What is Marijuana?
Even if it is not considered as a drug across the world, marijuana is one of the most common “drugs” and most people know a lot about it. But now we will talk a bit more about what is marijuana and what it is for.
Marijuana, also known as weed, pot, grass, bud, herb, ganja, and mary jane, among other slang terms, refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant, which contains the psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as well as other related compounds. Cannabis plant material can also be concentrated in a resin called hashish or a sticky black liquid called hash oil.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, typically smoked as a hand-rolled cigarette (joint) or in a pipe or water pipe (bong). The drug is also smoked in what’s called a blunt—a cigar that’s been emptied of tobacco and refilled with a mixture of marijuana and tobacco. Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive sweet-and-sour odor.
Another way of ingesting the drug is to mix the plant’s leaves, flowers stems, or seeds into food or to brew the leaves as a tea.
The Effects of Marijuana Abuse
When marijuana is smoked, THC passes rapidly from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the substance to the brain and other organs throughout the body. THC is absorbed more slowly when ingested through food or drink.
Regardless of how THC is ingested, the substance acts specifically on the brain cell’s cannabinoid receptors. These receptors, ordinarily activated by THC-like chemicals produced naturally by the body, are part of the neural communication network, called the endocannabinoid system, which plays an important role in normal brain development and function.
The highest density of cannabinoid receptors is found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. Marijuana over-activates the endocannabinoid system, causing the "high" and other effects that users experience, such as:
- Altered perceptions and mood
- Impaired coordination
- Difficulty with thinking and problem solving
- Disrupted learning and difficulty recollecting memories
- Decreased appetite
Research indicates that using marijuana can cause or exacerbate problems in daily life. Heavy users tend to report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental, and physical health, more relationship problems, and less academic or career success when compared with non-using peers. The use of the drug is also associated with a higher likelihood of dropping out of school. Several workplace studies associate marijuana use with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers' compensation claims, and job turnover.
Marijuana use may be associated with a range of health issues, related to heart and lung problems and also mental health conditions.
Marijuana smoke is an irritant to the lungs, and frequent smokers can experience many of the same respiratory problems experienced by tobacco smokers, such as:
- Daily cough and phlegm production
- Frequent acute chest illness
- Heightened risk of lung infections
- Damage to the immune system
- Kills brain cells and damages the central nervous system
- Fertility issues
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Chronic Marijuana Use
A number of studies link chronic marijuana use and mental illness. High doses can produce a temporary psychotic reaction in some users. The use of the drug can also worsen the course of illness for patients who have schizophrenia. A series of large, longitudinal studies also show a link between marijuana and the development of psychosis.
Marijuana abuse has also been associated with other mental health problems, such as:
- Personality disturbances
- Suicidal thoughts (among adolescents)
- Lack of motivation to engage in typically rewarding activities
More research is needed to better understand these mental health links and ramifications.
Using marijuana during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of neurobehavioral problems in babies. Because THC and other compounds mimic the body's own endocannabinoid chemicals, marijuana use by pregnant mothers may alter the developing endocannabinoid system in the brain of the fetus. Consequences for the child can include difficulties related to attention, memory and problem-solving.
Marijuana has also been shown to negatively affect the brain development of young people who are heavy users. The effects on thinking and memory may last a long time or even be permanent. A study of individuals who began using the drug in adolescence revealed substantially reduced connectivity in areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory. A long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking the drug heavily in their teens lost an average of eight points in IQ between ages 13-38. The lost cognitive abilities were not fully restored in those who quit smoking marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking the drug in adulthood did not show significant IQ declines.
Additionally, because it impairs judgment and motor coordination, marijuana use contributes to a greater risk of injury or death while driving a car. Data analysis suggests that marijuana use more than doubles a driver's risk of being in an accident. On a related note, the combination of marijuana and alcohol increases driving impairment more than either substance alone.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Contrary to common belief, marijuana is an addictive substance. Research suggests that approximately nine percent of users develop addiction. The estimated incidence of addiction increases among those who start using at a young age (an estimated 17 percent develop addiction) and among people who use the drug daily (an estimated 25-50 percent become addicted).
Individuals who are addicted to cannabis may experience symptoms of withdrawal when attempting to stop using the drug. Long-term users who try to quit report withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which can make it difficult to abstain. Behavioral interventions, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational incentives (e.g., providing vouchers for goods or services to patients who remain abstinent) have proven effective in treatment and rehab for marijuana addiction. Although medications to address marijuana/cannabis addiction are not currently available, recent discoveries about the endocannabinoid system offer promise in developing medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, block the drug's intoxicating effects, and prevent relapse.
Other Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that alters perception. Marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical compound that causes the drug’s effects. The effects of marijuana may be different for everyone and depend on how it is consumed. Smoking marijuana produces a faster, shorter-lived high than taking it orally. The effects of dabs can be immediate and last for hours due to their concentrated amounts of THC.
The effects of marijuana include:
- Feelings of happiness
- Mild hallucinations
- Increased appetite
- Reduced anxiety
While there is virtually no risk of overdosing, marijuana comprises the second highest rates (after cocaine) of emergency room visits caused by abusing an illicit substance. These hospital visits are mostly attributed to accidents that occurred when individuals were intoxicated.
Treating a Marijuana Addiction
Some people who have been using marijuana frequently over a long period of time struggle to stop using on their own. Just like any other addiction, asking for help is the most effective way to quit. Treatment options include inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, support groups, and therapy. All individuals seeking or considering treatment should meet with a substance abuse professional for an evaluation to determine the level of care that best meets their medical and psychological needs. Our rehab center is ready to meet all the requirements to help you overcome your addiction. Contact us to learn more about our services.