Marijuana Q & A
Q. What is marijuana? Are there different kinds?
A. Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp, or cannabis, plant. It goes by many different names—pot, herb, weed, grass—and stronger forms including sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah), hashish (“hash” for short), and hash oil.
Q. How does marijuana affect the body?
A. All forms of marijuana are mind-altering (psychoactive). In other words, they change how the brain works. Marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, including THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Since THC is the main active chemical in marijuana, the amount of THC in marijuana determines its strength or potency and therefore its effects. The THC content of marijuana has been increasing since the 1980s.
Q. How long does marijuana stay in your body?
A. The THC in marijuana is rapidly absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs throughout the body. In general, standard urine tests can detect traces (metabolites) of THC several days after use. In heavy users, however, THC metabolites can sometimes be detected for weeks after use stops.
Q. Does marijuana use lead to other drugs?
A. Long-term studies of drug use patterns show that very few high school students use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana.
Q. What does someone experience while smoking marijuana?
A. Some people feel nothing at all when they smoke marijuana. Others may feel relaxed or high. Some experience sudden feelings of anxiety and paranoid thoughts (more likely with stronger varieties of marijuana). Regular use of marijuana has also been associated with depression, anxiety, and a loss of drive or ambition, even for previously rewarding activities. Its effects can be unpredictable, especially when other drugs are mixed with it.
Q. What are the activities/behaviors most likely to be affected?
A. Learning: Marijuana’s effects on attention and memory make it difficult not only to learn something new, but to do complex tasks that require focus and concentration or the stringing together of a lot of information sequentially; Sports: Marijuana affects timing, movement, and coordination, which can throw off athletic performance; Judgment: Marijuana, like most abused substances, can alter judgment and reduce inhibitions. This can lead to other risky behaviors.
Q. What does marijuana do to the brain?
A. We know a lot about where marijuana acts in the brain and how it exerts its effects at specific sites called cannabinoid receptors. These are found in brain regions that influence learning and memory, appetite, coordination, and pleasure. That’s why marijuana produces the effects it does.
Q. How does smoking marijuana affect the lungs?
A. Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers do, such as daily cough, more frequent upper respiratory illnesses, and a greater risk of lung infections like pneumonia. As with tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke consists of a toxic mixture of gases and tiny particles, many of which are known to harm the lungs. Although we don’t yet know if marijuana causes lung cancer, many people who smoke marijuana also smoke cigarettes, which do cause cancer—and smoking marijuana can make it harder to quit tobacco use.
Q. Can marijuana affect the developing fetus?
A. Doctors advise pregnant women not to use any drugs because they could harm the growing fetus. Studies suggest that children of mothers who used marijuana while pregnant may have subtle brain changes that can cause difficulties with problem solving skills, memory, and attention. More research is needed because it is hard to say for sure what causes what: for example, pregnant women who use marijuana may also smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, both of which can also affect fetal development.
Q. Does marijuana produce withdrawal symptoms when someone quits using it?
A. Yes. The symptoms are similar in type and severity to those of nicotine withdrawal—irritability, sleeping difficulties, anxiety, and craving—peaking a few days after marijuana use has stopped. Withdrawal symptoms can make it hard for someone to stay off marijuana.
Q. What if a person wants to quit using the drug?
A. Researchers are testing different ways to help marijuana users abstain from drug use. Current treatment programs focus on counseling and group support systems. There are also a number of programs designed especially to help teenagers.
Q. Isn’t marijuana sometimes used as a medicine?
A. While a few states have passed medical marijuana laws, marijuana has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat any disease. Because marijuana is usually smoked and has ingredients that can vary from plant to plant, the health risks outweigh its value as a treatment. (www.nida.nih.gov)
Statement of the Youth Problem
By the time they graduate from high school, about 42 percent of teens will have tried marijuana. Although current use among U.S. teens has dropped dramatically in the past decade (to a prevalence of about 14 percent in 2009), this decline has stalled during the past several years (Monitoring the Future, 2010).
The use of marijuana can produce adverse physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral effects. It can impair short-term memory and judgment and distort perception. Because marijuana affects brain systems that are still maturing through young adulthood, its use by teens may have a negative effect on their development. And contrary to popular belief, it can be addictive.
Research shows that approximately 9 percent, or about 1 in 11, of those who use marijuana at least once will become addicted. This rate increases to 16 percent, or about 1 in 6, if you start in your teens, and goes up to 25-50 percent among daily users. Moreover, among young people in drug abuse treatment, marijuana accounts for the largest percentage of admissions: 61 percent of those under age 15 and 56 percent of those 15-19. (Monitoring the Future Survey 2010)
For detailed local data on youth use of marijuana, click here: 2010 KIP (Kentucky Incentives for Prevention) Survey Results – Fayette County
What are we doing about the problem?
