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. http://www.nida.nih.gov/MarijBroch/teens/
Statement of Problem
- Marijuana is considered a gateway drug. It can lead to abuse of other, harder drugs.
- More teens are in treatment each year for marijuana dependence than for alcohol and all other illegal drugs combined.
- Smoking one marijuana joint deposits 4 times more tar in the lungs than smoking one filtered tobacco cigarette.
- Marijuana limits the capacity of the brain to absorb and retain information.
- Chronic marijuana smokers are typically more susceptible to chest colds, bronchitis, emphysema and bronchial asthma.
- Short-term effects of marijuana use include euphoria, distorted perceptions, memory impairment, and difficulty thinking and solving problems.
Some Things to Think About
People smoke pot for a lot of different reasons: to feel good, to feel better, to feel different, or to fit in. Whatever the reason, drug use has consequences.
Marijuana is addictive. Of course, not everyone who smokes marijuana will become addicted. That depends on a whole bunch of factors—including your family history (genes), the age you start using, whether you also use other drugs, family and peer relationships, success in school, etc. Repeated marijuana use can lead to addiction—which means that people have difficulty controlling their drug use and often cannot stop even though they want to, and even though it undermines many aspects of their lives.
To help you make an informed choice, the following are some brief summaries of what marijuana research is telling us. Share them with your friends to help them separate fact from myth.
Driving: Marijuana is unsafe if you are behind the wheel. Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found in drivers who die in accidents, often in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Marijuana affects a number of skills required for safe driving—alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time—so it’s not safe to drive high or to ride with someone who’s been smoking. (Richer and Bergeron, 2009)
School: Marijuana is linked to school failure. Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks—especially if you smoke often. Compared with their peers who don’t smoke, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of school. (Schweinsburg et al. 2008)
Psychosis/Panic: High doses of marijuana can cause psychosis or panic when you’re high. Some people experience disturbed perceptions and thoughts, paranoia, or panic attacks while under the influence of marijuana. (Hall and Degenhardt 2009)
Treatment for Teen Marijuana Use
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.
Local 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). These are evidence-based, scientifically-tested approaches to treating substance abuse as identified by the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
www.samhsa.gov/treatment provides national treatment resources. The 24 hour hotline is 1-800-662-4357
Bluegrass Regional MHMR Board, Inc. local 24 hr. hotline is 253-2737. Outside of Fayette Co. please call 1-800-928-8000.