BASIC FACTS ABOUT MARIJUANA
What is Marijuana?
Call it pot, grass, weed, or any one of nearly 200 other names,
marijuana is, by far, the world’s most commonly used illicit drug—and far more
dangerous than most users realize.
Marijuana has been around for a long while. Its source, the hemp
plant (cannabis sativa), was being cultivated for psychoactive properties more
than 2,000 years ago. Although cannabis contains at least 400 different
chemicals, its main mind-altering ingredient is THC (delta-9-
tetrahydrocannabinol).The amount of THC in marijuana determines the drug’s
strength, and THC levels are affected by a great many factors, including plant
type, weather, soil, and time of harvest. Sophisticated cannabis cultivation of
today produces high levels of THC and marijuana that is far more potent than pot
of the past. THC content of marijuana, which averaged less than 1 percent in
1974, rose to an average 4 percent by 1994.
For the highly popular form of marijuana called Sinsemilla (from
the Spanish "without seeds"), made from just the buds and flowering tops of
female plants, THC content averages 7.5 percent and ranges as high as 24
How is it Used?
Marijuana and other cannabis products are usually smoked,
sometimes in a pipe or water pipe, but most often in loosely rolled cigarettes
known as "joints." Some users will slice open and hollow out cigars, replacing
the tobacco with marijuana, to make what are called "blunts." Joints and blunts
may be laced with other substances, including crack cocaine and the potent
hallucinogen phencyclidine (PCP), substantially altering effects of the drug.
Smoking, however, is not the only route of administration. Marijuana can be
brewed into tea or mixed in baked products (cookies or brownies).
How Does it Affect You?
A mild hallucinogen, marijuana has some of alcohol’s depressant
and disinhibiting properties. User reaction, however, is heavily influenced by
expectations and past experience, and many first-time users feel nothing at all.
Effects of smoking are generally felt within a few minutes and peak in 10 to 30
minutes. They include dry mouth and throat, increased heart rate, impaired
coordination and balance, delayed reaction time, and diminished short-term
memory. Moderate doses tend to induce a sense of well-being and a dreamy state
of relaxation that encourages fantasies, renders some users highly suggestible,
and distorts perception (making it dangerous to operate machinery, drive a car
or boat, or ride a bicycle). Stronger doses prompt more intense and often
disturbing reactions including paranoia and hallucinations.
Most of marijuana’s short-term effects wear off within two or
three hours. The drug itself, however, tends to linger on. THC is a fat-soluble
substance and will accumulate in fatty tissues in the liver, lungs, testes, and
other organs. Two days after smoking marijuana, one-quarter of the THC content
may still be retained. It will show up in urine tests three days after use, and
traces may be picked up by sensitive blood tests two to four weeks later.
The Impact on the Mind
Marijuana use reduces learning ability. Research has been piling
up of late demonstrating clearly that marijuana limits the capacity to absorb
and retain information. A 1995 study of college students discovered that the
inability of heavy marijuana users to focus, sustain attention, and organize
data persists for as long as 24 hours after their last use of the drug. Earlier
research, comparing cognitive abilities of adult marijuana users with non-using
adults, found that users fall short on memory as well as math and verbal skills.
Although it has yet to be proven
conclusively that heavy marijuana use can cause irreversible loss of
intellectual capacity, animal studies have shown marijuana-induced structural
damage to portions of the brain essential to memory and learning.
The Impact on the Body
Chronic marijuana smokers are prey to chest colds, bronchitis,
emphysema, and bronchial asthma. Persistent use will damage lungs and airways
and raise the risk of cancer. There is just as much exposure to cancer-causing
chemicals from smoking one marijuana joint as smoking five tobacco cigarettes.
And there is evidence that marijuana may limit the ability of the immune system
to fight infection and disease.
Marijuana also affects hormones. Regular use can delay the onset
of puberty in young men and reduce sperm production. For women, regular use may
disrupt normal monthly menstrual cycles and inhibit ovulation. When pregnant
women use marijuana, they run the risk of having smaller babies with lower birth
weights, who are more likely than other babies to develop health problems. Some
studies have also found indications of developmental delays in children exposed
to marijuana before birth.
Teens and Marijuana
Although dangers exist for marijuana users of all ages, risk is
greatest for the young. For them, the impact of marijuana on learning is
critical, and pot often proves pivotal in the failure to master vital
interpersonal coping skills or make appropriate life-style choices. Thus,
marijuana can inhibit maturity.
Another concern is marijuana’s role as a "gateway drug," which
makes subsequent use of more potent and disabling substances more likely. The
Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found adolescents
who smoke pot 85 times more likely to use cocaine than their non–pot smoking
peers. And 60 percent of youngsters who use marijuana before they turn 15 later
go on to use cocaine.
But many teens encounter serious trouble well short of the
"gateway." Marijuana is, by itself, a high-risk substance for adolescents. More
than adults, they are likely to be victims of automobile accidents caused by
marijuana’s impact on judgment and perception. Casual sex, prompted by
compromised judgment or marijuana’s disinhibiting effects, leaves them
vulnerable not only to unwanted pregnancy but also to sexually transmitted
Diminished short-term memory
Loss of concentration and
Increased risk of accidents
Loss of motivation
Risk of AIDS and other STDs
Increased heart rate
Anxiety, panic attacks, and
Damage to the respiratory,
reproductive, and immune systems
Increased risk of cancer
- Psychological dependence
[Cannabis] [Hemp in 1896] [1911 Britannica article] [Amsterdam] [3 Marijuana Myths] [Amazing Plant] [Amotivational Syndrome] [Anandamide Pharmacology] [The Assassins] [Cannabis Cooking] [Marijuana Recipes] [Bhang Recipe] [Cannabis Brewing] [CannaButter] [Pot Cookies] [How to Make Hash] [Marijuana Consumption] [Blunts] [Bong-Pipe FAQ] [Gravity-Bong-FAQ] [Smoke Composition Comparison] [Tale of 2 Hashish Eaters] [Vaporizer Principles] [Medical Marijuana History] [Medical Marijuana Sonoma] [Canadian Hemp Assoc] [Grow-lights FAQ] [When to Harvest] [Rastafarian info] [Isomerization] [Life Line] [Nahas retractions] [Green Dragon] [Cannabinoids & Appetite] [Medical Drawbacks]
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