The product of this green hemp plant (Cannabis Sativa) has more than 300 global known slang names such as pot, herb, grass and weed just to name but a few. The plant yields some green leaves that turn gray or green when users dry and shred them before smoking, sniffing, chewing and drinking. The abusers also make use of the plant’s seeds, stems and flowers. Marijuana also comes in different forms for instance the Sinsemilla, Hashish, or Hash (Shorter form of Hashish) oil, which is a stronger type of marijuana.
Marijuana is a drug used in various forms often-through smoking but also put in drinks or sniffed. Users habitually roll the dry substance in form of a cigarette or insert in a pot or a pipe for smoking. Users also mix marijuana with drinks or foods stuffs or roll it in cigars to replace some of the manufactured tobacco.
Whichever style of abuse, the drug has devastating brain effects. Marijuana damages functionality of the brain by altering how it works because they contain the THC (Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) as the main active chemical, among an approximate of other 200 possible chemicals (National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, 2006).
The effects of marijuana depend on the length of usage as well as the amount of THC in the drug type. In line with National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (2006), the amount of THC in marijuana in on a steady increase, from an approximated 7% rise from 1970s to 2006.
After smoking, the fatty body tissues of various organs absorb the THC rapidly. A standard urine test is able to detect the amount of absorbed THC and thus assist in determining the heavy abusers (National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, 2006). The trapped THC is also notable on a test run for a person who stopped abuse a couple of weeks earlier.
Some of the body organs may contain more THC than others for instance the Hippocampus that is mainly concern with memory (National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, 2006). The chemicals attach to the receptors in this part of the brain and leads to weakness, thus the short-term memory.
This part of the brain is very special because it communicates with the other parts of the brain that are mainly concern with processing of new information and storage into the long-term memory. A marijuana abuser is not able to register new entries, since the long-term memory is highly damaged, therefore suffering from what we call memory loss.
In line with National Institute on Drug Abuse (2010), presence of THC in the brain can also affect the emotions since it equally affect another section of the brain known as Limbic system. The abuser may show different forms of emotions within a short period such as falling into uncontrollable joy and becoming paranoia in the next minute.
The marijuana chemical also travels through the whole body and leads to damage of the nerve cells especially in the brain and thus affects sight, hearing, tasting, smelling and torch feeling of things. While the short-term effects gets worn out within 2 or 3 hours after usage, they can also take approximately half an hour to appear and lasts for up to six hours, especially when the substance is used in foods.
The effects on cannabinoid receptors also affect the body coordination, thus leading to unconscious movements of the muscles. There is also increase of the heart rate, dryness of the mouth, expansion of blood vessels in the eyes thus leading to bloodshot eyes and often causes increased appetite.
Long-term effects of the drug include advanced changes in the brain due to long-term use, change of behaviours such as addiction, delinquent behaviours and aggressiveness. The effects of smoking also include frequent phlegm, coughs, chronic bronchitis and recurrent colds. The high quantity of carbon monoxide and inhaled tar easily leads to heart attack or high blood pressure and lung, trachea, mouth or lip cancer.
Psychologically, the drug causes sedation due to the euphoria and giddiness and un-gratifying feeling of tranquillity. False feelings of well being are common as well, with high effects on hearing and seeing. Due to mixed consequences such as drowsiness, contentment and anxiety, the drug therefore vary from being classifies as a stimulant or a depressant (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010).
According to the National household survey on issues concerning drug abuse in United States 2006, an estimate 34% of teenagers above 12 years have tried marijuana in their lifetime (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010). The potency is on a steady increase but effects still depend on the psychoactive chemical in the substance.
There are diverse personal reasons why people use the substance but considering children and teenage abusers, the abuse is because of influence from close friends or family members. Large percentage of the abuse is thus attributable to peer-pressure, school or work-related stress and publicity.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (2010), before graduating from high school, approximately 14% of teens try marijuana use as per the survey conducted in 2009, which is a great drop from previous 42% approximation of 2003. The U.S. still ranks top on teenage marijuana usage among 17 other North American and European countries. Globally, more than half of the users are under the 18 years age limit (Volkow, 2008).
International surveys also indicate that marijuana is the most frequently abused drug with approximately 15.2 million monthly users as reported by the ‘National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)’ in 2008 (Volkow, 2008). Abuse is more widespread among teenagers and young adults however; the sharp decreases on usage are due to campaigns against drug abuse and ability to catalyze softer attitudes regarding marijuana risks.
For instance, approximately 7% of 8th grade abusers compared to 12% for previous year, 16% of 10th graders compared to 27% and 21% in comparison to 33% admitted usage during the abuse inquiry. These global surveys indicate that more abuse occurs among males than females but sharper increase of female users than males (Fergusson and Boden, 2008).
According to Fergusson and Boden (2008), dependence prevalence increases on people with psychiatric related disorders especially among the youth. The abuse also concurs with abuse of other legal drugs such as alcohol or tobacco.
An effective treatment program must therefore involve both the medical procedures as well as behavioural correction therapies particularly among addicted users. In order to attain better success, the treatment therapy can focus on abuser of other legally acceptable drugs such as alcohol but aim at addressing marijuana abuse.
Various forms of therapies can assist those with chronic mental turmoil, for instance the “Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) the Cognitive Mental Therapy (CBT), Family-based treatment and the Contingency Management (CM)” (Volkow, 2008).
Majority of these procedures require the abuser to abstain from usage for approximately two weeks, but model medical care is a requirement for the chronic users, to avoid the adverse physical effects of restrain such as convulsions. The program should include measures requiring intensification of treatment procedures whenever required. These procedures may entail family-based therapies or social support for treatment of the chronic mental disorders due to addiction.
Given that there are no medically prescribed procedures of treating addictions, the program must emphasize on the normal behavioural patterns in support of human activates such as proper sleeping, eating and working patterns particularly during withdrawal procedures. Prior to all other programs, there is need to ensure addicts are informed.
This calls for educational treatment programs during therapies, informing addicts or potential victims on the procedures for monitoring drug abuse. The programs must also offer social support in line with the treatment of psychiatric disorders.
Educational programs assist in informing and encouraging people on importance of the withdrawal procedures. Withdrawal supportive therapies are important measure of preventing further abuse and assist addicts in overcoming flashback effects such as panic reactions. With the right psychotherapies, there is little need for medical-related therapies to overcome the mild drug effects.
The program of psychological therapy will be successful because the drug related cases involve individual reflection over development of problems or effects of abuse. If the program assists the addict to understand the involved direct and indirect consequences of abusing marijuana, then it is easy to enhance ways of avoiding the psychosocial effects of the substance abuse. The program can also be a good home-based therapy or preventive programs in institutions, because it enhances the coping skills as well as importance of avoidance.
Drug prevention programs depend on how informative and friendly they are to the addict. Helping someone understand the effects and importance of quitting makes the program preferable over medical recommendations.
Fergusson, D.M., and Boden, J.M. (2008). Cannabis use and later life outcomes. Addiction 103(6):969–976.
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information. (2006). Marijuana.
Maryland, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov, National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010).Research Report Series: Marijuana Abuse, New York, NY: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/National Institutes of Health.
Volkow, N. D. (2008). How does marijuana affect school, work and social life? New York, NY: U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse press.