What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a dry, shredded green/brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, it usually is smoked as a cigarette (joint, nail), or in a pipe (bong). It also is smoked in blunts, which are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana, often in combination with another drug such as crack cocaine. It might also be mixed in food or brewed as a tea. As a more concentrated, resinous form it is called hashish and, as a sticky black liquid, hash oil. Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive, usually sweet-and-sour odor. There are countless street terms for marijuana including pot, herb, weed, grass, widow, ganja, and hash, mary jane, or mj as well as terms derived from trademarked varieties of cannabis, such as Bubble Gum, Northern Lights, Fruity Juice, Afghani #1, and a number of Skunk varieties.

The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). The membranes of certain nerve cells in the brain contain protein receptors that bind to THC. Once securely in place, THC kicks off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the high that users experience when they smoke marijuana. The amount of THC (which is also the psychoactive ingredient in hashish) determines the potency and, therefore, the effects of marijuana. Between 1980 and 1997, the amount of THC in marijuana available in the United States rose dramatically.

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The Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Smoking pot isn’t harmless. In fact, marijuana abuse leads to a wide range of short- and long-term health consequences, including:

  • Impaired memory and ability to learn
  • Lack of attention and judgment
  • Distorted perception
  • Difficulty in thinking and problem solving
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Increased heart rate (and risk of heart attack)
  • Impaired immune function
  • Changes in the brain, particularly the dopamine system (which regulates reward and motivation)
  • A heavy cough, often accompanied by a stinging sensation in the mouth and throat
  • Impaired driving performance and reaction time

Acute toxic psychosis is another risk of marijuana abuse. This condition involves hallucinations, delusions, and losing the ability to recognize oneself.

Smoking pot can make it more difficult to quit smoking cigarettes, and comes with many of the same health risks, such as lung cancer (and other forms of cancer), bronchitis, emphysema, cough and chest illnesses. The increased risk of cancer should come as no surprise since marijuana smoke contains 50 percent to 70 percent more cancer-causing hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.

In addition to all of these physical effects, a number of mental health problems are associated with marijuana abuse, including depression, anxiety and personality disturbances. Study after study shows that marijuana abuse makes daily life worse for the user. People may find themselves unable to remember things, failing at work or school, and losing friends because of their marijuana habit.

These effects can last days or weeks after the high of marijuana abuse wears off. Particularly among long-term heavy marijuana abusers, individuals may find that their intellectual functioning, memory and ability to organize information is noticeably impaired. Studies have also shown that marijuana abuse affects teens’ ability to approach daily life with confidence and to set and pursue their goals. Other research has found that heavy marijuana users consistently report negative effects on their careers, relationships and health.

What Happens When Teens Smoke Pot

Marijuana abuse among teens is of particular concern. Their growing brains and bodies may be more adversely affected by the chemicals in marijuana. For example, teens who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are less likely to graduate from high school, compared to teens who refrain from smoking pot . Teens who smoke pot and hold jobs are more likely to skip work, be late to work, quit or get into an accident on the job than those who don’t smoke pot.

Marijuana Is Addictive

Because marijuana is such a popular drug, many people believe it is not addictive. However, just like addictions to other drugs, prolonged marijuana abuse can result in an uncontrollable desire to continue using the drug. Those who find themselves addicted to marijuana may also abuse other drugs, which means that treatment for marijuana addiction must be comprehensive and address all drugs of abuse and any co-occurring issues.

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Although many people abuse marijuana to have fun or self-medicate, what they quickly discover is that marijuana addiction makes life worse, not better. The good news is there are things that can make you feel better, including marijuana rehab and living a sober lifestyle. Studies suggest that quitting marijuana may reverse some of the drug’s negative effects on memory, thinking and overall functioning.

There are marijuana rehab centers and marijuana addiction treatment programs throughout the country that can give you your life back. In marijuana rehab, you will learn to enjoy life without drugs and to cope with difficult emotions in healthy ways.

Reach out for help and start feeling better today. Call 866-323-5612 to speak with a caring, experienced counselor who will help you map out a plan to reclaim your life.