Marijuana Drug Facts | A Center for Addiction Recovery

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Information provided below is courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Marijuana/Hash Overview

Marijuana Addiction TreatmentMarijuana and hash both come from a plant called cannabis sativa. This plant grows wild, but is also cultivated indoors and outdoors. Marijuana is produced by growing the plant, then drying the buds, leaves and flowers. After they are dried, the leaves are cut up finely and rolled into cigarettes or joints, and smoked. Hash originates from the trichomes of the cannabis plant. Trichomes are the sticky hairs that are on the plant. Hash does not include the leaves, stems or seeds of the cannabis plant. The primary hash-producing countries are India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Morocco, Lebanon and Egypt. Marijuana is grown in Mexico, South America, United States and Canada. THC is claimed to relieve symptoms of the treatment effects of chemotherapy, as well as AIDS-related anorexia, glaucoma, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. THC is synthesized and marketed as a tablet that is ingested orally.

Marijuana and hash are both mind-altering drugs that affect a person’s mood, perception and behaviour. Marijuana can be smoked in a cigarette, “joint” or pipe, or ingested by baking it into foods. Hash comes in the form of a solid that may be shaped into balls, or cookie-like sheets or cakes; it may also come in the form of a paste. The paste or solid is then softened by heating and can be smoked in a pipe, bong, joint, or in cigarettes with tobacco and other herbs. As well, hash can be ingested alone or baked into foods. Marijuana and hash both contain a chemical known as THC. The amount of THC determines how strong the high will be. Hash is more potent in THC than marijuana is. THC acts on receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are found in the limbic region and the hippocampus in the brain.

Marijuana/Hash Signs of Abuse

There are ways to recognize signs of marijuana or hash abuse. People who smoke marijuana or hash often have the same respiratory problems as cigarette smokers. These individuals may have daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis, and more frequent chest colds. They are also at greater risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia. Marijuana contains some of the same, and sometimes even more, of the cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarette smoke. A study from 2009 suggests that regular and long-term use of marijuana or hash may increase the risk for testicular cancer. Using marijuana or hash for years may cause negative consequences. For example, because marijuana and hash affects brain function, the ability to do complex tasks could be compromised, as well as the pursuit of academic, athletic, or other life goals that require you to be 100 percent focused and alert. Long-term abuse of marijuana or hash may lead to addiction. Marijuana or hash also may affect mental health. Studies show that early use may increase the risk of developing psychosis (a severe mental disorder in which there is a loss of contact with reality) including false ideas about what is happening (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations), particularly if you carry a genetic vulnerability to the disease. Also, rates of marijuana and hash use are often higher in people with symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Effects of Marijuana/Hash Abuse

Side effects of marijuana or hash use will be vary from person to person, depending upon strength and amount of marijuana or hash used and if the user is occasionally or chronically exposed to THC. The short-term effects of marijuana or hash use include problems with memory and learning; distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch); difficulty in thinking and problem solving; loss of coordination and motor skills; increased heart rate, anxiety, bloodshot eyes, dry mouth. Reaction time may be impaired while driving. Panic attacks, paranoia and psychosis may occur acutely and be more common in psychiatric patients.10. For chronic users, the impact on memory and learning can last for days or weeks after its acute effects wear off.1 Marijuana may be cut on the street with more dangerous substances that may lead to more serious side effects. THC in marijuana is strongly absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs. Generally, traces of THC can be detected by standard urine testing methods several days after a smoking session. In heavy chronic users, traces can sometimes be detected for weeks after they have stopped using marijuana.

Marijuana/Hash Withdrawal Symptoms

Long-term marijuana or hash users trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which can make it difficult to remain abstinent. Behavioral interventions, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational incentives (i.e., providing vouchers for goods or services to patients who remain abstinent) have proven to be effective in treating marijuana addiction. Although no medications are currently available, recent discoveries about the workings of the endocannabinoid system offer promise for the development of medications to ease withdrawal, block the intoxicating effects of marijuana and hash, and prevent relapse.

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