Marijuana Facts

What is marijuana? It’s the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds which come from the hemp plant known as Cannabis sativa. It’s actually a psychoactive drug due to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the mind altering chemical ingredient contained in it. THC is a coveted ingredient by many users that people sometimes extract it to make high amounts of THC. In the United States marijuana has become the most commonly used illegal drug there is. A majority of these users are young people (teenagers and young adults), however that demographic continues to widen to a marked degree.

Marijuana is often smoked from a joint (a hand-rolled cigarette) or sometimes in bongs (which are pipes or water pipes). They’re also smoked in blunts (which are weed-filled cigars). Vaporizers are also common now- this is to avoid inhaling smoke. Sometimes people eat marijuana, in the case of edibles (food containing marijuana). This commonly shows up in the form of brownies, cookies, cake, candy, or other sweets. Tea is also commonly used as an edible. Anything you can eat, however, can be used as a marijuana edible.

As far as extracts of THC are concerned there is hash oil or honey oil (which is a liquid that is gooey), “wax”/”budder” (a lip balm textured soft solid) and “shatter” (which is a solid). These extracts can actually be dangerous and there have been a decent amount of emergency room visits linked to its use.

How Marijuana Affects The Brain

When marijuana is ingested it has particular effects on the brain which are responsible for the high the drug can induce on its user. This is what happens: when a user smokes marijuana, the THC goes from the lungs to hitting the bloodstream where the blood carries it to the brain as well as the other organs in the body. Eating marijuana is a lot slower of a process, where it can take a half hour to an hour to absorb and start affecting the individual.

THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, overwhelming the system. This prevents the natural chemicals from acting appropriately, confusing the system. This results in a slowing down of the communication between cells. This is reflected in altered senses, an altered sense of time, changes in the user’s mood, an impaired body movement, a slowed down cognitive function, difficulty with thinking in general and impaired memory.

As a general, long-term situation, marijuana affects the brain as well. Marijuana can reduce the person’s ability to think, their memory and learning functions, all for the long term. This poses a lot of problems, especially in the case of teenagers who end up using the drug. In fact, marijuana affects you more intensely the younger you are. There’s a study which exposed how heavy marijuana users who started in their teens lost eight IQ points between ages 13 and 38, which can be the make or break point between their ability to make right choices in all aspects of their life.

Breathing Problems Linked With Marijuana

Breathing difficulty is a common effects from marijuana usage. This, of course, pertains to the person who smokes it- which makes for a majority of people who use. The type of breathing difficulty with marijuana smokers looks pretty unanimous to nicotine smokers. These types of problems include a daily cough, daily phlegm and a higher risk of lung infections.

General Effects of Marijuana

The short term effects of marijuana are:

  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • A slowed reaction time
  • Feeling sleepy or depressed
  • Increased heartbeat

The long term effects are:

  • A lowered immunity
  • Catching the common illnesses
  • Growth disorder
  • Reduction of male sex hormones
  • Reduced sexual capacity
  • Difficulties with study (not being able to retain information or learn as well as one used to)
  • A lack of motivation and drowsiness/apathy
  • Changes in mood
  • Changes in personality
  • Not being able to understand things clearly

In addition to these long term effects, it’s important to underscore that a tolerance indeed builds up with marijuana and there are many cases where this leads to harder drugs. All too often marijuana can act a gateway drug to heavier and more detrimental substances. Some mental effects that have been linked to using marijuana are temporary hallucinations, temporary paranoia which can get pretty extreme and symptoms of schizophrenia becoming worse. Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts amongst teenage kids can also be added to this list.

Is Marijuana An Addictive Substance?

Yes, marijuana is in fact a very addictive psychoactive substance. On top of the drug itself being addictive, the very fact that it is most commonly used by smoking also makes it addictive because people tend to simultaneously get addicted to the habit of smoking in itself. This is all compounded by the fact that the tolerance with weed builds up and the user requires more and more in order to achieve the same effects it once had with a smaller dosage. This can get so bad that the user ends up absolutely requiring the drug just to feel normal.

A lot of marijuana advocates will claim that the drug isn’t addictive, however there’s a lot of evidence that shows this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there’s a specific statistic which reveals a different story. About 9 percent of people which use marijuana end up becoming abusers of marijuana. The problem of addiction is further revealed if you broaden that statistic to include people who are dependent on marijuana which, let’s face it, is a symptom of addiction. This rises the percentage to over 20 percent which makes for 4.5 million users of the drug. In conclusion, marijuana appears to be even more addictive than that of alcohol which has a statistic of only 7 percent alcohol users becoming dependent on alcohol. What it comes down to is that marijuana has a relatively high risk of addiction despite biased claims that it isn’t addictive.

Marijuana Withdrawal

There are several symptoms which will occur when withdrawing from marijuana. The most frustrating reported symptom of withdrawal is insomnia. Sometimes insomnia turns into the very reason why a user will refuse to quit using marijuana. Vivid dreams as well as nightmares is a common sleep-related symptom, too. Depression is also a common one, where the user is so used to relying on a drug to make them happier or feel euphoric from the high that they experience depression in a clear contrast to feeling stoned. Obviously there are other factors that could be intertwined with the depression aspect of withdrawal, such as the fact that people who use any drug are doing so in order to avoid some form or another of unhappiness. Night sweats is another likely symptom of withdrawal- this is the body’s way of detoxing the drug. This also includes regularly getting sweaty palms. Eating difficulty is an additional problem somebody will come across also. This includes weight loss, loss of appetite, digestion difficulty and nausea. Then there is shakiness and dizziness which can occur when withdrawing. Less common symptoms of withdrawal are kidney pains, chronic fatigue, hormonal changes/imbalances and low immunity.

It depends a lot on the person, their level of addiction and how often they were actually using on how long these withdrawal symptoms can last. The symptoms have been reported to last anywhere from a few weeks to six months.

By Robert O. Newman II, ICDAC, ICPS, CIP