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Understanding Marijuana

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, pot, weed and mary jane amongst others produces the mind-altering substance called THC (Tetrahydrocannabinols). Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the world. The plant has other uses, including clinical uses. Other parts of the plant can be used to make clothes and paper.

A Very Brief History of Marijuana

Cannabis has been used for millennia. This is only a snippet of its diverse and incredible history. 6000 years before Christ its seeds were used as food in China. About two thousand years later, the Chinese started using hemp to make clothes and other textiles. Another two thousand years pass before the first recorded use of cannabis in which it was used medicinally. It is believed that around the year 700 BC tribes were already using psychoactive cannabis. Around this time, cannabis seeds were used as offerings to the gods. Two hundred years later hemp spread towards Northern Europe. For centuries hashish is used both to clean ritualistically and as a recreational drug by particular tribes. By the year 70 it is known that Romans use cannabis medicinally.

Some centuries later after much debate about whether the use of hashish is positive or negative, it becomes an extremely popular recreational drug in the Middle East and is introduced into Egypt. In the mid 1500's after tales of its psychoactive properties had spread far beyond the Middle East and into Europe slaves taken to Brazil have cannabis with them. The slaves are allowed to plant it and smoke it. A few centuries pass again before Napoleon completely outlaws the use of hashish. For the next century cannabis is widely available worldwide with the British imposing taxes on it, hashish production booming in Paris and availability in Persian pharmacies stateside. Many more things happen during the following century: cannabis intake seems to boom in some particular places and diminishes in others. Cannabis becomes a controlled substance in the United States.

Currently cannabis can be used in California to treat patients but it is federally classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as Schedule One. Many groups are currently campaigning against this scheduling and some states have rescheduled it themselves.

What Are The Effects of Marijuana Use?

Cannabis is considered to be a 'lighter' drug than others since the effects are comparatively quite mild. Individuals that use cannabis are not impaired at the time from doing anything they might normally do. With that said cannabis causes mood lifts, increased laughing (the giggles), increased appetite (the munchies), relaxation, stress reduction, deeper thoughts, pain relief and reduced nausea.

Taking cannabis can make the user feel like everything is going slow or has slowed down and the user might act accordingly. It may also cause tiredness or lethargy, blood-shot eyes and even tightness or numbness in the jaw or face.

What Are The Side Effects of Marijuana Use?

Cannabis users might experience paranoia and anxiety. They might also experience clumsiness or generally impaired coordination. Being lightheaded and fainting can occur if blood pressure is suddenly lowered. It might also cause tachycardia (racing hard) and feeling of anxiety and stress.

Due to the fact that the heart starts racing after taking marijuana users are more at risk of having a heart attack after having used it.

Prolonged long term use might lead to respiratory problems like asthma and coughing.

How Does Marijuana Affect the User's Brain?

The acting chemical in Cannabis is called THC. It acts on certain receptors on the brain called cannobinoids. The most cannabinoid receptors can be found near the pleasure center in the brain. Nobody really knows yet what the effects on the brain are for long-term high dose use of marijuana.

Is Cannabis Addictive?

Although cannabis is not physically addicted many become psychologically addicted to it. Anyone who smokes cannabis every day is at risk of becoming addicted to it psychologically. Currently it is estimated that about 9% of marijuana users become addicted. The number increases when linked to daily users and younger cannabis users.

The physically addictive nature of marijuana is highly contested with some government sources claiming that is it as addictive as hard drugs like cocaine. It must be noted here that psychological addiction is very real and it must not be dismissed because there are no physical symptoms present. On the other hand a psychological addiction might affect the user's body. It is true that there are withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping cannabis use suddenly. These symptoms can last from four days to six weeks if the usage of the drug is heavy and prolonged. The individual might experience reduced pleasure, medically known as anhedonia, and is likely to experience headaches and general discomfort. The first withdrawal symptom is a craving for cannabis. The user is likely to experience a loss in appetite and difficulty sleeping or even insomnia.

How Many People Actually Use Marijuana?

Cannabis is believed to be the most widely used and abused illegal drug in the world. Almost seventeen million Americans over the age of twelve had used it at least one month before they were asked. 42% of twelve graders have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime, 37% of ten graders had and over 15% of eighth graders have.

Marijuana: How it Affects Teenagers and Young People

Young people are much more vulnerable to becoming psychologically dependent on cannabis. Currently it is thought that they are 17% more likely to become addicted than older users, and this can increase to up to 25% if the individual is a daily user. Chronic marijuana usage in teenagers and young people has been linked to the development of schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. However, it is currently not entirely clear if marijuana is the cause of the problem, makes it worse or simply means that the user is trying to self-medicate his or her syndromes. Although rare, high doses of marijuana can produce psychotic episodes. This is particularly true for youth at risk with genetic and environmental factors taken into account.