Likely America’s most popular drug, marijuana is a mixture of leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant. Users often roll this drug into handmade cigarettes or stuff it into makeshift and real pipes, or cigars. Marijuana has also been mixed into foods, most popularly baked goods like brownies, and put in teas. There are many names for marijuana, including pot, weed, blow, refer, grass, and Mary Jane.
In a survey taken in 2010 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, it was reported that over 17 million people used marijuana in the last thirty days. Marijuana is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults. Monitoring the Future Survey reported that 12.5 percent of their surveyed 8th graders used marijuana in the past year and over 7 percent of them were still current users. That number climbed as the surveyors turned to the high-schoolers. 28.8 percent of the surveyed 10th graders were using with 17.6 percent of them still users. 32.8 percent of 12th graders used marijuana and 20.6 percent of them were still using.
How Marijuana Affects the Body
Within moments of smoking marijuana, the body undergoes changes due to the reactions of the chemicals. They cause the heart rate to speed up and the eyes to redden due to the expansion of blood vessels. As marijuana is inhaled, the toxins in the drug can cause extended damage to the lungs with continued use. Marijuana also has a probability of promoting cancer and is 70 percent more toxic than tobacco. Marijuana users tend to inhale more of the drug and hold it in their lungs, exposing the organs to the toxins for longer periods of time and increasing the risk of cancer.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main active ingredient responsible for the effects of marijuana. When marijuana is smoked, THC passes from the lungs to the bloodstream, spreading throughout the body rapidly. The effects are felt almost immediately and last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. THC effects are similar to a naturally produced chemical called endogenous cannabinoid, which helps control such mental and physical functions as pleasure, mobility, emotion, memory, and time perception. Once it gets to the bloodstream, THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors (CBRs) and stimulates them, throwing off their natural function. This overstimulation fools the reward system in the body and creates the high. With extended use, the CBR function is altered by THC, which can lead to addiction.
Along with the euphoria and relaxation, THC binds to the receptors in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, an area of the brain responsible for coordination, balance, and reaction time. Tasks like driving, athletics, and learning are affected by this drug. Chronic users are known to experience mental psychoses, such as hallucinations. Because marijuana slows reaction time and judgment, driving while under the influence is highly dangerous. A study by the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration showed that 18 percent of accidents resulting in driver deaths involved drugs other than alcohol. Most recently, a study showed that 6.8 percent of people involved in an accident tested positive for marijuana.
Marijuana does have addictive properties. Extended use of marijuana will cause dependence especially when those users begin before age 17. An estimated 1 in 6 people who use marijuana in their teens will become addicted. In 2010, the National Survey for Drug Use and Health reported that of the 7.1 million people addicted to drugs, over 50 percent of them (4.5 million) said marijuana was their drug of choice. Withdrawal symptoms from marijuana are similar to those of tobacco, making marijuana harder to quit. Symptoms include cravings, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.
Marijuana Treatment & Addiction
As the effects from marijuana can linger long after the last use, studies have shown that users tend to function at a lower intellectual level most or all of the time. Students who smoke marijuana are more likely to have lower grades and even drop out of high school. Heavy users are less likely to complete college and have more reports of tardiness, laziness, and job turnover. Marijuana users reported that the drug use affected all important aspects of their lives negatively, including social life, cognitive ability, personal achievement, and physical and mental health. A study showed that people who tested positive in a pre-employment drug test were more likely to have a background including more work accidents and be absent from work more often than their nonsmoking peers.
Does Marijuana Have Medical Value
This is the biggest reason the drug is up for such debate. There have been advances in science that suggest that marijuana might have value as a medicine. Scientists have confirmed that the chemicals in marijuana may have value for pain relief, nausea, stimulating appetite, and depressing ocular pressure. Sativex, a pure THC based mouth spray available in the United Kingdom and Canada, is currently approved to help relieve the pain from cancer and for treating the symptoms involved with multiple sclerosis. As the results of THC testing have yet to be definitive, scientists continue the research to add medical value to marijuana. With that said risks, side effects and problems associated with the drug outweigh any benefits.
Signs of Marijuana Abuse
Substance abuse is when a person takes more than a recommended dose (prescription drugs) or when the desire for the drug interrupts the regular function of a person’s life. There are various observable signs when someone is experiencing the high from marijuana, or if they use marijuana on a regular basis. Those under the influence may laugh often, have hunger (most commonly known as the “munchies”), red and watery eyes, or a lack of coordination. Extended use may cause paranoia, hallucinations, and excessive panic attacks. Those who abuse marijuana will have various physical signs. They might not be coherent when speaking with people or their speech will be slow, their motor functions will be slow, and they might see and hear things that are not really there. The most noticeable thing is the smell. Marijuana has a variety of smells, some comparable to a skunk and others are sweet smelling. Its scent is not comparable to tobacco or alcohol.
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