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Marijuana (also known as weed, pot, grass, ganja, herb, Mary Jane and other slang terms) is a greenish gray mixture of dried leaves, flowers, seeds and stems from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The plant contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical and other related compounds that alter the mind. The plant material can also be concentrated in a resin, hashish or hash oil (sticky black liquid). Marijuana smoke has a strong and distinctive, mostly sweet and sour odor.
Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United Sates. Having declined significantly in the last decade, its use has been increasing since 2007 particularly among the youth. Although the federal government considers the drug having no medicinal value and high risk of abuse (Schedule I substance), marijuana use has been legalized in two states and 21 other states have passed laws that allow it to be used for treatment for certain conditions.
Marijuana is generally smoked in a hand roll cigarette or in a pipe. It can also be smoked in blunts- cigars that have been emptied and then refilled with a mixture of the drug and tobacco. Others prefer mixing in food or brewing as a tea.
Contrary to what most people believe, marijuana is addictive. Research shows that up to 9% of users become addicted to the drug with the number increasing among those who start at a young age (about 17%) and those who use marijuana daily (25 to 50%).
Physically, smoking the drug can lead to a number of consequences during use or even after quitting. Changes in appetite, mood swings, increased heart rate, irritability, sleeplessness and anxiety, are just but a few of the symptoms. Inability to control or cut down the use of the drug is one of the major indications of addiction. Other addiction signals include; dependence on the drug for stress release, smoking more than you need, smoking knowing the consequences and more tolerance to it.
According to studies, the long term use of marijuana has some addictive potential. In many cases, users first don't get addicted, even the occasional users who smoke the drug for recreational purposes. However, long-term use can lead to many harmful effects on the body. Stopping using the drug abruptly after a long period of time also comes with its effects. Behavioral changes that may be symptoms of addiction include:
Moreover, there other several signs of abuse of the drug that are frequently visible is addicted users. These include:
Marijuana abuse can result to several problems including learning, mood, memory and social behavior problems. It can interfere with family relations, school work, work among other activities. Studies have shown that the adverse effects of the drug on learning and memory can last for months after acute effects of the drug wear off. Therefore, daily smokers may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level every time. Long term abuse can lead to addiction, which causes the addicted individual to seek and use the drug despite its obvious harmful effects. The effects include;
When marijuana is smoked, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) rapidly passes from the lungs to the bloodstream, carrying the chemical to the brain and other body organs. THC is absorbed slower when ingested in foods or drinks. However it is consumed, the chemical acts on specific brain cells known as cannabinoid receptors. The receptors are activated by the chemicals similar to THC that occurs in the body naturally, and are part of the neural communication network, the endocannabinoid system.
The highest number of receptors is found in the brain parts that influence memory, thinking, pleasure, sensory, concentration and time perception, and coordinated movement. The drug overactivates the endocannabinoid system, leading to the "high" feeling among other effects that users experience. The effects include altered moods and perception, difficulty with thinking, impaired coordination and disrupted memory and learning.
Many different forms of support exist for those looking to treat marijuana abuse. Treatments often include cognitive behavioral therapy that help users overcome the drug. Most treatment programs for addiction and dependence are designed to specifically fit the unique needs of an individual.
-Detox centers: These allow those seeking treatment a place where they can deal with side effects of withdrawal while under the supervision of a medical professional.
-Cognitive therapy: this form of treatment helps addicts think differently, in ways that do not promote marijuana smoking.
-Inpatient Rehab: these centers are meant for those who are addicted to the drug and have a co-occurring mental illness or are addicted to another substance or alcohol.
-Outpatient Rehab centers: allows a recovering addict to return to their family and daily life after detoxification is done. Intense programs may require follow-up appointments or group sessions.
-Behavioral therapy: behavioral therapy helps those who smoke because of boredom or to boost moods overcome their addiction by changing their behaviors. They are taught to take part in more positive behaviors that help them to be more productive.
-Anxiety: a patient may feel more anxious in social situations. It is the exact opposite of how one felt more relaxed when using the drug. Anxiety occurs because the brain is trying to compensate for the received THC chemical.
-Low appetite changes: if the drug helped boost your appetite, you may not feel like eating once you come off the drug. There are however, some cases where people feel hungrier when coming off marijuana.
-Cramps: Some people experience stomach cramps and digestive system problems.
-Cravings for the drug: at some point you will experience the urge to use marijuana again. This is mainly because your brain is stimulated with pleasure by the chemicals provided by the drug.
-Depression: many people experience some sort of depression when quitting marijuana. You may feel sad most of the time as if you have lost something in life.
-Dizziness: some recovering patients have reported feeling dizzy.