Marijuana is a mixture of the dried leaves and inflorescence of the plant cannabis sativa also called the Indian hemp. It may either be green, brown or gray.
What is the active ingredient of Marijuana?
The active main ingredient of marijuana is a substance called 9 THC. THC is a psychoactive substance and is responsible for most of the effects of smoking marijuana. Apart from THC, weed smoke contains over 400 chemical of which 66 belong to the cannabinoids family. The potency of the stuff is directly proportional to the proportion of THC. This value is constantly rising and presently on an average there is 10% THC in marijuana compared to 3-4% in 1970’s. On an average each reefer contains about .5-1 gm of marijuana.
What are the different forms of Marijuana?
Marijuana refers to the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant which is smoked. The resin produced by the flowering tops contains about 10-25% of THC and oil based plant extract of cannabis plant called hash oil contains about 25-60% of THC. Smoking is the commonest method of consumption of cannabis.
How Many people smoke Marijuana?
Marijuana is the most commonly used drug in US and much of the world. In US it is estimated that 37% of teens have smoked at least one reefer in their lives. It is estimated that a further 5-10% of these individuals could abuse cannabis on a chronic basis. Cannabis use is widespread in south east and central Asia.
What Are the Short-Term Effects of Marijuana Use?
The immediate effects of marijuana are euphoria, disinhibition, a general feeling of goodness, altered sensory perceptions, inattention, insomnia, loss of memory and poor reflexes. The active ingredient THC crosses the blood brain barrier and stimulates specific receptors in a mid brain structure called nucleus accumbens. This leads to release of dopamine, a central exitogenic neurotransmitter. This activates the pleasure pathway comprising the hippocampus and limbic pathway. With constant use, the individual becomes psychologically addicted to marijuana.
The two physical effects of marijuana use are conjunctival injection and increased heart rate. The increase in heart rate stabilises over time and a degree of tolerance develops to this effect of marijuana.
Marijuana like other drugs can affect judgment and enhance inappropriate behaviour. Hence there is increased risk of conditions like high risk sexual behaviour leading to HIV, pregnancy etc.
What Are the Long-Term Health Effects of Marijuana Use?
Chronic cannabis use has been associated with a variety of conditions. Some of the common effects of long term cannabis use include:
• Long term use of pot can cause memory problems. It can also lead to psychosis in patients of schizophrenia. Chronic use of cannabis like other drugs can reduce social interaction and lead to isolation of the individual thus impacting personal and work life. Apart from these problems cannabis use may also lead to increased rates of depression and anxiety, but concrete evidence is lacking.
• Smoking Marijuana is the commonest method of consumption. Pot smokers usually inhale deep and retain smoke for a longer period of time in an effort to maximise absorption of THC. This can lead to chronic bronchial irritation. Although there is no direct evidence linking cannabis to cancer, tobacco use is usually concurrent and hence the rates of lung cancer are more.
• Cannabis was traditionally considered a soft drug, a drug with low addiction potential. But due to the increasing use of cannabis and increase in potency of pot smoked over the years, the addiction potential of this drug are being realised.
Does Marijuana Use Lead to the Use of Other Drugs?
While most marijuana smokers do not go on to abuse other drugs, marijuana use puts them in contact with people who use or sell these drugs. Apart from this it is a fact that most users start smoking pot first before going to other hard drugs.
What are the medical uses of Marijuana?
Under US federal law Marijuana is a Schedule I drug. It means that marijuana has no known medical role. But many states have laws which permit medical use of marijuana. Synthetic analogues of THC are in common use in oncology and AIDS.