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Cannabis sativa is a hemp plant, and is one of the most commonly abused drugs. It can be smoked in a water pipe known as 'Bong', and also in cigars known as 'Blunts'. Some users empty the cigarettes, and refill them with loose marijuana known as a 'Joint'. Sometimes, it is mixed in food, or is brewed with tea. Numerous types of this plant are grown around the globe like northern lights, blue berry, white widow, Shiva Shanti, etc. They have myriad slang terms as herb, grass, ganja, and hash. All forms of Cannabis contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is also known as THC. Although it consists of more than 400 chemicals, THC accounts for major psychoactive and mind suppressing effects.
Initial Effects
The strength of the drug is measured by the percentage of THC it contains. While ordinary doses contains 3% of THC, it varies greatly depending upon the consumer. The initial effects created by inhaling its smoke include rapid heartbeat, loss of balance and coordination, and dry mouth. Although, these diminish after some time (approximately two hours), THC stays back in the body for a longer duration. Concentration and potency are the two factors that decide the 'terminal half life' of THC, which varies from 20 hours to 10 days. Longer this half life, longer it will be present in the body.
Medicinal Uses
Marijuana is found to be a good suppressant of nausea, and it also stimulates the appetite. The phenomenon is often known as 'munchies'. Molecules of endocannabinoids bind with receptors of the hypothalamus in the brain, which maintains the body's food intake, and by stimulating these receptors, it activates hunger. It also releases eye pressure, and decreases the trauma of muscle spasms. At present, nine states of America have legalized use of this drug due to its medicinal properties.
Effects on the Brain
Once inhaled, THC rapidly passes from the lungs to the bloodstream through which it gets dispersed throughout the body. When it reaches the brain, it gets attached to the receptors named cannaboid on nerve endings, and stimulates the activity of these cells. It affects areas of the brain like hypothalamus, and the cerebellum that controls activities like memory, coordinated body movements, and regulation of emotional responses. Distorted perception, loss of memory, lack of reasoning, etc., are other possible effects. If the subject is chronically exposed to THC, then its withdrawal stimulates a stress response system. It disrupts the functioning of dopamine that is present in the nerve cells.
Effects on the Lungs
Rare abusers experience a burning sensation in the mouth, along with a nasal congestion and cough. A regular user of this drug can have many respiratory problems. The effects are characterized by increased cough, frequent acute chest pain, and lung infections. Inhaling marijuana increases the risk of cancer. TCH produces 60% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons, than those produced by tobacco. It also activates and initiates enzyme changes, which lead to the production of malignant cells, which are highly responsible for cancer.
Effects on the Heart
As its intake decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of blood, there is an adverse effect on the heart rate and blood pressure. Studies have shown that the abusers carry a much greater risk of a heart attack.
Other Effects
Marijuana is known to impair the immune system. Problems like anxiety and depression are an effect of chronic smoking of this drug. It has a negative effect on one's learning abilities, organizing skills, and responses. If inhaled regularly during pregnancy, the newborn babies have altered neurological responses. Research has revealed that these kids may exhibit lapses in memory and problem solving skills. Cannabis has adverse effects on the reproductive system of both males and females. In males, it may lead to lessening of the sperm count, and might even degenerate the sperms. Females may experience suppression of ovulation process and disruption of menstruation cycles.
Long term use of marijuana can lead to addiction. People trying to quit this habit usually experience sleeplessness, irritability, and increased aggression. The adverse effects of this drug outnumber its few medicinal uses.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.