Marijuana is scientifically known as Cannabis sativa and has been in use for about 4,000 years. Cannabis sativa belongs to in the Cannabaceae family and is an annual herbaceous plant . However it was not officially analyzed and the active ingredients isolated until 1964 when two Israeli biochemists R. Mechoulam and Y. Gaoni analyzed it. Cannabis contains cannabinoids as the primary chemicals which include cannabichromene,cannabinol, cannabigerol, cannabidiol, cannabinolidic acids and a number of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) isomers. The principal psychoactive ingredient present in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9-THC). It has been traditionally used as a stimulant, a hallucinogen and a depressant for recreational, medicinal and religious purpose.
2.0 Chemical makeup and use of Marijuana
Delta-9-THC is the ingredient in marijuana that results in the "high," the feeling of intoxication, which users constantly long for. When marijuana is smoked, delta THC is rapidly absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream eventually getting to the brain. The effect of using marijuana can last for 1 to 3 days but these effects can be slowed down if the user takes marijuana as part of their food. The marijuana plant has slightly more than 400 chemical compounds, of which 60 are cannabinoids. These are the psychoactive compounds that can be isolated from the cannabis plant or as a result of metabolism within the body. Delta-9-THC is a derivative of the resin from the flowering parts of the plant. Little amounts are found in the leaves with traces in the fibrous stalks. The psychoactive potency of cannabis is therefore dependent on the part of the plant used for preparation. Potency of marijuana depends on THC concentration which is normally expressed as %THC per dry weight of material.
On average the concentration of THC in marijuana is 1-5%, 5-15% in hashish and in hashish oil 20%. Sinsemilla is a marijuana form that is derived from the unpollinated female cannabis plant. It is preferred by most users due to its high THC content (up to 17% THC).
Marijuana is the most common illicit drug according to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). According to the survey, 75.6% of the drug users at the time of the survey had used marijuana. Marijuana mostly targets the brain since it is inhaled thus rapidly diffuses into the blood stream from where it can be dispersed to different parts of the body.
In most cases marijuana is smoked rolled into a cigarette roll commonly called a joint. It can also be smoked as a hollow tobacco leaf product with a pre-fabricated filter on one end known as a blunt, a bong, or a chillum: a pre-made,. Some users ingest marijuana as part of their food or beverages such as tea.
3.0 Effects of marijuana
The neurological effects of marijuana results are varying. It can be an excitant or a euphoriant. These are some of the immediate effects. The prolonged effects are mostly psychological and societal. There are several psychological effects that are associated with the use of marijuana. The users tend to experience a distorted sense of time, paranoia, a magical sense of time, anxiety or depression. With time the users are likely to experience memory problems. Their coordination abilities are impaired hence eye coordination along with cognitive abilities is impaired.
If the doses that a marijuana users uses are high, they might end up becoming insane altogether. One study established that about 30% of the reckless drivers in the United States are marijuana users. Although the regular users of marijuana may argue otherwise, the use of marijuana is addictive. According to research the use of marijuana results in addiction in one out twelve users. The drug also affects the individual’s motivation leading to poor performance at work and school. The effects of marijuana definitely affect how the user relates with family, friends and colleagues.
Marijuana affects reproductive health of both men and women. For men who are habitual users of marijuana, their testosterone levels are likely to decrease and consequently the potency decreases. It also results in a decrease in sperm count and sex drive. Research has shown that the sperm has receptors that can be stimulated by THC and other cannabis-related chemicals.
For women who are habitual users of marijuana, their menstrual cycle becomes heavily distorted. This makes conception difficult for such women. Pregnant women exposed to second hand marijuana smoke are likely to miscarry or have difficulty during delivery.
For individuals with a pre-existing heart condition, they are likely to have a myocardial infarction since the use of marijuana increases the heart rate significantly. Use of marijuana is also linked respiratory cancer because of the inhalation of marijuana whose components such as THC bind to respiratory cells. The implications of long time of marijuana spill over to the society. The users of marijuana are likely to cease being productive members of society thus they could resort to petty theft or dealing drugs to support their habits.
Smoking of marijuana increases the risk of cancer such as lung and heart cancer. This places the burden of caring for the patient upon the immediate family or on the state. This can prove to be an economically daunting task. For young people who use marijuana expecting to perform better in their studies, the effect of marijuana is quite the opposite. The continued use of marijuana has been known to cause a decrease in the learning abilities of individuals.
4.0 Treatment plan for marijuana users
For habitual marijuana users, it is important for intervention methods to be put in place since the continued abuse of marijuana not only affects their health but also affects those close to them and the society as a whole. It begins with the individual acknowledging that they need help in quitting their bad drug habit.
Prolonged use of marijuana is not easy to stop. There are several withdrawal effects that are associated with withdrawal from the use of marijuana. These effects include: agitation, hyperactivity, restlessness, insomnia, nausea, and cramping, decreased appetite, sweating, and increased dreaming. This is marijuana is addictive thus withdrawal causes the users to crave the drug. Some actually go back to using the drug after a few years of using due to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.
It is better for a marijuana user to check into a program. The advantage of being in a program is that there are people with the same problem in the programs hence they can easily relate to the struggles of quitting. These programs involve counseling sessions during which the user freely talks about their struggle and finds support in their journey to becoming sober. If the program is an in house program, the user is isolated from the friends or environment that can trigger a relapse. Even after the individual has left a treatment program, they are still accountable to their sponsor and frequently speak to a counselor.
During treatment, it is important to consider several factors such as sex and culture. For men or women, the addiction could stem from a deep seated issue that needs to be addressed such as an identity crisis, inability to cope with pressure at work or at home, a conflict with their sexual orientation e.t.c. Once the root cause has been addressed, it becomes easier for the individual to move on and face their addiction.
The effects of marijuana are not only detrimental to the individual but also to the society. Abuse of marijuana is therefore a societal problem. It is therefore important for society as a whole to aid marijuana users in need of help. Programs should be made accessible for individuals who are marijuana users. Young people should also be educated on the effects of marijuana so as to discourage them from picking up the habit.
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