What's So Bad About Weed?
History of marijuana
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?
There are many reasons people report using marijuana. Some report that it helps them relax or fall asleep. Others, state that they are more creative under the influence of the drug. Marijuana is often identified as a social drug and is often smoked in groups. Some people report that smoking gives them something to do so they aren't bored. Others identify smoking marijuana to help with anger management, depression, or feelings of anxiety. "It helps me calm down, relax." Marijuana is often a drug of choice for pain management as well. It is great for increasing the appetite and also helps to decrease feelings of nausea. As stated earlier it has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
Marijuana And The Brain
Marijuana is unlike other drugs because it is not a single molecule but rather a complex molecule with over 400 cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the chemicals which give marijuana it's ability to make the user feel high. THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main active ingredient in the marijuana plant. THC is a cannabinoid. The molecules in marijuana are also different than most drugs because they are not water soluble, meaning that they aren't dissolved by water. The molecules are stored in your fat, including in the fatty tissue around and in your brain. Therefore, the molecules stay in your system for weeks, depending on the amount of use. This means that even if you only smoke marijuana once, it can take 7-10 days before HALF of that marijuana has left your body. When you are not high, you are still affected by the drug! (http://adcaps.wsu.edu/default.asp?PageID=224)
A chemical called Anandamide is a natural cannabinoid neurotransmitter in the brain. THC mimics the actions of anandamide, so TC binds with cannabinoid receptors making the brain think it is naturally producing anadamide. It tricks the brain! Long term use of marijuana can clog the pathways that chemicals cross (synapses) and slows/stops production of "feel good" chemicals that the brain naturally produces.
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...
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.
A March 2012 study published by the National Institutes of Health states "Cannabis appears to continue to exert impairing effects in executive functions even after 3 weeks of abstinence and beyond. While basic attentional and working memory abilities are largely restored, the most enduring and detectable deficits are seen in decision-making, concept formation and planning. Verbal fluency impairments are somewhat mixed at this stage. Similar to the residual effects of cannabis use, those studies with subjects having chronic, heavy cannabis use show the most enduring deficits." The full study can be found here: http://pharmacology.ucsd.edu/graduate/courseinfo/B...
Marijuana's Effect on the Rest of the Body
Marijuana increases heart rate by about 50%. Frequent use can lead to the possibility of damage to the heart such as heart murmurs, heart attack, and stroke. People with high blood pressure or other heart problems are obviously at higher risk than a healthy person.
Marijuana 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/Marij...
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/Marij...
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?
In short, yes! Marijuana is addictive, both psychologically and physically. Please see the following information taken directly from the Washington State University Website https://adcaps.wsu.edu/drugs101/marijuana-effects
"Chart C (right): Illustrates a regular (4-5 times per week) marijuana user's THC levels.
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."
Don't Think Marijuana Is A Problem?
I receive many comments from people who curse at me, laugh, or are otherwise rude and obnoxious. If you didn't wonder about the dangers of this drug, why would you have continued reading beyond the first paragraph? This lens was created for people who would like some information about the possible effects (negative or positive) of marijuana. It is not a site arguing for or against the legalization of or medical uses for marijuana. People often ask for references. I would suggest any biology book to find out what areas of your brain have canabinoid receptors. I would also suggest going to the NIDA website, WebMD or following any other link above.
I had been publishing all responses to this lens. However, I have been receiving many inappropriate responses lately. This is a "family friendly" site, so please edit your language. If you don't see your comment, it is because there was some inappropriate content. Thanks to all who respond!
Cool Links About Marijuana
- Do It Now
Easy to read facts about marijuana use and your health.
- Medical marijuana pros/cons
A collection of info about the medical use of marijuana
- How Stuff Works
- Wellness Therapy Center website
See our website to check out the services we provide.
Resources available through NIDA
research on marijuana
- Drug Library
- Journal of Addiction Medicine
journal on addiciton
- health facts
facts on marijuana's effect on health
- marijuana myths
info for parents