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      Sober Nation

      Putting Recovery On The Map

      09-28-11 | By

      What Is Marijuana? – How Does It Effect The Body and Brain?

      Marijuana Street Names

      Grass, Pot, Reefer, Smoke, Mary Jane, Spliff, Jive, Kiff, Cheeba

      The History of Marijuana

      Marijuana is one of the oldest known substances known to mankind. Marijuana dates back as far as 12,000 years. It is believed that cannabis plants first evolved in central Asia and had flourished on lands that were populated by the many hunter-and-gatherer tribes. The use of marijuana can be linked to early Chinese culture, as well as during the period of ancient Greece and Rome. It is important to note there are different subspecies of the cannabis sativa plant. The first subspecies, called cannabis sativa L., does not have psychoactive properties and was used in ancient times (and continues to be used today) in the manufacture of oils, cloth and fuels. Other types of the cannabis plant such as Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis have psychoactive properties and were used for both medicinal as well as sacred purposes.

      Marijuana In America

      The use of commercial and psychoactive cannabis originated in Asia and spread to Africa, the Middle East and Europe. With the arrival of the Spanish in the mid-16th century, cannabis spread to the Western hemisphere. Cannabis was introduced to the United States during the early 20th century when Mexican immigrants fled their country during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. At the time, United States law didn’t recognize the differences between hemp species that were psychoactive and non-psychoactive. In 1915, Utah became the first state to outlaw the use of cannabis and by 1931 it was outlawed in 29 states. With the formation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, the agency made a steady push to make marijuana illegal in all states and accomplished that goal with the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

      The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 repealed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and listed Marijuana as a schedule I drug, including Heroin, LSD, and ecstasy – meaning it had no medical use and high potential for abuse.

      In 1972, a report from the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse released a report titled “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding.” The report recommended “partial prohibition” and lower penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. At the time, President Nixon and other government officials, ignored the report’s findings.

      In the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use by people with severe or chronic illnesses. Twenty-nine states now allow the use of cannabis for limited medical purposes.

      In 2012 Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. As of 2016, six additional states as well as Washington D.C., have legalized it. Residents in California, Maine, Alaska, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon can now use the drug without a doctors prescription.

      Marijuana is still legal under U.S. federal law, however, it is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States. The evolving legal status of marijuana is an ongoing controversy in the United States and around the world.

      How Is Marijuana Administered?

      • Topicals – A cream or lotion infused with marijuana is applied directly to to the skin. The affects are absorbed through the skin and is felt almost immediately without affecting any other areas of the body.
      • Smoking – This is the most traditional way of using the drug. Users usually roll the dried leaves of the plant in the form of a cigarette (Also known as a joint), or through a pipe or bong.
      • Vaporizing – Vaporizers are a current trend with tobacco and marijuana users. Small, hand-held vaporizers equivalent to a large cigarette uses steam instead of smoke to deliver the drug. Inhaling the steam can be easier on the users lungs and is not as hot.
      • Edibles – Edibles are food infused with marijuana. This can be saturated in foods like brownies or butters. While using edibles to administer marijuana, the reaction time is fairly slow due to traveling through the digestive system before entering the blood stream. Edibles generally deliver a higher concentrated dose of the drug that is longer lasting.
      • Tinctures – In this method, marijuana is soaked in an alcohol solution until the active properties are transferred to the liquid substance. For immediate effect the tinctures can be used by putting a couple of drops under the users tongue.

      Marijuana Short-Term Effects

      The short-term effects of marijuana users can experience include:

      • Sensory distortion (including visual, audio and tactile distortions)
      • Short-term memory problems
      • Coordination problems
      • Panic
      • Anxiety
      • Hallucinations

      When a person smokes marijuana, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it. In that case, they generally feel the effects after 30 minutes to 1 hour.

      In addition to these symptoms, marijuana users may experience poor coordination and movement and will have slower reactions to stimuli in their environment. This can pose a safety risk and may put users or others at increased risk for injury due to accidents, particularly if driving. After an initial period of feeling “high”, many marijuana users will experience considerable periods of feeling lethargic or depressed. For those who engage in casual use of marijuana, the drug has significant and negative effects in areas of the brain that regulate motivation and emotion.

      Marijuana Long-Term Effects

      The long-term effects of marijuana users can experience include:

      • Decline in IQ
      • Impaired thinking
      • Depression
      • Anxiety
      • Respiratory issues

      For those who use marijuana on a regular basis, the long term effects of marijuana on both the body and brain can be significant. One of the most tell-tale effects of marijuana on the body is the damage to the heart and lungs from smoking the drugs. The damage done to these vital organs are similar to those seen in people who smoke cigarettes, including continual coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulties, as well as the development of various forms of lung disease and cancer.

      Chronic use of marijuana can also compromise the user’s immune system and can lead to fertility problems for both men and women. In regards to the long term effects on the brain, marijuana use has significant effects on a person’s ability to think rationally, remember and concentrate. Additionally, repeated use of marijuana may trigger addictive and impulsive behaviors.

