Marijuana or cannabis refers to dried seeds, leaves, and flowers from the hemp plant. It contains hundreds of mind-altering substances, and mainly delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol knows as THC.
Cannabis is the most frequently used illicit substance in the United States, mostly among teenagers and young adults. On average, 22.2 million people used it per month in 2014, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Users ingest it in several ways:
- Joints. Users mostly some cannabis in hand-rolled cigarettes.
- Bongs. Another favorite method is to inhale marijuana vapor in water pipes.
- Blunts. People empty cigars and insert them with marijuana.
- Vaporizers. More and more people opt for vaporizers to avoid inhaling smoke. E-cigarettes pull the active mind-altering ingredients from cannabis and direct its vapor to the inhaling part without the smoke.
- Food. Marijuana is often mixed in desserts (brownies or cookies) or brewed as a tea.
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Why Do People Use Marijuana?
One major reason to use cannabis for recreational purposes. The desired effects that people seek include:
- A feeling of relaxation and happiness
- Increase of joy when experiencing music and other art forms
- Enhanced appreciation of the environment
- Stimulated visualization, imagination, and creativity
- Greater excitement and enjoyment of sexuality
- Hunger and thirst
- Feeling of peace and community sharing
People can have different motives:
- escaping reality
- curiosity and experimentation
These effects start almost immediately (up to two minutes after smoking and half an hour after eating it). They for several hours, between 3-7.
Marijuana and Lack Of FDA-Approval
Currently, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) does not approve marijuana as a legal medication. It requires precisely conducted clinical trials to evaluate the benefits and possible risks. Until now, not enough research is available to show that benefits outweigh risks to patients.
However, there is some preliminary evidence that two cannabinoids from the cannabis plant (THC and CBD) have some medical characteristics. Scientific investigations under undergoing and is it too early to have a definitive answer now. But marijuana could potentially have beneficial effects in treating or easing the following diseases or symptoms:
- Muscle pain
- Some mental disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
- Alzheimer’s disease
Medications That Contain Cannabinoids
- Appetite enhancement if people suffering extreme weight loss due to AIDS
- Eliminating nausea induced by chemotherapy
In some parts of the world (Canada, the United Kingdom, and some European countries) other drugs are available:
- Sativex® (nabiximols) is a mouth spray that contains THC and CBD and is used by Multiple Sclerosis patients to ease muscle control issues. That drug is still in the clinical trial phase in the United States.
- Epidiolex is a novel drug for treating childhood epilepsy. However, it still needs to go through clinical trials before going out on the market.
What Are The Numbers?
The NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) provides distressing statistics. According to the NSDUH, on average 17.4 million of Americans use marijuana at least once per month in 2010. That number increased to 22.2 million in 2014. The National Institue of Health estimates that around 40% of people in the United Stated used cannabis at least once in their life.
Marijuana is particularly popular among teenagers and young adults. The Monitoring the Future survey reports the following statistics:
- 8% of 8th-graders used cannabis in 2014, and 6.5% continued using it the next year.
- 4% of 10th-graders consumed marijuana in 2014 and continued in 2015.
- Among 12th-graders, 34.9% had used the drug in 2014; while21.3% continued its use the following year.
- 6% of 12th-graders reported using cannabis daily or close to daily.
The next population at risk is people aged 55+.
- Their number increased from 2,812,000 in 2013 to 4,309,000 in 2014.
- They make 14% of
- Estimation from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports that 456,000 emergency visits were at some point related to marijuana. That constitutes a 21% increase since 2009.
- Over 60% of patients were male.
- 13% of admitted patients were between 12-17 years old.
Risks Of Marijuana
One major concern about marijuana is that the amount of THC in cannabis leaves has risen in the last decade. While they contained 1-4% of THC 15 years ago, this number can even go as high as 7%. That rapid increase of active substance amounts can have unpredictable consequences. And that, both regarding mind-altering desired effects and the risk of harmful effects on the brain and the whole body.
The second issue with cannabis ingredients is that it is hard to verify the compounds. Buying from a legal dispensary does not make it more secure. It is still difficult to know how much of the active substance THC or other ingredients your dose contains. And that leads to unpredictable effects.
Light, occasional use under medical supervision does not necessarily result in complications.
Occasional or short-term cannabis consumption is usually not harmful, and the effects are reversible. But prolonged marijuana use mostly impairs cognitive skills. The most significant casualty is a loss of IQ points (13-38) in long-term and daily users that started cannabis use in their teens.
Besides teenagers, some other groups of people are also particularly prone to harmful consequences of marijuana abuse:
- People with liver diseases, diabetes or low blood pressure are more likely to develop more severe health problems.
- Pregnant women expose their children to complications in the brain and behavioral development. That is notably the case for memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.
- For men, heavy consumption can lower testosterone levels as well as the quality and quantity of sperm. The decrease of fertility goes in pair with a decline in libido.
- There is no proof that marijuana consumption cause mental health problems. But marijuana can cause temporary hallucinations in frequent users. Research suggests that already susceptible individuals can trigger the following conditions or symptoms by consuming the drug:
- Depression and anxiety
- Psychotic episodes
- Suicidal thoughts
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Contrary to what most people believe, cannabis has addictive potential. It is estimated that 30% of marijuana users develop a problematic relationship with the drug. It can go from mild physical dependence to even severe addiction. 10% of marijuana users are estimated to be addicted.
People that start using cannabis in teenage years are 4-7 times more prone to develop marijuana abuse than adults.
Is It A Gateway Drug?
Many claims have been made about marijuana to be a transition drug to harder substances. Let’s look at the facts:
- Marijuana use has been correlated with abuse of most other drugs, including nicotine.
- A risk factor could be that THC enhances sensations of other drugs.
Is there Treatment For Marijuana Abuse?
Because many cannabis consumers are uninformed about the risks coming with marijuana use, they are not aware of treatment options.
In fact, many possibilities exist to help them out with their marijuana abuse.
First, undergo detoxification to get rid of the toxic chemicals. If specialized detox facilities, they are under constant medical supervision to ensure safety and lessen the withdrawal symptoms.
Afterward, there are long-term recovery programs.
For severe cases, there are inpatient residences, where addicts live for one more several months.
But for people that only have issues with marijuana consumption without other complications (multi-drug use, dual diagnosis), the outpatient programs are usually efficient.