Marijuana (cannabis sativa) is a plant that can grow to as high as 18 feet and is found in most of the countries of the world.  Like many plants, it produces both male and female flowers and generally blooms in the late summer months.

English: Areas affected by THC on the brain

English: Areas affected by THC on the brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MARIJUANA CHEMISTRY

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary component of marijuana that produces its effects on the mind but there are over 60 others, depending on the source of the marijuana. TCH and the other cannabinoids achieve their effects by stimulating dopamine activity in the brain.  Researchers are finding that excessive stimulation of this system leads to many other problems.

Various studies have examined the amount of TCH present in marijuana for the past 50 years.  TCH content in marijuana used in the 1960’s and 1070’s was measured in the range of 1% to 3%.   However, because of improved strains of marijuana now being grown, the TCH content in marijuana now commonly available is as much as 20%.  The longer term effect of this increased potency on the health of individuals has not been fully understood but many medical researchers warn that the effects may be much more detrimental to a person’s health that previously thought.  Many researchers are pointing to one effect being the increased likelihood that marijuana users are more likely to suffer from psychosis or schizophrenia.

As researchers are able to obtain the genomes of marijuana users and study the changes in the DNA, it will be more possible to define the actual effects of TCH on the health and well-being of the user.

PSYCHOACTIVE INGREDIENTS

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the part of marijuana that, when smoked, is absorbed into the blood stream and then through the blood brain barrier to the brain. In the brain, the THC interacts with various other receptors and can cause:
•    Feelings of euphoria
•    Slowing of reflexes
•    Relaxation
•    Anxiety
•    Fear
•    Paranoia
•    Hunger
•    Dilation of the eyes
•    Sharper sensations
•    Duller sensations

MARIJUANA USE AND EFFECTS

•    Marijuana Continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug among U.S. residents age 12 and older and it is estimated that 29.7 million people reported using marijuana in 2011. (2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

•    Marijuana smoke can damage DNA and the smoking of 3-4 cannabis cigarettes a day is associated with the same degree of damage to bronchial mucus membranes as 20 or more tobacco cigarettes a day, ( Evaluation of the DNA Damaging Potential of Cannabis Cigarette Smoke by the Determination of Acetaldehyde Derived N2-Ethyl-2′-deoxyguanosine Adducts. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 22, 1181-1188.)
•    Regular use of marijuana in young adulthood is linked to peridontal (gum) disease. (February 6, 2008, Journal of the American Medical Association)
•    Long-term marijuana use is linked to the creation of hippocampus and amygdala (parts of the brain that are thought to regulate emotion, memory, fear and aggression) problems and is toxic to brain tissue. (June 2008, Archives of General Psychiatry)
•    Patients with chronic hepatitis C that use marijuana are at a significantly higher risk of severe liver fibrosis and tissue scarring. (January 2008, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology)
•    A growing body of evidence suggests that cannabis may negatively impact several aspects of people’s lives, including mental and physical health, cognitive functioning, ability to drive a motor vehicle, and pre-and postnatal development among offspring. (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2009)
•    Workers who smoke marijuana are more likely than their coworkers to have problems on the job. Several studies associate workers’ marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and job turnover.
•    A study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and a 75 percent increase in absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.
•    Some heavy users of marijuana show signs of dependence, developing withdrawal symptoms when they have not used the drug for a period of time.

HASHISH

Many people think that hashish is from a different plant than marijuana but it is not.  Hashish is made from the resin of the female flowers of the marijuana plant and normally causes an increased psychoactive (a substance acting by affecting the brain) than marijuana.

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