Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant. You may hear marijuana called by street names such as pot, herb, weed, grass, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, or chronic. There are more than 200 slang terms for marijuana.
Sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah; it’s a Spanish word), hashish (“hash” for short), and hash oil are stronger forms of marijuana.
All forms of marijuana are mind-altering. In other words, they change how the brain works. They all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. They also contain more than 400 other chemicals. Marijuana’s effects on the user depend on its strength or potency, which is related to the amount of THC it contains. The THC content of marijuana has been increasing since the 1970s.
Marijuana Depressant or Psychedelic Drug?
Marijuana is often classified as a mild psychedelic drug (similar to LSD and magic mushrooms) but the active ingredients within it have many depressant effects. Those who consume marijuana can experience muscle relaxation, tiredness, decreased alertness, and sedation, all of which are similar to the effects of depressants.
Very common risks and symptoms associated with its use:
- Sensory Distortion
- Poor Coordination
- Suppression of the Immune System
- Reduced Sexual Capacity
- Lack of Motivation
- Personality and Mood Changes
How Marijuana Affects the Body
Some immediate physical effects of marijuana include:
- bloodshot eyes
- a faster heartbeat and pulse rate
- dry mouth and throat
No scientific evidence indicates that marijuana improves hearing, eyesight, and skin sensitivity.
Marijuana use increases the heart rate by as much as 50 percent, depending on the amount of THC it contains. It can also cause chest pain in people who have a poor blood supply to the heart – and it produces these effects more rapidly than tobacco smoke does.
Scientists believe that marijuana can be especially harmful to the lungs because users often inhale the unfiltered smoke deeply and hold it in their lungs as long as possible. Therefore, the smoke is in contact with lung tissues for long periods of time, which irritates the lungs and damages the way they work.
Marijuana smoke contains some of the same ingredients in tobacco smoke that can cause emphysema and cancer. In addition, many marijuana users also smoke cigarettes; the combined effects of smoking these two substances create an increased health risk. “Burnout” is a term first used by marijuana smokers themselves to describe the effect of prolonged use. Young people who smoke marijuana heavily over long periods of time can become dull, slow-moving, and inattentive. These “burned-out” users are sometimes so unaware of their surroundings that they do not respond when friends speak to them, and they do not realize they have a problem.
How Marijuana Affects the Mind
Laboratory studies have shown that animals exhibit symptoms of drug withdrawal after cessation of prolonged marijuana administration. Some human studies have also demonstrated withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, stomach pain, aggression, and anxiety after cessation of oral administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s principal psychoactive component. Now, NIDA-supported researchers at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, and Columbia University in New York City have shown that individuals who regularly smoke marijuana experience withdrawal symptoms after they stop smoking the drug.
Studies at Columbia University in New York City have demonstrated that, in addition to aggression, marijuana smokers experience other withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, stomach pain, and increased irritability during abstinence from the drug. “These results suggest that dependence may be an important consequence of repeated daily exposure to marijuana,” says NIDA.
Signs of Marijuana Abuse
Some noticeable signs of Marijuana abuse include:
- Rapid, loud talking and bursts of laughter in the early stages of intoxication.
- Sleepy or stuporous in the later stages.
- Lack of concentration and coordination.
- Forgetfulness in conversation.
- Inflammation in whites of eyes.
- Distorted sense of time passage – tendency to overestimate time intervals.
- Craving for sweets.
- Increased appetite.
- Use or possession of paraphernalia including roach clip, packs of rolling papers, pipes, or bongs.
History of Marijuana
Beginnings of Marijuana
Marijuana has been used as an agent for achieving euphoria since ancient times; it was described in a Chinese medical compendium traditionally considered to date from 2737 B.C. Its use spread from China to India and then to N Africa and reached Europe at least as early as A.D. 500.
The first direct reference to a cannabis product as a psychoactive agent dates from 2737 BC, in the writings of the Chinese emperor Shen Nung. The focus was on its powers as a medication for rheumatism, gout, malaria, and oddly enough, absent-mindedness. Mention was made of the intoxicating properties, but the medicinal value was considered more important. In India, though marijuana was clearly used for recreational purposes. The Muslims too used it as a recreational substance because alcohol consumption was banned by the Koran. It was the Muslims who introduced hashish, whose popularity spread quickly throughout 12th century Persia Iran, and North Africa
Marijuana in America
In 1545 the Spanish brought marijuana to the New World. The English introduced it in Jamestown in 1611 where it became a major commercial crop alongside tobacco and was grown as a source of fiber.
By 1890, hemp had been replaced by cotton as a major cash crop in southern states. Some patent medicines during this era contained marijuana, but it was a small percentage compared to the number containing opium or cocaine. It was in the 1920s that marijuana began to catch on. Some historians say its emergence was brought about by Prohibition. Its recreational use was restricted to jazz musicians and people in show business. “Reefer songs” became the rage of the jazz world. Marijuana clubs, called tea pads, sprang up in every major city. These marijuana establishments were tolerated by the authorities because marijuana was not illegal and patrons showed no evidence of making a nuisance of themselves or disturbing the community. Marijuana was not considered a social threat.
Marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942 and was prescribed for various conditions including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism. Its use as an intoxicant was also commonplace from the 1850s to the 1930s. A campaign conducted in the 1930s by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics (now the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) sought to portray marijuana as a powerful, addicting substance that would lead users into narcotics addiction. It is still considered a “gateway” drug by some authorities. In the 1950s it was an accessory of the beat generation; in the 1960s it was used by college students and “hippies”; and became a symbol of rebellion against authority.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified marijuana along with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug, i.e., having the relatively highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use. Most marijuana at that time came from Mexico, but in 1975 the Mexican government agreed to eradicate the crop by spraying it with the herbicide paraquat, raising fears of toxic side effects. Colombia then became the main supplier. The “zero-tolerance” climate of the Reagan and Bush administrations resulted in the passage of strict laws and mandatory sentences for possession of marijuana and in heightened vigilance against smuggling at the southern borders. The “war on drugs” thus brought with it a shift from reliance on imported supplies to domestic cultivation (particularly in Hawaii and California). Beginning in 1982 the Drug Enforcement Administration turned increased attention to marijuana farms in the United States, and there was a shift to the indoor growing of plants specially developed for small size and high yield. After over a decade of decreasing use, marijuana smoking began an upward trend once more in the early 1990s, especially among teenagers.
Source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse
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