What is marijuana?
Often called pot, weed, grass, reefer, or herb. It is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried, shredded leaves, stems, and seeds and flowers of cannabis sativa – the hemp plant. Most users smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes (called joints, among other names) or using a pipe or water pipe called a bong. Marijuana can also be combined with tobacco to create a marijuana cigar, or blunt.
The active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), impairs the ability of the brain to store new information (in other words, to learn). This is often unrecognized by the user. THC remains in the user’s body for over a week, taking 8 days for 90% of a single dose of THC to be fully removed from the body. When a user withdraws from THC, the withdrawal symptoms can last for a month, providing a great disincentive to stop use. Repeated use, even at twice a week levels, keeps the user constantly under the influence.
What are the effects of marijuana?
Acute (present during intoxication):
- Impairs short-term memory.
- Impairs attention, judgment, and other cognitive functions.
- Impairs coordination and balance.
- Increases heart rate.
- Can cause psychotic episodes.
Persistent (lasting longer than intoxication, but may not be permanent):
- Impairs memory and learning.
- Impairs sleep.
Long-term (cumulative effects of chronic abuse) effects:
- 1 in 6 who begin using marijuana during adolescence will become addicted.
- Those who use Marijuana before the age of 18 are 4-7 times more likely to develop a dependency according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse.
- 25-50% of daily users will become addicted.
- Youth who use marijuana before the age of 17 have elevated rates of other drug use and drug problems later on.
- In 2014, an estimated 4.176 million people in the US abused or were dependent on marijuana.
- Increased risk of chronic cough, bronchitis.
- Linked to increased mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression.
What are the consequences of marijuana use?
- People who used marijuana heavily as adolescents and continued through adulthood showed a significant drop in IQ while those who never used marijuana showed no declines in IQ.
- Marijuana has negative effects on attention, memory, and learning that can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off.
- Compared with nonsmoking peers, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school.
- Marijuana intoxication impairs judgment and motor coordination and slows reaction time which can result in an increased chance of being involved in and being responsible for an automobile accident.
What about medical marijuana?
The medicinal properties of marijuana have been confirmed to contain active ingredients with therapeutic potential for relieving pain, controlling nausea, and stimulating appetite. As a result, an Institute of Medicine report concluded that further research on canabinoid drugs (marijuana) and safe delivery systems was warranted.
With the recent passage of the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Law, it is important to note that, as well as with all medicine prescribed by a doctor, the prescription should only be taken by the person to whom it was prescribed, as prescribed, and any unused marijuana should be properly disposed of.