A Parent's Guide to Drugs of Abuse - Part 1 - Marijuana and Synthetic Cannabis
This is Part 1 in a series about Drugs of Abuse. Although it is titled "A Parent's Guide" it contains information for anyone who has a loved one or friend who is addicted to drugs. Millions of people worldwide struggle with drug addiction each day. There are wasted lives, broken families, and tragic deaths. In this series I hope to provide some basic info on the more commonly encountered drugs of abuse, including some very new ones that you may not have heard about.
This segment will cover Marijuana and Synthetic Cannabis.
Marijuana Identification, Use, and Effects
Marijuana comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. It is most often encountered in a dry green or brown form, which may contain stems, seeds, leaves, and flowers. It may appear similar to tobacco in some cases. Marijuana has a distinct odor which is sometimes described as pungent, or as a "skunk like" smell. One strain of marijuana is called "Skunk Weed". Some common slang names for marijuana are Pot, Dope, and Weed.
Marijuana is usually smoked in cigarette form. The cigarettes are most commonly known as "joints", however there is an endless list of nicknames for them. Some users will empty the tobacco out of a cigarette or a cigar and refill it with marijuana. This can be done as an attempt to conceal the fact that it contains marijuana or may allow the user to mix the marijuana with other drugs. Marijuana is also often smoked in a pipe or a "bong", which is a water pipe. Some users add marijuana to brownie mix or other foods, or brew them with teas and ingest them orally.
Effects felt by the user include relaxation and euphoria, distorted perception, loss of coordination, slower reaction times, impaired judgement, and hunger ("munchies"). Physical effects on the body include increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and sedation.
Users will often have bloodshot eyes. To counter this possible giveaway, users young and old will use eye drops, such as Visine. Most children and teenagers do not usually have a need for Visine so if you observe them with it frequently you may want to take note. That, combined with other factors, such as a persistent cough, may indicate marijuana use.The clothes of users will often have a distinct odor as well. For an excellent site listing clues that a person is using marijuana check out Is My Kid Smoking Pot.
Hashish and Hash Oil also come from the Cannabis plant. The effects are similar, although stronger.
Marijuana is a widely used illegal drug. Despite the fact that many feel it is harmless, parents should take a different view for the safety of their child. Not only are there numerous health concerns with any drug use or smoking, but the decrease in judgement that comes with marijuana use may lead your child to get into a dangerous situation.
Synthetic Cannabis known as K2 or "Spice"
K2 or Spice is a mixture of herbs that has been treated with chemicals that are similar to the active ingredients in marijuana. Many people have turned to these as a "legal high". Although they are becoming illegal in more places, K2 and Spice can often be purchased in stores that sell drug paraphernalia ("Head Shops"), tobacco shops, and through the internet. They are also known by names such as Fake weed, Herbal Incense, Genie, and Black mamba. K2 and Spice are usually sold as "smokable incense" and come in small silver or gold colored packets. The herbs themselves appear as dried leaves.
Both are smoked in the same fashion as marijuana or brewed into a tea. The effects are somewhat similar to marijuana, however there is a danger of hallucinations, seizures, vomiting, and other health issues due to the use of synthetic chemical compounds in their preparation.
Spice or K2 Dangers
Some final thoughts on Marijuana
Marijuana, as with all drugs of abuse, presents numerous risks. One danger that is often overlooked is the risk of respiratory ailments that come from smoking. Marijuana use should not be simply dismissed as a "harmless" practice.