skin contact to cannabis plants during the harvesting and packing processes ended up developing symptoms such as vomiting, stomach pains, and irregular heartbeats.
Withdrawing from marijuana can be a nightmare. It can cause the person to have a loss of appetite, sleep disruptions (such as vivid nightmares or insomnia), anxiety, intense cravings, mood swings, restlessness, headaches, and irritability. Further, the individual withdrawing from marijuana can have what is known as “using dreams”. Using dreams are dreams where the individual is smoking marijuana. These withdrawal reactions start to diminish after three weeks. However, they can linger for a lot longer, even up to a few months in some cases.
THC gets into the bloodstream pretty rapidly when smoking marijuana. THC acts on the cannabinoid receptors of the brain. These receptors influence things like pleasure, memory, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. The THC in marijuana over-activates this system. This is partly what causes the high that is experienced. The effects from this can result in altered perceptions and mood, messed up coordination, thinking difficulties, trouble with problem solving, disrupted learning, and impaired memory. The exposure of the brain to this highly concentrated THC can be detrimental to brain development. The damage can be permanent depending on how young the person is when they began using, how long they have been using, how much, etc. Studies have even shown significant drops in IQ with teenage marijuana users. Additionally, with some of these teenagers, it was shown that when they quit smoking marijuana as adults, they did not fully regain the cognitive abilities they had lost.
Though legalization of marijuana in this country has made a lot of progress, namely for medicinal use, its actual medicinal value has not yet been determined. Scientists continue to investigate this matter.
Though it is commonly thought of as a substance that doesn’t have addictive properties, marijuana is definitely addictive. The activity that THC alone has on the brain promotes a feeling of euphoria that users seem to be getting hooked to at a fast rate. Approximately 9% of people who use marijuana will end up being dependent on it. However, in the youth of today, that number rises to 17%. This rises even further, to 25-50%, with daily users. Though there is a lot of controversy surrounding this drug, the facts remain legitimate and sound.
Signs & Symptoms of Marijuana Use
Some signs of marijuana abuse are bloodshot and/or blurry eyes, a “smoker’s cough”, getting the munchies (which means a bout of hunger, normally for high fatty foods), dry mouth (“cotton mouth”), anxiety or paranoia or both simultaneously, bad memory, poor coordination, fits of laughter that are usually unwarranted, and slow reaction time.
An addiction to marijuana can affect a person’s life in a dramatic way. As a person increases their marijuana use, they can become more and more unmotivated or just generally lazy. They might also start to act withdrawn and not participate as much socially as they once did. Like any addiction, the various aspects of the user’s life seem to fall slowly out of their reach, as their life and mind start revolving solely around the drug. It’s a pretty insidious drug in that way and not enough people are informed of these kinds of facts.
Furthermore, marijuana is a gateway drug and marijuana users tend to find a transition over into street drugs like Molly, cocaine, crack, or heroin less intimidating.