Marijuana

Modified: 22nd Jul 2019

Known by dozens of names, marijuana is the most prevalent illicit drug in the US and the third most popular addictive substance to date. With nearly one-third of all Americans have tried marijuana at least once, this is not a drug we can afford to ignore.

But what is marijuana? What are its effects? Is it addictive? Is it a gateway drug? Know the facts about marijuana. Learn more here.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana produces a number of substances known as cannabinoids. The most prevalent cannabinoid is THC, which is known for its psychoactive properties. While all other cannabinoids are generally safe, THC is psychoactive and can cause addiction.

Definition

The term “marijuana” refers to the dried parts of the cannabis plant. There are two major strains of cannabis: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica.

Marijuana and its products are known by dozens of other names, including pot, weed, dope, long, flower, joint, reefer, herb, grass, and many others.

How Is It Taken?

People typically smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes. Marijuana users call cigarettes with tobacco and marijuana “joints”, and cigarettes with just marijuana “blunts”.

Other forms of smoking are also common and include traditional pipes and a family of water pipes known as bongs. In recent years, people have started using vaporizers and other modern devices to take marijuana.

In addition to smoking, there are several other ways to take marijuana. Since the legalization of medical marijuana, there have been dozens of new applications, including marijuana oils, extracts, resins, waxes, edibles, concentrate patches, and more.

Who Takes It?

More than 94 million Americans have used marijuana at least once in their lives. Of those users, 6.7 percent are teenagers, and the number is rising fast.

Right now, medical marijuana is legal in 31 states. Recreational marijuana is legal in nine states. This makes it easier for children and teens to obtain and abuse marijuana. In 2016, there were 2.6 new marijuana users in the US.

When used for medical purposes, doctors agree that it may be a viable alternative to painkillers. However, more than a quarter million emergency room visits in a year involve marijuana, so it is not without risks. One in ten marijuana users will develop marijuana addiction, and the number is higher the younger you are.

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A Brief History of Marijuana

Marijuana is one of the oldest known narcotic substances. The earliest recorded use dates back to 3,000 BC. A hundred years ago, cannabis became illegal to cultivate and sell in most developed countries.

Towards the end of the 20th century, some countries took steps to legalize marijuana for medical applications. Right now, medical marijuana is legal in countries like Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Spain, and in 31 of our 50 states.

Consequences of Marijuana Use

The THC in marijuana interacts directly with our brain’s cannabinoid receptors. This triggers a complex array of physical and psychological effects on our bodies.

Short-Term Health Effects

The first short-term effects of smoking marijuana manifest within minutes. The most notable side effect is the signature “high” of marijuana. Other noteworthy health effects include:

  • Altered perception of time
  • Altered mood
  • Altered senses
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Poor reflexes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis

If you take marijuana with food and drink, these effects may take up to an hour to manifest. Depending on your physiology, the “high” may last for hours.

Long-Term Health Effects

Prolonged marijuana use carries numerous risks regardless of your age group. In addition to developing an addiction to THC, other serious long term effects include:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Poor professional performance
  • Impaired learning
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Lower satisfaction
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial problems
  • Development of other addictions

Marijuana use in children affects brain development. Scientists correlate use of the drug with learning difficulties and poor school performance.

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Using Marijuana With Other Drugs

Marijuana is not life-threatening by itself. However, it is perhaps the most famous “gateway drug”. Many scientists claim that marijuana use may lead the user to try more addictive and dangerous drugs.

Studies show that THC use changes the way our brains respond to psychoactive substances. These studies focus on animal models, but doctors believe the effects are similar in human brains as well.

In addition to the physiological response to THC, marijuana use has social associations as well. Proponents of the gateway drug theory point out that marijuana users may try harder drugs out of social pressure or even out of curiosity after experimenting with marijuana.

Which Drugs Are Commonly Used With Marijuana?

Mixing marijuana with tobacco is the most popular combination, and it produces effects similar to tobacco smoking. Tobacco smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and respiratory diseases.

Mixing marijuana with alcohol may cause nausea and trigger psychosis even at low doses. This combination enhances the effects of both drugs with dangerous consequences.

Mixing marijuana with antidepressants may also trigger psychosis and other adverse psychological reactions. This combination may also increase tolerance for both drugs.

Treating Marijuana Addiction

Millions of people struggle with marijuana abuse in the US alone. Long term use may steer your life or the life of a loved one towards a difficult path, and making a change is not always easy.

Here at Northbound Addiction Treatment Services, we help families to guide their loved ones out of the vicious cycle of addiction. We are here to help you take action and live a life free from addiction.

If you or a loved one struggle with marijuana abuse, please contact us today with questions about their addiction and the possible treatment options.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.