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Marijuana, a drug associated with the dried flowers, seeds, and leaves from Cannabis sativa. Cannabis sativa or also known as the Indian hemp plant contains a mind-altering chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. As the most widespread illicit drug in the United States, it is a popular drug of choice among young people.

Most people might think that because some places legalize marijuana abuse, the drug is safe for consumption. However, the body cannot differentiate a legal from an illegal drug. It can only distinguish the effect of marijuana once the body processed the drug.

Most common street names of marijuana include:

  • Pot
  • Reefer
  • Herb
  • Weed
  • Astro Yurf
  • Bhang
  • Dagga
  • Ganja
  • Dry High
  • Buds
  • Blaze
  • Hemp
  • Home Grown
  • J
  • Mary Jane
  • Grass
  • White Widow

Quick Facts about the Drug

  • In 2015, at least 11 million young adults aged between 18 up to 25 years old used marijuana in the previous year.
  • After several years of increased marijuana abuse, the numbers seen declining among middle and high school students, according to the studies of the Monitoring the Future survey.
  • However, another study revealed young people who considered marijuana use as a dangerous habit is diminishing.
  • In the past few years, various states in the US pushed for the legalization of medical marijuana and recreational use may affect these views.

How marijuana is used

Smoking is a popular choice to take marijuana. Users hand rolled marijuana to smoke it like cigarettes or joints. They also smoke the drug using pipes or water pipes called bongs. Another way to smoke it is using blunts, a cigar casing completely or partly refilled with marijuana.

Some users avoid inhaling smoke from marijuana and use vaporizers instead.  Vaporizers haul THC, the active ingredients from the marijuana. It then collects the vapor in a storage space. As the users inhale, they inhale just the active ingredient and not the smoke. There is even liquid marijuana extract circulating the black market.

Mixing marijuana in food like cookies, candy, and brownies is a newly popular trend nowadays. Users may even take the drug as tea or other foods that contain THC-rich ingredients.

Some people even use its extracts to get high, THC enriched resins extracted from marijuana is on the rise. Marijuana users call this consumption as dabbing. There are various forms of these extracts, which includes:

  • Shatter (amber-colored and in solid form)
  • Budder or wax (soft solid that contains characteristics similar to petroleum jelly)
  • Hash oil or honey oil (a sticky substance and in liquid form)

They may seem harmless at first but these extracts can produce immense amounts of THC to the body. The extracts caused numerous emergency cases throughout the country. Preparing these extracts is extremely dangerous because it involves using butane or lighter fluid. People preparing these extracts reported causing fires and explosions which result for them to received extensive burn injuries from butane.

Signs and symptoms

Marijuana users often display these signs but not limited to:

  • Feeling “high” or euphoric
  • Feelings of surreality
  • Pleasure
  • Sense of well-being
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Behavioral symptoms:
  • Slowed speech
  • Intense hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Impaired judgment
  • Sleepiness
  • Fits of  giggles and laughter
  • Impaired ability to sleep
  • Addiction

Physical symptoms include:

  • Impaired coordination
  • Impaired reaction time
  • Red eyes
  • Increased coughing
  • Increase phlegm production
  • Increased respiratory infections
  • Hypertension
  • Heart attack
  • Blood vessels in eyes expand
  • Bronchial passages relax and enlarge
  • Tachycardia

Psychological symptoms include:

  • Heightened sensory perception
  • Altered perception of time
  • Inability to form new memories
  • Delusions
  • Loss of sense of personal identity
  • Schizophrenia-like symptoms
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Lessened cognitive ability
  • Decreased memory
  • Psychosis
  • Distrust
  • Fear

Side Effects

Numerous studies show that marijuana and produce both short- and long-term effects on the body, particularly the brain.

Short-Term Effects

Once users smoke marijuana, THC rapidly passed from the lungs going directly into the bloodstream. The blood which absorbed the chemicals carries it to the brain and other major organs throughout the body. The body can absorb THC more slowly when users eat or drink marijuana compared to those smoked the drug. When taken orally, users may feel the effects of the drug about 30  minutes or an hour after they consumed marijuana.

THC affects specific brain cell receptors which play a vital role in the normal function of the brain and its development. Marijuana over stimulates the parts of the brains that has the most concentration of these receptors. This reaction caused the ‘high’ feeling of the users. Other side effects of the drug include:

  • erratic mood changes
  • altered visual and auditory senses
  • distorted sense of time
  • impaired body movement
  • problems problem-solving and thinking capabilities
  • impaired memory or loss of memory

Long-Term Effects

Since marijuana affects brain development it greatly affects younger kids and teenagers when exposed early in life.  The drug can decrease learning functions, reduce thinking, memory capabilities. It can also affect how the brain forms connections between the areas needed for these functions. The effect of the drug can impede these abilities and even creates permanent damage to the brain.

One famous study conducted in New Zealand under the supervision of Duke University researchers claimed that people ages 13 to 38 who smoked marijuana heavily lost about 8 IQ points. This is also true for people who have ongoing marijuana abuse.  The IQ points lost during the addiction did not fully return even if the teens quit marijuana as adults. On the other hand, users who started using marijuana as adults did not show any prominent IQ lost.

A newly found result from studies shows that there are several factors contributing to IQ decline. Genetics, family, and environmental factors can also contribute to the decline.

Marijuana also affects the both the physical and mental state of the user.

Physical Effects

  •    Breathing problems

Smoking marijuana can irritate the lungs and produce breathing problems similar as those who smoke cigarettes. These problems include a cough, phlegm in the lungs and regular lung sickness as well as a higher risk for lung infections.

  •    Increased heart rate

The drug increases heart rate that can last up to 3 hours after smoking. Users exposed themselves of a heart attack during this time. Also, other people who suffer from heart problems are at risk of developing a heart attack.

  •    Problems with child development during and after pregnancy

When pregnant women smoke marijuana it can produce lower birth weight and an increase of both behavioral and brain problems in babies. Chemicals in marijuana can affect the developing brain of the fetus. Another research shows that THC can excrete into breast milk and can be passed on to their babies during nursing.

Mental Effects

  • momentary hallucinations (seeing and feeling experiences that may seem real but are not)
  • temporary paranoia (unreasonable distrust in other people)
  • worsening symptoms in users with schizophrenia
  • disorganized thinking
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • suicidal thoughts

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