Marijuana, which is also referred to as pot, grass, or weed, is one of the most commonly abused drug. The following Buzzle write-up provides information on the harmful effects of weed.
Marijuana is made from the dried leaves, flowers, stem, or seeds of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. Weed is mostly smoked in joints (hand-rolled cigarettes), bongs (pipes), or blunts (cigars that are filled with marijuana after they are emptied of tobacco). It is the presence of a psychoactive substance or cannabinoid called THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) that is responsible for the mood-altering effects which are felt after smoking pot. THC gets absorbed into the bloodstream within minutes of smoking pot, thereby causing acute effects that may include feeling of euphoria, calmness, heightened senses, increased appetite, etc. The intensity of the effects might vary, depending on the potency of weed, which in turn is determined by the THC content. The level of THC in marijuana depends on the following:
➞ Strain or variety of the plant
➞ Part of the plant that is used
➞ Growing conditions
➞ Preparation and storage
It is believed that the strains that are currently being used are far more potent. This could be due to the use of flowers or buds, as they contain a larger amount of THC than the leaves or stem. The average THC potency has seen a rise from less than 1% in the 1970s to as high as 13%.
Statistics on Marijuana Use
Marijuana is categorized as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Schedule I drugs are defined as substances that have a high potential for abuse, with a lack of accepted safety for its use, and no currently proven medical purpose. In the United States, the sale, possession, and use of marijuana is a federal crime. However, some of the states have decriminalized marijuana, legalizing its use for medicinal purposes to some extent. Colorado and Washington are the only states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, whereas many states have legalized it for medical purposes.
However, one of the major cause of concern is the high incidence of the use or abuse of marijuana in teenagers for getting high or stoned. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this trend is due to the changing perceptions about the risks associated with the use of marijuana.
Here are some statistics by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
➞ There has been a 50% increase in the number of daily marijuana smokers among those aged 12 and above.
➞ There has been a 20% increase in marijuana smoking among girls aged 12 – 17 since 2007.
➞ There has been a 12% increase in the use of weed among people in the age group of 18 to 25 years.
➞ The study revealed a 25% increase in past month marijuana use in those aged 12 and above.
➞ The perception of harm about smoking marijuana once a month has fallen almost 30% since 2007.
➞ According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2012, about 6.5% of 8th graders, 17% of 10th graders, and 22.9% of 12th graders had used marijuana in the month before the survey.
➞ Not many consider marijuana to be addictive. However, studies by NIDA reveal that about 9 percent of people who use weed become dependent on it. The number increases to about one in six among those who start using it at a young age, and to 25 to 50 percent among daily users.
Effects of Weed
The THC content in street pot is way higher than what it used to be. Though a small amount of THC can help the user reap medicinal benefits, using street pot that has a high THC content for recreational purposes could give rise to certain issues. The immediate effects of weed are due to the absorption of TCH, which has mood-altering properties. Marijuana users are likely to experience:
➞ Altered perception
➞ Difficulty concentrating
➞ Heightened senses
➞ Relaxation or calmness
➞ Mild paranoia
➞ Increased heart rate
➞ Slow reaction time
➞ Increased appetite
➞ Problems with balance or coordination
➞ Random thinking
➞ Short-term memory loss
The intensity with which the effects are experienced would vary, depending on the potency, as well as dose of weed. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, heavy or chronic users could develop an amotivational syndrome, which is characterized by the following symptoms:
➞ Decreased drive and ambition
➞ Shortened attention span
➞ Poor judgment
➞ High distractibility
➞ Impaired communication skills
➞ Diminished effectiveness in interpersonal situations
According to NIDA, if taken in large amounts, marijuana might cause confusion, restlessness, hallucinations, anxiety, altered perception, euphoria, etc. The user may have impaired coordination, and face difficulty in remembering things and thinking clearly. For this reason, users must never drive or operate machines under the influence of weed.
The long-term effects may include decreased concentration, memory-related problems, decreased motivation, increased risk of respiratory ailments, etc. The psychological effects might be more pronounced in case of people who are predisposed to depression or other psychological problems.
A 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people who started smoking before the age of 18 showed a greater decline in IQ and cognitive functioning than people who started taking it as adults. Those who smoked pot more than four times a week as teenagers, and continued its use as adults experienced an 8-point IQ drop. It is believed that the harmful effects are likely to be more pronounced in young users.
Organizations such as NIDA point towards the adverse effects of marijuana for all, especially for those who start taking pot at a younger age, and continue to do so. Though marijuana does seem to offer certain health benefits, and its supporters stress on the need to legalize marijuana for treatment of certain conditions, studies need to be conducted to understand the risks associated with the long-term use of weed. Though it becomes extremely hard to discourage people from smoking pot due to the lack of consensus on its effects, there’s no denying the fact that it is increasingly being used for recreational purposes by the teenagers. Keeping the possibility of marijuana abuse in mind, organizations must provide substantial scientific evidence to warn people against the potential health risks associated with its use.