The Freaky Facts and Revolting Truths About Marijuana
Marijuana is the slang term for the cannabis plant. Easily identifiable by its thin, jagged leaves, it is perhaps the oldest known naturally psychoactive substance used by humans to get high. Cannabis is also known on the street as Mary Jane, weed, pot, ganja, and dozens if not hundreds of other monikers. Unfortunately for those who like to partake of this “holy” weed, for decades the plant has been high on the radar of federal and state governments who see it as a gateway drug to substance abuse and more serious drug addiction.
What Is It?
The secret sauce in this plant is the mind-altering chemical THC. One 2015 study estimated cannabis use among the 18-25 age group at 11 million in the United States, this despite the fact that use among middle and high school students seems to be leveling off or declining. The bottom line is that a strong demographic has always considered the dangerous effects of marijuana to be minor and the chances of becoming a drug user remote. It seems the tide may be turning when it comes to the public perception as well, with a host of states passing more lenient laws about cannabis, especially in regard to medicinal use.
How Do People Use It?
Traditionally a “joint” of marijuana is created by rolling the dried leaves, stems, or buds in cigarette paper and smoking it, though water bongs and pipes are other methods of imbibing the stuff for that high that can eventually lead to a variety of addictive disorders. If they don’t like inhaling smoke, some users turn to a vaporizer that extracts the THC into a storage unit where the vapor can be inhaled.
Other creative methods include baking it into brownies, brewing it as a tea, or, more recently, extracting a THC-powered thick resin through the use of a butane lighter fluid. The downside to this last method is that, in the hands of an amateur, it is easy to land in the emergency room with an overdose due to the high amount of THC that can be accidentally ingested. Additionally, more than one potential weed user has inadvertently blown up his or her home-based extraction setup, resulting in serious burns and – yes – a trip to the emergency room or worse.
Effects On the Brain
The effects on the brain from drugs like cannabis are simple science. Smoking cannabis is the quickest way to get it into the lungs and out into the bloodstream, where it quickly makes its way to the brain and other organs. Smoking weed will get you a noticeable high within a few minutes. Drinking or eating the THC slows down its absorption into the body. Via these methods, you probably won’t feel the buzz for at least 30 minutes.
How does THC make you feel high? It finds its way to specific brain receptors and overactivates them, creating a variety of sensations that can include mood changes, weird colors, an altered sense of time, hallucinations, memory problems, impaired movements, delusions, and psychosis. These last two are less common but if you take enough of the stuff…watch out.
Long-term use of cannabis can be one of the primary causes of drug addiction, not only to weed but to other drugs like cocaine, heroin, or opioids. In many ways, an addiction to THC is similar to alcohol addiction symptoms, especially in the desperation it creates to have the stuff every day, sometimes multiple times. When it comes to symptoms of drug abuse, ANY drug, the bottom line is that it doesn’t think hesitate to ruin a life.
How long does marijuana stay in your system? The time period varies, but an infrequent weed user can expect all traces of the drug to clear his or her system in about three days. The THC level in chronic users can last for weeks, which could mean trouble if there is a surprise drug test at work.
The bottom line is that study after study has shown that using marijuana regularly has a negative effect on brain development. It impairs thinking, memory, and learning. A New Zealand study conducted by Duke University researchers showed as much as an 8 IQ point decline in heavy users between the ages of 13-38. When you take into account that recent decades have seen the potency of THC increase substantially (thanks to lab grown varieties), you have to ask yourself one question. Is being high worth being stupid? This is no substance addiction to play around with.