What is it? (Like you don’t know)
Marijuana is made from the cannabis sativa plant which grows wild (and is also cultivated indoors and out) throughout many regions. Most of the marijuana used in the United States comes from sources in the U.S., Mexico ("Mexican Red/Brown"), and Canada ("BC Bud").
Marijuana consists of the buds, leaves, and resin of the cannabis plant. The stalks and sterilized seeds are considered "hemp." The plant, cannabis sativa, contains chemicals called "cannabinoids."
THC (delta-9-tetrhydrocannabinol) is the cannabinoid believed to be responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
THC can be found in all parts of the cannabis plant, including hemp. This is why hemp is regulated carefully--some hemp products such as clothing, rope, yarn, lotion and soap are legal products because they do not cause THC to enter the human body.
"While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, have been found to contain THC. The existence of THC in hemp is significant because THC, like marijuana, is a schedule I controlled substance." (Source: DEA)
Sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah; it’s a Spanish word), hashish (“hash” for short), and hash oil are stronger forms of marijuana. (Source NIDA)
Scientists have learned a great deal about how THC acts in the brain to produce its many effects. When someone smokes marijuana, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body.
THC acts upon specific sites in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors, kicking off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the "high" that users experience when they smoke marijuana. Some brain areas have many cannabinoid receptors; others have few or none. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrating, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement (Herkenham M, Lynn A, Little MD, et al. Cannabinoid receptor localization in the brain. Proc Natl Acad Sci, USA 87(5):1932–1936, 1990.).
Not surprisingly, marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory. Research has shown that, in chronic users, marijuana's adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off (Pope HG, Gruber AJ, Hudson JI, Huestis MA, Yurgelun-Todd D. Neuropsychological performance in long-term cannabis users. Arch Gen Psychiatry 58(10):909–915, 2001.
How long does marijuana stay in the user's body?
THC in marijuana is rapidly absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs. Generally, traces (metabolites) of THC can be detected by standard urine testing methods several days after a smoking session. In heavy users, however, traces can sometimes be detected for weeks after they have stopped using marijuana.
Day to Day Life
Research clearly demonstrates that marijuana has the potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person's existing problems worse. In one study, heavy marijuana abusers reported that the drug impaired several important measures of life achievement, including physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, social life, and career status(Gruber AJ, Pope HG, Hudson JI, Yurgelun-Todd D. Attributes of long-term heavy cannabis users: A case control study. Psychological Med 33(8):1415–1422, 2003.)
Chronic marijuana use, especially in a very young person, may also be a marker of risk for mental illnesses - including addiction - stemming from genetic or environmental vulnerabilities, such as early exposure to stress or violence. Currently, the strongest evidence links marijuana use and schizophrenia and/or related disorders (Moore TH, Zammit S, Lingford-Hughes A, et al. Cannabis use and risk of psychotic or affective mental health outcomes: A systematic review. Lancet 370 (9584):319–328, 2007).
High doses of marijuana can produce an acute psychotic reaction; in addition, use of the drug may trigger the onset or relapse of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals.
The potential medicinal properties of marijuana have been the subject of substantive research and heated debate. Scientists have confirmed that the cannabis plant contains active ingredients with therapeutic potential for relieving pain, controlling nausea, stimulating appetite, and decreasing ocular pressure. Cannabinoid-based medications include synthetic compounds, such as dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®), which are FDA approved, and a new, chemically pure mixture of plant-derived THC and cannabidiol called Sativex®, formulated as a mouth spray and approved in Canada and parts of Europe for the relief of cancer-associated pain and spasticity and neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis.
Within a few minutes after inhaling marijuana smoke, an individual's
· Heart begins beating more rapidly
· Bronchial passages relax and become enlarged
· Blood vessels in the eyes expand, making the eyes look red.
· Heart rate, normally 70 to 80 beats per minute, may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute, in some cases, even double. This effect can be greater if other drugs are taken with marijuana.
In a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a moderate dose of marijuana alone was shown to impair driving performance; however, the effects of even a low dose of marijuana combined with alcohol were markedly greater than for either drug alone
Cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs may also be promoted by marijuana smoke. A study comparing 173 cancer patients and 176 healthy individuals produced strong evidence that smoking marijuana increases the likelihood of developing cancer of the head or neck, and that the more marijuana smoked, the greater the increase. A statistical analysis of the data suggested that marijuana smoking doubled or tripled the risk of these cancer. Marijuana has the potential to promote cancer of the lungs and other parts of the respiratory tract because it contains irritants and carcinogens (carcinogen is any substance that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer).
· Marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke.
· It also produces high levels of an enzyme that converts certain hydrocarbons into their carcinogenic form, levels that may accelerate the changes that ultimately produce malignant cells.
· Marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which increases the lungs' exposure to carcinogenic smoke. These facts suggest that, puff for puff, smoking marijuana may increase the risk of cancer more than smoking tobacco does.
SHORT TERM EFFECTS of marijuana use include
· Impaired short-term memory
· Impaired concentration, attention, and judgment
· Impaired coordination and balance
· Increased heart rate
· Blood shot or red eyes
· Dry mouth
· Increased appetite
LONG TERM EFFECTS of marijuana use include
· Addiction (psychological)
· Persistent anxiety
· Impaired learning skills
· Memory difficulties
MEDICAL COMPLICATIONS associated with marijuana use include
· Increased risk of chronic cough
· Increased risk of cancer of the head, neck, and lungs
· Decrease in testosterone levels
· Lower sperm counts for men
· Increase in testosterone levels for women
· Increased risk of infertility.
WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS: Long-term marijuana abusers trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms including:
· Decreased appetite
· Drug craving
These symptoms begin within about 1 day following abstinence, peak at 2-3 days, and subside within 1 or 2 weeks following drug cessation. (Budney AJ, Vandrey RG, Hughes JR, Thostenson JD, Bursac Z. Comparison of cannabis and tobacco withdrawal: Severity and contribution to relapse. J Subst Abuse Treat, e-publication ahead of print, March 12, 2008.)