What Is It?
Marijuana is a mixture of the fried and shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant. The mixture can be green, brown, or gray. Hemp’s scientific name is Cannabis sativa.
A bunch of leaves seems harmless, right? But think again. Marijuana has a chemical in it called tetrahydrocannabinol. Better known as THC. A lot of other chemicals are found in marijuana too – about 400 of them, some of which can cause lung cancer. But the THC is the main active ingredient.
What Are The Common Street Names?
Sinsemilla, ganja, hashish and hash oil (stronger form of marijuana)
How Is It Used
Marijuana is used in many ways. Some users brew it as tea or mix it with food. Others smoke blunts – cigars hollowed out and filled with the drug. And sometimes marijuana is smoked through a water pipe called a bong. The most common method is smoking loose marijuana rolled into a cigarette called a joint or nail.
Short-term Effects of Using Marijuana
Distortions in senses of sight, hearing, touch, time and depth
Long-term Effects of Using Marijuana
Increasing tolerance – The need for increasing amounts to feel effects
Permanent damage to thinking and reasoning ability
Chronic bronchitis, frequent chest colds, and pneumonia
Increased risk of lung or oral cancer
Weakened immune system
Damage to the reproductive system and infertility in both sexes
Miscarriage or brain damage to fetuses
Here’s the thing. Once dopamine starts flowing, a user feels the urge to smoke marijuana again. and then again, and then again. Repeated use could lead to addiction, and addiction is a brain disease.
Smoking Marijuana Can Make Driving Dangerous
The cerebellum is the section of our brain that does most of the work on balance and coordination. When THC finds its way into the cerebellum, it makes scoring a goal in soccer or hitting a homerun pretty tough.
THC also does a number on the basal ganglia, another part of the brain that’s involved in movement control.
These THC effects can spell disaster on the highway. Research shows that drivers on marijuana have slow reaction times, impaired judgement, and problems responding to signals and sounds on the road. In one study of 150 reckless drivers, 33 tested positive for marijuana.
What About Medical Marijuana?
THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, produces effects that potentially can be useful for treating a variety of medical conditions. It is the main ingredient in a pill that is currently used to treat nausea in cancer. It is the main ingredient in a pill that is currently used to treat nausea in cancer chemotherapy patients and to stimulate appetite in patients with wasting due to AIDS. Scientists are continuing to investigate other potential medical uses for cannabinoids.
However, smoking marijuana is difficult to justify medically because the amount of THC in marijuana is not always consistent. It would be difficult – if not impossible – to come up with a safe and effective use of the drug because you could never be sure how much THC you were getting. Moreover, the negative effects of marijuana smoke on the lungs will offset the helpfulness of smoked marijuana for some patients.
Pa. Department of Health, Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs
U. S. Department of Health and Human Services – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
National Institute on Drug Abuse:
1National Institute on Drug Abuse; Marijuana: Facts for Teens, NIH Pub.No. 98-4037,. Bethesda, MD, NIDA, NIH, DHHS, Revised Mar. 2003
2National Institute on Drug Abuse, Marijuana: Facts parents need to Know, NIH Pub. No. 02-4036, Bethesda, MD, NIDA, NIH,DHHS, Revised Nov. 2002
3National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA Info-Facts; High School and Youth Trends, Bethesda, MD, NIDA, NIH, DHHS, Revised June 2003
4National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA Research Report-Marijuana Abuse, NIH Pub.No. 00-3859, Bethesda, MD, NIDA, NIH, DHHS, Printed Oct. 2002.