What is Marijuana?
Marijuana, the most often used illegal drug in this country, is a product of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana, also present in other forms of cannabis, is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Of the roughly 400 chemicals found in the cannabis plant, THC affects the brain the most.
What does it look like?
Marijuana is a green or gray mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa).
How is it used?
Many users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette called a “joint.” Marijuana can also be smoked in a pipe or water pipe (called a “bong”) or vaporized using a “vape” pen. A single intake of smoke from a joint or pipe is called a hit. Marijuana can also be mixed into food or brewed as tea and ingested. It has also appeared in cigars called “blunts.”
In states where marijuana has become legalized, more and more marijuana “edibles” are seen in retail establishments where marijuana is sold, including baked goods and candy that closely or even exactly resemble well-known foods (example: brownies, chocolate, cookies, pizza or gummy bears). It may also come in a “wax” form that resembles lip balm that can be eaten or smoked.
What are its short-term effects?
Short-term effects of marijuana include disrupted learning and memory, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch), loss of motor coordination, increased heart rate, and anxiety. These effects are even greater when other drugs (including alcohol) are mixed with weed. A user may also experience dry mouth.
What are its long-term effects?
Marijuana increases the risk of chronic cough, bronchitis, increases risk of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals. May increase risk of anxiety, depression and a series of attitude and personality changes, known as “amotivational syndrome.” This syndrome is characterized by a diminished ability to carry out long-term plans, a sense of apathy, decreased attention to appearance and behavior, and decreased ability to concentrate for long periods of time. These changes can also include poor performance in school. Marijuana, just like any other drug, can lead to addiction. It affects the brain’s reward system in the same way as all other drugs of addiction – and the likelihood of addiction increases considerably for those who start young.