MARIJUANA (Cannabis salvia)
Marijuana, is the most highly abused illegal drug in the United States. It is a drug derived from the plant Cannabis sativa, and is commonly referred to as “pot”, “weed”, “smoke” and “grass”, “ganga” and “hash”. The main chemical in the plant that induces a mind altering state is THC (delta-9-tetrahydocannabinol). Hash is much stronger than crude marijuana as it contains five to ten times the amount of THC. This chemical binds with certain nerve cells in the brain containing protein receptors. Once this happens, THC kick starts the high that the user is looking to experience.
To obtain this high, marijuana is generally inhaled via a rolled cigarette (joint) or inhaled through a pipe. The inhaled THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream where it is carried to the brain. The short term effects are a mood altering state where some senses are enhanced, while reality is decreased.
Immediate Effects of Marijuana Use
Inhalation of the substance results in a quickened heartbeat, dry mouth and throat, blood shot eyes and in some cases an elevated blood pressure. It inhibits quick motor skills thereby reducing the ability to drive a car or operate machinery. Short term memory is impaired as is the sense of time and place. Sometimes an adverse reaction to the drug can induce an acute sense of fear and loss of control accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and a feeling of panic. This subsides after a few hours.
Long Term Effects of Marijuana Use
Studies have demonstrated that inhaling marijuana over a long period of time can cause cellular changes in the lung tissue called metaplasia. Metaplasia is considered pre-cancerous. It has been found that marijuana smoke contains over 50 -70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco smoke! Since users inhale the unfiltered smoke deeply and hold for a longer period of time, the lung tissue is irritated and this results in coughing, phlegm and increased risk of emphysema. Additionally, due to an increase of up to 50% in the heart rate, it can cause chest pain in those with already compromised cardiac function and may result in heart attack.
THC also has a negative impact on the immune system. This results in more frequent bouts with bacterial infections and respiratory illnesses. One study of 450 people that smoked marijuana on a steady basis demonstrated more lost work days than their counterparts.
Psychological and Social Effects
Problems in socialization can result from the constant use of marijuana. Disassociation, depression, melancholy and anxiety have all associated with long term usage. Since marijuana reduces memory retention and attention span, learning is compromised, resulting in decreases of accomplishment in the classroom or workplace. Once the user quits smoking marijuana for 4 weeks, cognitive ability resumes and the negative impact decreases.
Chronic smokers of this substance have a higher frequency of divorce and disruptive family life. The negative socialization aspect has a heavy negative impact on daily life. In the work place studies found that marijuana smokers had a 55% increase in compensation claims, sick days and tardiness. On the job performance suffered as well. The heavy smoking employees have a problem with retention span, paying attention to detail and retaining directives.
Marijuana smokers describe the effect of prolonged usage of the drug as “Burnout”. This presents in a smoker as a dull, listless, and inattentive individual, – so unaware of their surroundings that they become non-responsive and appear like a ‘zombie”.
Medicinal Use of Marijuana
Exciting studies are underway for new uses of THC in the treatment of numerous medical conditions. Most recently, it is thought that THC may be key in new drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s. Dr. Kim Janda, Ph.D., director of the Worm Institute of Research and Medicine at Scripps Research Institute, is conducting studies which are demonstrating that the compounds found in marijuana block the formation of brain-clogging Alzheimer’s plaques, better than current drugs being used. This is exciting news for the 4.5 million Americans suffering from this devastating disease.
Fifteen other clinical studies are being conducted to determine the effectiveness of cannabis on:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Diabetes mellitus
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Hepatitis C
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sleep apnea
- Tourette”s syndrome
Cannabis has been used for numerous years in the treatment of the eye disorder glaucoma. It effectively decreases intra ocular pressure thereby reducing the ravages on the eye. In cancer patients being treated with chemo therapy, cannabis effectively reduces the side effect of nausea and vomiting and enhances the effectiveness of pain medications. It is further used to stimulate appetitive in weight loss patients suffering from Cancer and AIDS.