Category: Intoxicant, stimulant, psychedelic, depressant
Chemical name: cannabis sativa
- "Marijuana" generally refers to the flowers of the plant cannabis sativa. There are many drug products made from cannabis, including marijuana (flower and flower clippings), hashish (sieved and pressed cannabis resin glands), and hash oil (cannabinoids extracted with solvents.) There are literally hundreds of different strains of marijuana plants.
- The main chemical ingredient that causes the psychoactive ‘high’ is the cannabinoid ‘THC’. And while THC is somewhat infamous, it is not the only active component in marijuana. Other important cannabinoids include CBD (Cannabidiol) and CBN (Cannabinol). Each strain of cannabis has a unique quantity and proportion of these cannabinoids, giving each its own unique set of effects.
- Burning and digestion of the cannabinoids changes them and creates new ones with increased potencies and effect.
- Marijuana can be smoked (in a pipe, water bong or cigarette) vapourized, or eaten.
- THC content in cannabis can vary greatly depending on the strain of plant. The average THC content is somewhere between 11% and 16%, but some plants will have percentages much higher or much lower. Contrary to popular belief, higher THC concentrations in cannabis do not make it "more dangerous."
- Effects from smoking usually appear within a few moments and peak after 30 to 60 minutes. Effects from ingesting marijuana orally will take longer to appear and will last longer, and will also usually be more intense.
*Reactions and experiences may vary dramatically from person to person.*
Effects on brain:
- Blood levels of THC peak within 15 minutes, and only 1% of the administered dose will enter the brain.
- Cannabinoids have 2 known specific receptors, both of which are coupled to second-messenger systems that use APMc. These receptors are concentrated primarily in the cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum and basal ganglia, but also occur in the hypothalamus, brain stem and spinal cord. These receptors function as neuro-modulators for neurotransmitters, i.e. increasing synthesis of dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and epinephrine.
- Central and peripheral receptors are structurally different, therefore mediating different cannabinoid effects (which is helpful for developing cannabinoid medicines targeting pain)
Effects on body:
- Possible short term effects include pain relief, increased appetite, reduced nausea, sleepiness, clumsiness, reddening of the eyes, dry eyes, dry mouth, coughing, throat irritation (if smoked), headaches, nausea and/or vomiting (especially when mixed with other drugs, particularly alcohol and pharmaceuticals), increased heart rate, slower response to peripheral stimuli (can make it very dangerous to operate a car or heavy machinery), and fluctuations in blood pressure and body temperature.
- Possible long term effects include decreased motor ability and decrease in the activity of the immune system. Irritation of the throat and lungs can occur with regular smoking.
Effects on behavior:
- Possible short term effects include relaxed feelings, euphoria, increased creative or philosophical thinking, increased awareness and appreciation of sounds, smells, tastes, sights etc, difficulty following a train of thought, interruption of linear memory, racing thoughts, altered sense of time, paranoid thoughts, anxiety, and panic attacks (with new or sensitive users or with very high doses).
- Possible long term effects include disruption of normal sleep stages causing fatigue, disruption of ability to recall words or narrative material, attention disorders
- Can exacerbate latent or existing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, particularly in young people.
- The cognitive effects listed here are reversible for adults, but are harder to reverse and, in some cases, irreversible for the developing brains of preteens and teens.
Addiction:Psychological dependence to cannabis can develop with regular use and weak physical dependence may develop in individuals who use high doses daily.
Tolerance:Develops for most of the effects of cannabinoids (excluding food consumption)
Withdrawal Symptoms:Usually only occur when stopping heavy use, and are generally mild to moderate and non-life-threatening. Severity of symptoms is related to frequency and duration of use and the individual’s characteristics. Symptoms usually last 2-4 days (but can last up to six weeks with heavy long term use) and include hot flashes, runny nose, loose stools, loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, cravings for cannabis, sweating, insomnia, fatigue and reduced experience of pleasure.
*Disclaimer! Nothing you do can make using cannabis completely safe. All drug use has inherent risks and dangers. The suggestions in this section can only help you reduce some of the associated risks. The best way to avoid the harms related to drug use is to not take the drug at all.*
- Marijuana is illegal; therefore if you are caught possessing, exchanging, buying or selling this drug it can result in criminal charges.
- Smoking anything is hazardous to your health (lungs, throat, heart, arteries, etc,). If possible, use a vapourizer to inhale cannabis.
- Eating cannabis foods requires more precision when it comes to the dose. It takes longer to feel the effects of marijuana foods, but generally the effects are much more intense and last much longer when compared to smoked/inhaled cannabis. Take a fairly small amount and wait at least an hour before deciding whether to take more or not. Make sure you have a sober sitter with you if inexperienced.
- Avoid mixing cannabis with tobacco. By mixing cannabis with tobacco you are exposing yourself to all the risks of marijuana smoke combined with those of cigarette smoke.
- Potency of cannabis varies from plant to plant, therefore the effects of different batches or strains is difficult to predict, especially if you or your supplier do not know any details about the plant.
- THC is stored in fat cells for a long time, making it detectable in the body long after it was taken. If you have to take a drug test, avoid using cannabis at least one month before the test, if possible.
- Avoid using cannabis before studying or going to class or performing other important tasks. Many studies have proven the loss of cognitive abilities due to cannabis use.
- Cannabis use affects the developing mind differently than developed ones. Waiting until your mind and body have more fully developed before using cannabis can have long term health and mental benefits.
- Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery.
- If you use a bong, it is recommended that you do not use one made of plastic bottles, rubber hose or with an aluminum cone, as these materials can give off harmful fumes when heated or melted. Also, keep your bong clean and change the water frequently too, as a dirty bong can harbor germs.
- Clean glass pipes are preferable to plastic, metal and wood pipes.