On an average, around 33 million Americans consume marijuana on a monthly basis according to a survey by Gallup. Without a doubt, it is the favorite street drug in the U.S. Recreational marijuana has been legalized in the following 11 states- California, Oregon, Vermont, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, Michigan, Colorado, Maine, Alaska, the District of Columbia and Nevada. Several other states are seriously considering various laws in order to make the same legal.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of American individuals who want the recreational marijuana to be legalized. As per a survey by Pew Research Center, around 60% of Americans support legalization of recreational marijuana as they think it is not harmful.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana, also known as Cannabis is a green, gray or brown mixture of dried and shredded stems, flowers, leaves and seeds of Cannabis Sativa, a hemp plant. Marijuana is mainly used as a psychoactive drug for religious, spiritual as well as medical purposes. The stronger forms of Marijuana are Hash Oil, Sinsemilla and hash/hashish.
As per the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), Marijuana is the most abused drug in America. Despite the legalization of Marijuana in many states, the possession of cannabis is illegal as per the federal law except for certain approved research settings.
How does the Marijuana Work?
Source: Amsterdam Genetics
THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main active chemical present in marijuana. It is basically a psychoactive ingredient. Dried flowers as well as buds of the plant have the highest concentrations of THC. When the marijuana smoke is inhaled, THC quickly spreads from the lungs and enters into the bloodstream. It is then carried to the brain and remaining organs of the body.
THC acts on few specific receptors present in the human brain namely the “cannabinoid receptors”. This triggers a chain of cellular reactions which leads to Euphoria which the individuals using the drug experience. Due to this reaction, a feeling of a relaxed state, improved sensory perception and ecstasy occur. In case of individuals who are not familiar with the effects, higher THC levels can cause panic attack and anxiousness.
High concentration of the cannabinoid receptors are found in the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, cerebellum and the basal ganglia of the brain. These areas are responsible for influencing memory, perception of time, concentration, pleasure and coordination.
The strength of Marijuana is directly related to the amount of THC content it contains. The effect of Marijuana on users is dependent on the strength of the THC content.
There are several other chemicals present in marijuana which can cause adverse effects on the health of the user. As per the NIDA, Marijuana contains more than 60 cannabinoid compounds. In addition, around 400 compounds have been said to be present in marijuana, including THC, β-caryophyllene and Cannabidiol, also known as CBD.
Different Ways of Consuming Marijuana
A typical glass bong to smoke marijuana
Smoking is the most common way in which Marijuana is used. It can be smoked in the form of a cigarette (popularly known as joint) or from a bong, blunt or pipe. “Blunts” are nothing but cigars filled with marijuana along with some other drug such as crack. When you smoke from a bong, joint or pipe, the heat is responsible for releasing the active plant chemicals into the smoke.
Source: Market Realist
Some users also use marijuana in the form of edibles. The users mix marijuana into their food or use the same for brewing tea. Individuals also bake marijuana into foods such as brownies and cookies.
Source: Marijuana Stocks
Vaporizers are an alternative to users who do not wish to inhale smoke. A vaporizer heats the dried marijuana and thereby releases vapor. The released vapor contains cannabinoids and THC, but without any toxic smoke. Few vaporizers also use a liquid marijuana extract which has very high THC content. Such vaporizers can be harmful to new users.
Source: Merry Jane
Nowadays, users resort to Dabbing to use Marijuana. In this method, you heat the cannabis oils and breathe the same. However, the cannabis oil can contain very high THC levels of up to 80%.
The Side Effects of using Marijuana
The side effects of using marijuana will vary from individual to individual based on the amount and strength of marijuana used. The Side effects are significantly stronger in aged people.
Following are few of the short-term effects of using marijuana:
- Increased heart rate
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Increase in Appetite
- Loss of motor Skills
- Difficulty in problem solving and thinking
- Agitation and paranoia
Following are few of the withdrawal symptoms that can take place due to quitting Marijuana suddenly:
Effects of Marijuana on the Heart
Shortly after using marijuana, the heart rate of the user can drastically increase for around 3 hours. This effect is more pronounced if marijuana is used in combination with other drugs. As per Harvard Health, the risk of heart attack increases by several times in the first hour of using marijuana. This risk is even greater in case of individuals with high blood pressure, cardiac disease and arrhythmia.
Effects of Marijuana on the Lungs
When a user smokes Marijuana, the bronchial passage becomes enlarged. The smoke also contains certain chemicals which can cause cancer. As per studies, it has been found that the smoke of marijuana can contain 50 to 70 % more carcinogenic hydrocarbons when compared to tobacco smoke.
Users who smoke marijuana face the same respiratory issues as cigarette smokers. They may face the problem of daily cough, chest colds, phlegm, wheezing, symptoms of chronic bronchitis, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. As per the NIDA, marijuana users are also at a greater risk of catching lung infections such as pneumonia.
As per a 2016 review of the respiratory effects caused by the inhalation of marijuana shows that there is a risk of lung cancer due to the inhalation and also an association between marijuana and spontaneous pneumothorax. According to the review, 8 out of 12 showed an increased risk of getting lung cancer from the use of cannabis.
Marijuana vs. Alcohol
Both Marijuana as well as Alcohol have different effects on the human body. Alcohol in general makes the users forgetful. For instance, while driving a car you can neglect to check the mirrors or over-speed. With Marijuana, you are aware that you are impaired, thereby making you overly cautious. For instance, while driving a car, you will tend to stop at green lights. In case you are drunk, you will jump the red lights.