- Providing local middle and high school health teachers with ongoing supplemental curriculum and classroom activities to aid them in guiding students away from marijuana use.
- Working with school leaders to analyze KIP trend data as a guide for future prevention efforts.
- Forming a plan for outreach to leaders in the judicial system, to educate and form partnerships for further community involvement.
- Distributing the booklet: Marijuana: Informational Guide for Parents. This guide provides information on networking, communication, laws and referral sources.
What you can do to help
In your home:
Take a stand and talk with your teens
- Talk with your child, set limits; be a positive role model. There are many good fact sheets and research-based information that can be useful to a parent or guardian. www.healthydrugfreecolorado.org
- Who is the most powerful influence in your child’s life? You, that’s who, according to the Partnership at DrugFree.org For more information, see:
- Also see Parents, the Anti-Drug at http://www.theantidrug.com/advice/safeguarding-and-monitoring/conversation-tips/default.aspx
- Educate yourself about the current research and don’t be afraid to talk to other parents. The brain research provides crucial information and clear support for rules against use of marijuana.
- Adolescence is a crucial period of brain development and maturation. Current research indicates that adolescents and young adults who are heavy users of marijuana are more likely than non-users to have disrupted brain development. (Ashtari, Cervellione, Cattone, Ardekaari, Kumra; Journal of Psychiatric Research, 2009)
- According to the KIP data of 2010, the youth perception of harm for smoking marijuana regularly is decreasing. Research clearly indicates that when the belief of harm goes down, it is only a matter of time until use goes up.
Youth Perception of Harm of Smoking Marijuana Regularly
- Marijuana use is still illegal and young people need guidance in knowing how even experimentation can have consequences in their future. Giving a young person a sense of future and being able to impact their world is one of the strongest protective factors a parent or guardian can instill. http://www.resiliency.com/htm/research.htm
- The KIP survey provides information about a young person’s belief of their parent’s disapproval to smoke marijuana. Congratulations on the job you do of getting this across to our young people.
The Fayette Co. Public School Code of Conduct provides information on the expectations of student behavior and the consequences associated with breaking the codes.
http://www.fcps.net/media/50748/code of conduct.pdf
In the community:
Become a Campus Champion and help spread the drug-free message in your neighborhood school.
Contact us to see how you can become involved in our coalition activities.
Please be encouraged to be a voice of prevention with your young person, your family, your friends. We all have the “human condition” of needing to hear a message a minimum of 5 times before we hear the message. Your voice is critical.
Keep track of our local efforts through the coalition calendar on our homepage.
Depending on how severe the marijuana use, parents may opt for outpatient or private counseling in lieu of a residential treatment facility. Whichever type of treatment facility is used, the important point is to get help for teen marijuana use and abuse – before it leads to a chronic behavioral pattern that can have life-long negative impact.
Treatment can be very effective in helping teens to overcome marijuana use. Among the most effective are programs such as adolescent community reinforcement approach (A-CRA), motivational enhancement therapy (MET)/cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)/, and multidimensional family therapy (MDFT).
If you think or know your child is using marijuana, drinking or using other drugs, it’s important to take action right away. The longer a situation is allowed, the more difficult and more expensive the treatment. Intervening early is always the better decision for your teen, for your family.
Did you know? Of the youth in drug treatment, 68% are there for marijuana addiction. (SAMHSA 2009 National Survey of Drug Use and Health)
What are the signs of abuse?
Here’s what to watch for:
- Glassy, red eyes
- loud talking and inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness
- a sweet burnt scent on skin, clothing or hair
- loss of interest or motivation in activities that used to be important to him/her
- weight gain or loss
- Change in overall attitude/personality with no other identifiable cause
- Changes in friends; new hang-outs; sudden avoidance of old crowd; doesn’t want to talk about new friends; friends are known drug users
- Change in activities or hobbies
- Drop in grades at school or performance at work; skips school or is late for school
- Change in habits at home; loss of interest in family and family activities
- Difficulty in paying attention; forgetfulness
- General lack of motivation, energy, self-esteem, “I don’t care” attitude
- Sudden oversensitivity, temper tantrums, or resentful behavior
- Moodiness, irritability, or nervousness
- Excessive need for privacy; secretive or suspicious behavior
- Chronic dishonesty
- Unexplained need for money, stealing money or items
- Change in personal grooming habits
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/ or call 1-800-662-4357 for the National 24 hr. hotline
Bluegrass MHMR Board 24 hr. hotline is 1-800-928-8000
In Fayette Co. please call 253-2737
Also, please find additional treatment sources listed on the Substance Abuse Information button on the home page.