What is marijuana?

Marijuana (grass, pot, weed) is the common name for a drug made from the plant Cannabis sativa. The main mind-altering (psychoactive) ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), but more than 400 other chemicals also are in the plant. The amount of THC in the marijuana determines how strong its effects will be. Hashish, or hash, is made by taking the resin from the leaves and flowers of the marijuana plant and pressing it into cakes or slabs. Hash is usually stronger than crude marijuana and may contain five to ten times as much THC. Pure THC is almost never available, except for research. Substances sold as THC on the street often turn out to be something else, such as phencyclidine (PCP).

What are the effects of marijuana?

Some immediate physical effects of marijuana include a faster heartbeat and pulse rate, bloodshot eyes, and a dry mouth and throat. Studies of marijuana’s mental effects show that the drug can impair or reduce short-term memory, alter sense of time, and reduce ability to do things which require concentration, swift reactions, and coordination, such as driving a car or operating machinery.

Within a few minutes after smoking marijuana, the heart begins beating more rapidly and the blood pressure drops. Marijuana can cause the heart beat to increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute, and can increase even more if other drugs are used at the same time.

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.

Is Marijuana addictive?

Long-term regular users of marijuana may become psychologically dependent. They may have a hard time limiting their use, they may need more of the drug to get the same effect, and they may develop problems with their jobs and personal relationships. The drug can become the most important aspect of their lives.

What are the risks of Marijuana?

A common bad reaction to marijuana is the “acute panic anxiety reaction.” People describe this reaction as an extreme fear of “losing control,” which causes panic. The symptoms usually disappear in a few hours.

When marijuana is smoked, THC, its active ingredient, is absorbed by most tissues and organs in the body; however, it is primarily found in fat tissues. The body, in its attempt to rid itself of the foreign chemical, chemically transforms the THC into metabolites. Urine tests can detect THC metabolites for up to a week after people have smoked marijuana.

 

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