Pot, weed, ganja, chronic, budda, mary jane, purple haze, cheeba, grass– these are all terms used to identify marijuana. A 2011 survey by SAMHSA indicates that 6.9 percent of the population reports use of marijuana making it the most commonly used illegal drug. Marijuana is a Hallucinogenic that takes on the characteristics of a depressant with long term use. It has been used for thousands of years. Traces of THC (the active ingredient) have been found in Egyptian mummies dating back 3000 years ago. The first written records of medicinal use of marijuana date back to China 28BC. The marijuana plant continues to be used today for creating hemp products such as rope and jewelry. It is also used medicinally. And, of course, it is smoked “recreationally” by many people worldwide. So, what’s so bad about weed anyway?
Why Do People Smoke It?
Marijuana And The Brain
Why is this a problem? Below are a list of areas of the brain that have cannabinoid receptors and are effected by marijuana use.
-Cannabinoid receptors are abundant in:
Cerebral Cortex (especially cingulate, frontal, parietal regions)——higher cognitive functions
Nucleus accumbens———————–reward center
Basal Ganglia——————————-(unconscious) movement control
-Cannabinoid receptors are moderate in:
Hypothalamus————body housekeeping functions (body temp, salt, water, sugar)
Amygdala————–emotional response/fear/fight or flight
Spinal Cord———-Peripheral sensation/pain
Brain Stem———–sleep and arousal, motor control
Central Gray———analgesia/pain control
Nucleus of solitary tract——–visceral sensation, nausea/vomiting
A 2008 study found evidence that heavy smokers had areas of their brains that were smaller than non-smokers. The hippocampus and amygdala were found to be smaller and those with affected brain size were also more likely to experience mental health symptoms. http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20080602/marijuana-use-may-shrink-the-brain.
All of marijuana’s effects on the brain are not negative, there are some positive things it can do for a person. It can help to regulate pain, as it acts as a blocker to the pain receptor sites. Marijuana can help decrease symptoms of nausea or vomiting that may accompany illness such as cancer and HIV/AIDS and increase the appetite of a person with such an illness. Symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder can also be managed with marijuana. The affect the substance has on the amygdala causes an ability to relax and be less reactive to things that normally cause fear or discomfort to a person with these disorders. Remember that self-medicating with marijuana is not a good idea. If you are ill and believe that medical marijuana could help you, seek the advice of a physician.
Marijuana’s Effect on the Rest of the Body
alcoholism.about.com/od/pot/a/effects.-Lya.htmMarijuana also causes irritation to the lungs. The fact that inhaled marijuana smoke is held in the lungs for as long as possible makes it even more irritating to lungs than tobacco smoke. See the following link to read more about marijuana and the lungs. http://www.nida.nih.gov/NIDA_notes/NNvol21N1/Marijuana.html
Remember the info stated above regarding marijuana not being water soluble? Well, marijuana is stored in body fat. The most potent areas of body fat that it is stored in are in the brain and reproductive organs (ovaries and testicles). Because of this, marijuana also has an effect on hormone levels. This can lead to problems with reproduction for both men and woman (http://adcaps.wsu.edu/default.asp?PageID=224). There is also speculation that use of marijuana during adolescence is more dangerous than use in adulthood due to the hormonal changes that are naturally occurring during this time. In December 2010, there was research published indicating that marijuana is linked to testicular cancer in men. See the following link to read more. http://www.nida.nih.gov/NIDA_notes/NNvol23N3/Marijuana.html
One widely recognized effect of marijuana is “the munchies.” This occurs due to the cannabinoids in the brain’s hypothalumus triggering a false hunger response. People who smoke marijuana tend to eat junk food when they have the munchies, and are therefore, at risk for health problems related to unhealthy eating habits such as obesity and high cholesterol.
Overall, there is a lot of speculation about the possible effects of marijuana on the body. There is more to learn about this topic. The person choosing to use the drug needs to be informed of the possible effects of use and then make a decision about the risk he or she is willing to take.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
The baseline THC levels off but stays in a range to which the brain adapts. Tolerance to the drug develops and when use is terminated abruptly, withdrawal ensues (physiological addiction).”
The withdrawal syndrome includes; insomnia, irritability, anxiety, sweaty palms, loss of appetite, depression, headaches and cravings. These symptoms begin approximately 3-4 days after cessation of use, and symptoms usually dissipate by the 10 th day of abstinence.
Drinking a lot of clear fluids, cranberry juice, foods high in potassium and getting exercise are helpful during this withdrawal period.”
Marijuana is psychologically addictive just like almost anything else on the planet can be. A person develops a psychological addiction to something when s/he believes the “thing” is necessary for some purpose. For example, “I need marijuana to relax or sleep.”