Some people claim that marijuana is safe and that its a safe alternative to tobacco and/or alcohol and that it has magical healing powers. Attitudes toward cannabis are also constantly changing, a number of countries are choosing to legalize marijuana and have passed medical marijuana laws. Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the world with an estimated 19 million users as of 2012. It is the fourth most commonly used psychoactive drug, after caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
A study in India among 41,000 males reported a prevalence rate for current marijuana use of around 3%. This prevalence rate is much higher than the Asian average of 1.6% and approaching the world average of 3.5%.
Ancient Indian texts report the use of cannabis for a number of ailments. Ever since cannabis was used as a therapeutic measure, its adverse properties have also been apparent. Historically cannabis has been used in India as an appetite stimulant ! an effect everyone who has used the drug is familiar with. Earliest recorded adverse effects included seeing devils and the ability to communicate with spirits.
What is marijuana and why do people smoke up?
Recreational marijuana is available as a herb or resin, derived from the cannabis plant. And like in humans, the female is much stronger than the male plant and contains over 110 cannabinoids (cannabis-like substances). Out of which Delta -9 – Tetrahydrocannabinol is responsible for psychoactive effects. Selective breeding has increased the concentration of THC in marijuana over the years.
The cannabis high
THC acts on the CB1 receptors found in the regions of the brain involved in mood, motor control, memory formation, pain modulation and regulation of food intake. When cannabis is smoked or ingested its euphoric effects begin in around 15 minutes – half an hour. The high of orally ingested cannabis lasts longer but is less potent. There is a dilation of conjunctival vessels causing a visible “red-eye”. There is an heightened sensitivity to external stimuli, making colours brighter and music better. There is a subjective slowing in the appreciation of time. This leads to a subjective feeling of well being and relaxation. This subjective feeling of well being is why people smoke up !
When you smoke up the brain also release dopamine (the pleasure substance) in a region of the brain responsible for dependence to all things rewarding, this will make one seek the drug again. Read more about how you can get addicted here.
Can you get addicted to cannabis ?
The myth that cannabis cannot produce dependence will have to remain a myth, up to 25% of those who consume cannabis are addicted to it. That is they consume cannabis in a way that interferes with daily functioning and can cause bodily harm. Further, as a drug that can cause dependence, withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, appetite disturbances and changes in mood can occur. So there goes another myth, cannabis does produce withdrawal effects and craving.
What are the health risks of cannabis ?
- Most people consume cannabis by smoking it. All forms of smoke, cannabis smoke included have highly active toxic substances which are carcinogenic. They also impede your lungs ability to breathe effectively!
- CB1 receptors are seen in high concentrations in the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memory. Studies among long term users show obvious cognitive deficits and other studies show that they are only partially reversible.
- As early as 1845, cannabis was known to precipitate acute psychotic reactions ( A psychotic reaction is a loss of touch with reality).
- In a study conducted among 45,750 Swedish army recruits to study the prospective effects of cannabis use, those who had consumed cannabis over 50 separate times were at 6 times or at a 600% risk of developing schizophrenia ( a disease characterized by abnormal perceptions, false beliefs and a deterioration in the quality of life).
- In another study, subjects studied since childhood, in whom those who were psychosis prone were excluded, cannabis use still had a considerable link to the development of schizophrenia in later life. And those who start use below 17 years of age had lower IQ scores than controls.
- Some people also experience what are called bad trips, intoxication characterized by unpleasant mood states, fearfulness, panic attacks (which are periods of intense anxiety)when one is afraid that they are about to die or go mad, and paranoid states which can lead to untoward events and bodily hurt!
- The amotivational syndrome – Amotivational syndrome is characterized by detachment, blunted emotion and drives, and executive functions like memory and attention are impaired; it is primarily associated with long-term effects of cannabis use. People lose interest in everything except cannabis use.
8. Cannabis smokers have a higher than average risk of developing other mental illnesses such as depression and dissociative disorder.
Why does the internet have so many conflicting reports?
Now comes the good part, the plant cannabis Sativa does have medicinal properties, cannabinoids and derivatives including THC and cannabidiol have been implicated as therapeutic measures in a number of conditions including seizures, Parkinsonism, chronic pain syndromes, cancers, sleep disorders, immune dysfunction and obesity. Cannabidiol will probably be the wonder drug of the future, as it has minimal psychoactive effects and endless therapeutic possibilities. This is the reason behind the positive rep that cannabis has.
Unfortunately, cannabidiol will not give you a high and strains of cannabis are bred to produce more THC and consequently less cannabidiol. One would be fooling themselves if they thought the pot they were smoking up was healthy!
Medical use of cannabis is not the same as smoking a joint. Further, An important caveat is that concentrations of THC or CBD used in studies of cellular effects are generally much higher than the concentrations of THC or CBD that would likely be achieved in humans who smoke marijuana.
Recreational cannabis use is thus not safe and definitely not without risk. With chronic use it can cause dependence, it can cause withdrawal symptoms and worse still it can cause long-standing brain damage. If you are going to use cannabis, please understand that like every other psychoactive drug out there, it can screw up your life as well.
Drug use is not taboo, cannabis use is not evil, and you need to be able to talk freely and honestly about drug use and abuse till all your questions are cleared. You have one life and we wouldn’t want you to suffer because of misinformation. Please open up, let’s talk about these things.