      Marijuana on the Brain

      In the brain, the endocannabinoid system is a large regulatory network that works to create optimum balance in the mind and body. When compounds like THC or the second most popular cannabinoid, interact with this system, they change the balance of the system as a whole. When individuals begin using cannabis the brain by engages special receptor sites on cells. As teenagers, the drug may impair thinking, memory, and learning functions. The drug can affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions.The primary psychoactive in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has a psychotropic effect because of the way it engages these cannabinoid receptors.

      It is a well known fact that marijuana causes memory issues. This is caused from the way marijuana hits and alters the hippocampus, the region of the brain that regulates short-term memory. The drug temporarily prevents the brain from developing new memories and learning new things.

      Marijuana: How Addictive is The Drug?

      Over the past few years, there has been significant debate and controversy regarding the perceived risk of marijuana use. Due in large part to the passing of medical marijuana laws in 23 states, a growing number of Americans–and especially young people– feel that the perceived risks of marijuana use is not as significant as what was seen in previous generations. According to information contained in the 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey which is conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

      “Five year trends are showing significant increases in past-year and past-month (current) marijuana use across all three grades as well as increases in lifetime and daily marijuana use among 10th graders. From 2008 to 2013, past-month use increased from 5.8% to 7.0% among 8th graders, 13.8% to 18.0% among 10th graders, and from 19.4% to 22.7% among 12th graders. These increases continue to parallel softening attitudes about the perceived risk of harm and disapproval associated with marijuana use.”

      Medical Marijuana

      Image Courtesy of The Advocate

      Medical marijuana refers to using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant and it’s extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other chronic conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine.

      However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications. Because the marijuana plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses and symptoms, many people argue that it should be legal for medical purposes.

      Scientists have conducting pre-clinical and clinical trials with marijuana and its extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions, and 76% of doctors surveyed said they would prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes such as:

      • HIV/AIDS
      • Multiple sclerosis
      • Inflammation
      • Pain
      • Seizures
      • Mental Disorders

      Is Marijuana A Gateway Drug?

      A handful of theories and research suggests that marijuana use is likely to precede use of other licit and illicit substances as well as the development of an addiction to other substances. A study from the “National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders” found that individuals who reported marijuana use during the first wave of the survey were more likely than individuals who did not use marijuana to develop an alcohol use disorder within 3 years.

      Users who had already administered cannabis and already had an alcohol use disorder at the outset were at greater risk of their alcohol use disorder worsening. Marijuana use is also linked to other substance use disorders including nicotine addiction.The legalization of marijuana in the 21st century increases availability of the drug and acceptability of its use. This may be a negative sign for public health and safety as marijuana use can increase the chances of heroin use. These findings are consistent with the idea of marijuana as a “gateway drug.” However, the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” substances

      It is important to note that other factors besides biological, environmental, and social mechanisms, such as a person’s living situation are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use.


      disease of addiction

      Even though the popular perception among the American public is there are little to no effects seen with withdrawal and addiction, those perceptions can be misleading. While marijuana may not have the obvious

      physical symptoms of withdrawal and addictive behaviors seen with other substances such as alcohol, cocaine and heroin, users of marijuana can experience psychological and physiological signs of both withdrawal and addiction. According to information gathered in 2012 by the American Psychiatric Association and featured on the LiveStrong website:

      “The American Psychiatric Association says that cannabis withdrawal syndrome is experienced by up to 50 percent of patients treated for both psychological and physiological marijuana dependency. Neurobiological withdrawal from marijuana has been linked to the cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, as suggested by a 2012 analysis by the Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Onset generally occurs during the first week of abstinence and can last for several weeks. Symptoms may include a dysphoric mood — such as anxiety, irritability, restlessness or depression — disturbed sleep and decreased appetite or other gastrointestinal symptoms.”

      Some symptoms of marijuana withdrawal can include:

      • Anxiety
      • Irrability
      • Depression
      • Decreased appetite
      • Mild tremors

      Symptoms Of Marijuana Addiction

      It is important to reiterate that while the addictive properties of marijuana use may not be as obvious as seen in other drugs, its effects on users can be subtle, and with public perception towards the drug becoming more lenient, the chances of people who are addicted of getting help decrease. Marijuana addiction is possible. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 25-50% of users who take this drug daily will become addicted at some point.

      Behavioral symptoms of marijuana addiction can include:

      be yourself

      • Impaired coordination
      • Distorted perceptions
      • Ongoing memory problems
      • Difficulty in problem solving

      Physical symptoms of marijuana addiction can include:

      • Red, bloodshot eyes
      • Constant cough
      • Hunger, known as the munchies
      • Dry-mouth
      • Slow reaction time
      • Anxiety or parnoia

      If you or a loved one is experiencing marijuana dependence and abuse, it is important to seek drug treatment as order to break these cycles. If you need further information, or if you need someone to talk to about addiction to marijuana, SoberNation is the leading provider of information regarding drug and alcohol addiction on the internet. Our experienced staff is available around the clock to answer any all questions that you may have regarding marijuana addiction as well as addiction to other drugs.


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