What is marijuana?
Marijuana is the nations most used illicit drug. According to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, more than 83 million Americans (37%), have tried marijuana at least once. Marijuana is a mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seed and flowers of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The chemical that causes the ‘high’ is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The amount of THC is what dictates the potency of the marijuana that is being used.
When someone smokes marijuana, the THC is passed from the lungs to the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the organs in the body. When in the brain, the THC connects to nerve cells on cannabinoid receptors and affects the activity of those cells. Many of these receptors are found in the parts of the brain that affect memory, thought, pleasure, concentration, sensory, time perception and coordinated movement.
How is marijuana used?
Marijuana is most usually smoked through pipes, water pipes (bongs), or can be cooked in foods such as brownies.
What are the short term effects of marijuana use?
Marijuana’s effects begin as soon as the drug enters the brain and will generally last for 1-3 hours. If marijuana is consumed in food or drink, the short term effects will begin more slowly but will last up to 4 hours. Within a few minutes of smoking marijuana, heart rate increases, the bronchial passages relax, and blood vessels in the eyes expand.
As the drug enters the body, dopamine is released, and this is what causes the high. While smoking marijuana, a person may experience more pleasant, strong sensations than usual, and time will appear to move very slowly. The users mouth may feel dry, they may shake, and they may become very hungry and thirsty. Marijuana also impairs a memory and ability to recall events. Coordination and balance is also disrupted. Therefore, it is imperative that people who are taking marijuana do not drive while under the influence of the drug. Studies show that 6-11% of fatal accident victims test positive for THC.
What are the long term effects of marijuana use?
Because marijuana is generally smoked, there are obviously serious and potentially fatal respiratory ailments that occur from smoking marijuana. People who smoke marijuana frequently are more at risk for chronic cough, bronchitis, and emphysema as well as cancer of the head, neck and lungs.
Marijuana has significant negative consequences on school, work and social life. Students especially suffer from decreased performance due to the effects of THC. Studies have shown that students who smoke marijuana heavily have decreased attention and memory even 24 hours after smoking the drug. However, after four weeks of remaining abstinent, memory and cognition seem to reappear.