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What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is a green or gray mixture of dried, shredded flowers
and leaves of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). It is the most
often used illegal drug in this country. All forms of cannabis
are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs; they all contain THC
(delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in
marijuana. There are about 400 chemicals in a cannabis plant,
but THC is the one that affects the brain the most.
There are many different names for marijuana. Slang terms for
drugs change quickly, and they vary from one part of the country
to another. They may even differ across sections of a large
city. Terms from years ago, such as pot, herb, grass, weed,
Mary Jane, and reefer, are still used. You might also hear the
names skunk, boom, gangster, kif, or ganja. There are also street
names for different strains or "brands" of marijuana,
such as "Texas tea," "Maui wowie," and "Chronic."
A recent book of American slang lists more than 200 terms for
various kinds of marijuana.
Marijuana's effect on the user depends on the strength or potency
of the THC it contains. THC potency has increased since the
1970s but has been about the same since the mid-1980s. The strength
of the drug is measured by the average amount of THC in test
samples confiscated by law enforcement agencies.
ordinary marijuana has an average of 3 percent THC.
(made from just the buds and flowering tops of female plants)
has an average of 7.5 percent THC, with a range as high as 24
(the sticky resin from the female plant flowers) has an average
of 3.6 percent, with a range as high as 28 percent.
oil, a tar-like liquid distilled from hashish, has an average
of 16 percent, with a range as high as 43 percent.
What is THC?
THC is the chemical in marijuana which makes you feel "high"
(which means experiencing a change in mood and seeing or feeling
things differently). Certain parts of the plant contain higher
levels of THC. The flowers or buds have more THC than the stems
When marijuana is smoked, THC goes:
into the blood through the lungs
to the brain (this is when the "high" is felt and
can happen within a few minutes and can last up to five hours)
THC is absorbed more slowly into the blood when marijuana is
eaten as it has to pass through the stomach and intestine and
can take up to one hour to experience the "high" effects
which can last up to 12 hours. THC is absorbed quickly into
body fat and is then released very slowly back into the blood.
This process can take up to one month for a single dose of THC
to fully leave the body.
How is Marijuana used?
A.) Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette (called
a "joint"). The drug can also be smoked in a water
pipe, called a "bong." Some users mix marijuana into
foods or use it to brew a tea. Marijuana cigarettes or blunts
often include crack cocaine, a combination known by various
street names, such as "primos" or "woolies."
Joints and blunts often are dipped in PCP and are called "happy
sticks," "wicky sticks," "love boat,"
or "tical." Hash users either smoke the drug in a
pipe or mix it with tobacco and smoke it as a cigarette. Lately,
young people have a new method for smoking marijuana: they slice
open cigars and replace the tobacco with marijuana, making what's
called a "blunt." When the blunt is smoked with a
40 oz. bottle of malt liquor, it is called a "B-40."
What are the short-term effects of Marijuana?
What are the long-term effects of Marijuana?
What are the effects of Marijuana on Men?
Marijuana is the most common drug used by adolescents in America
today. Marijuana affect the parts of the brain which controls
the sex and growth hormones. In males, marijuana can decrease
the testosterone level. Occasional cases of enlarged breasts
in male marijuana users are triggered by the chemical impact
on the hormone system. Regular marijuana use can also lead to
a decrease in sperm count, as well as increases in abnormal
and immature sperm. Marijuana is a contributing factor in the
rising problem of infertility in males. Young males should know
the effects and potential effects of marijuana use on sex and
growing process before they decide to smoke marijuana.
What are the effects of Marijuana on Women?
Just as in Males, marijuana effects the female in the part of
the brain that controls the hormones, which determines the sequence
in the menstrual cycle. Its been said that females who smoked
or used marijuana on a regular basis had irregular menstrual
cycles, the female hormones were depressed, and the testosterone
level was raised. Even though this effect may be reversible,
it may take several months of no marijuana use before the menstrual
cycles become normal again.
Mothers who smoke marijuana on a regular basis have been reported
of having babies with a weak central nervous system. These babies
show abnormal reactions to light and sound, exhibit tremors
and startles, and have the high-pitched cry associated with
drug withdrawal. Occurring at five times the rate of Fetal Alcohol
Syndrome, Fetal Marijuana Syndrome is a growing concern of many
doctors. Furthermore, doctors worry that children born to "pot-head"
mothers will have learning disabilities, attention deficits
and hormonal irregularities as they grow older, even if there
are no apparent signs of damage at birth. Pregnant or nursing
mothers who smoke marijuana should talk to their doctors immediately.
What are the effects of Marijuana on the brain?
Researchers have found that THC changes the way in which sensory
information gets into and is acted on by the hippocampus. This
is a component of the brain's limbic system that is crucial
for learning, memory, and the integration of sensory experiences
with emotions and motivations. Investigations have shown that
neurons in the information processing system of the hippocampus
and the activity of the nerve fibers are suppressed by THC.
In addition, researchers have discovered that learned behaviors,
which depend on the hippocampus, also deteriorate. Recent research
findings also indicate that long-term use of marijuana produces
changes in the brain similar to those seen after long-term use
of other major drugs of abuse.
What are the effects of Marijuana on the lungs?
Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the
same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers have. These individuals
may have daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis,
and more frequent chest colds. Continuing to smoke marijuana
can lead to abnormal functioning of lung tissue injured or destroyed
by marijuana smoke.
Regardless of the THC content, the amount of tar inhaled by
marijuana smokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed
are three to five times greater than among tobacco smokers.
This may be due to the marijuana users inhaling more deeply
and holding the smoke in the lungs.
What are the effects of Marijuana on heart rate and blood pressure?
A.) Recent findings indicate that smoking marijuana while shooting
up cocaine has the potential to cause severe increases in heart
rate and blood pressure. In one study, experienced marijuana
and cocaine users were given marijuana alone, cocaine alone,
and then a combination of both. Each drug alone produced cardiovascular
effects; when they were combined, the effects were greater and
lasted longer. The heart rate of the subjects in the study increased
29 beats per minute with marijuana alone and 32 beats per minute
with cocaine alone. When the drugs were given together, the
heart rate increased by 49 beats per minute, and the increased
rate persisted for a longer time. The drugs were given with
the subjects sitting quietly. In normal circumstances, an individual
may smoke marijuana and inject cocaine and then do something
physically stressful that may significantly increase risks of
overload on the cardiovascular system.
What are the effects of heavy Marijuana use on learning and
A.) A study of college students has shown that critical skills
related to attention, memory, and learning are impaired among
people who use marijuana heavily, even after discontinuing its
use for at least 24 hours. Researchers compared 65 "heavy
users," who had smoked marijuana a median of 29 of the
past 30 days, and 64 "light users," who had smoked
a median of 1 of the past 30 days. After a closely monitored
19- to 24-hour period of abstinence from marijuana and other
illicit drugs and alcohol, the undergraduates were given several
standard tests measuring aspects of attention, memory, and learning.
Compared to the light users, heavy marijuana users made more
errors and had more difficulty sustaining attention, shifting
attention to meet the demands of changes in the environment,
and in registering, processing, and using information. The findings
suggest that the greater impairment among heavy users is likely
due to an alteration of brain activity produced by marijuana.
Longitudinal research on marijuana use among young people below
college age indicates those who used have lower achievement
than the non-users, more acceptance of deviant behavior, more
delinquent behavior and aggression, greater rebelliousness,
poorer relationships with parents, and more associations with
delinquent and drug-using friends.
What are the effects of Marijuana on pregnant women?
A.) Any drug of abuse can affect a mother's health during pregnancy,
and this is a time when she should take special care of herself.
Drugs of abuse may interfere with proper nutrition and rest,
which can affect good functioning of the immune system. Some
studies have found that babies born to mothers who used marijuana
during pregnancy were smaller than those born to mothers who
did not use the drug. In general, smaller babies are more likely
to develop health problems.
A nursing mother who uses marijuana passes some of the THC to
the baby in her breast milk. Research indicates that the use
of marijuana by a mother during the first month of breast-feeding
can impair the infant's motor development (control of muscle
movement). Research also shows more anger and more regressive
behavior (thumb sucking, temper tantrums) in toddlers whose
parents use marijuana than among the toddlers of non-using parents.
Is Marijuana addictive?
A.) Not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted, when a
user begins to seek out and take the drug compulsively, that
person is said to be dependent on the drug or addicted to it.
In 1995, 165,000 people entering drug treatment programs reported
marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, showing they needed
help to stop using.
Some heavy users of marijuana show signs of dependence because
when they do not use the drug, they develop withdrawal symptoms.
Some subjects in an experiment on marijuana withdrawal had symptoms,
such as restlessness, loss of appetite, trouble with sleeping,
weight loss, and shaky hands.
According to one study, marijuana use by teenagers who have
prior serious antisocial problems can quickly lead to dependence
on the drug. That study also found that, for troubled teenagers
using tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, progression from their
first use of marijuana to regular use was about as rapid as
their progression to regular tobacco use, and more rapid than
the progression to regular use of alcohol.
Do Marijuana users loose their motivation?
A.) Some frequent, long-term marijuana users show signs of a
lack of motivation (amotivational syndrome). Their problems
include not caring about what happens in their lives, no desire
to work regularly, fatigue, and a lack of concern about how
they look. As a result of these symptoms, some users tend to
perform poorly in school or at work. Scientists are still studying
Does using Marijuana lead to other drugs?
A.) Long-term studies of high school students and their patterns
of drug use show that very few young people use other drugs
without first trying marijuana. The risk of using cocaine has
been estimated to be more than 104 times greater for those who
have tried marijuana than for those who have never tried it.
Although there are no definitive studies on the factors associated
with the movement from marijuana use to use of other drugs,
growing evidence shows that a combination of biological, social,
and psychological factors are involved.
Marijuana affects the brain in some of the same ways that other
drugs do. Researchers are examining the possibility that long-term
marijuana use may create changes in the brain that make a person
more at risk of becoming addicted to other drugs, such as alcohol
or cocaine. While not all young people who use marijuana go
on to use other drugs, further research is needed to determine
who will be at greatest risk.
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