Marijuana

Recent studies have shown that nearly 6 percent of college students smoked marijuana daily or near-daily in 2014.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana (weed, reefer, 420, toke, fire, and many more!) refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. The number of young people who believe marijuana use is risky is decreasing, which may contribute to it's highest reported use rate since 1980.

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How do people use marijuana?

People smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints) or in pipes or water pipes (bongs). They also smoke it in blunts—emptied cigars that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana. To avoid inhaling smoke, more people are using vaporizers. These devices pull the active ingredients (including THC) from the marijuana and collect their vapor in a storage unit. A person then inhales the vapor, not the smoke.

Users can mix marijuana in food (edibles), such as brownies, cookies, or candy, or brew it as a tea. A newly popular method of use is smoking or eating different forms of THC-rich resins (see "Marijuana Extracts".)

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Short-term effects

When a person smokes marijuana, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it. In that case, the user generally feels the effects after 30 minutes to 1 hour.

THC acts on specific brain cell receptors that ordinarily react to natural THC-like chemicals in the brain. These natural chemicals play a role in normal brain development and function.

Marijuana overactives parts of the brain that contain the highest number of these receptors. This causes the "high" that users feel. Other effects include:

  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • impaired memory

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Long-term effects

Marijuana also affects brain development. When marijuana users begin using as teenagers, the drug may reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions.

Marijuana’s effects on these abilities may last a long time or even be permanent.

For example, a study showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing cannabis use disorder lost an average of eight IQ points between ages 13 and 38. The lost mental abilities did not fully return in those who quit marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana as adults did not show notable IQ declines.

The amount of THC in marijuana has been increasing steadily over the past few decades. For a new user, this may mean exposure to higher THC levels with a greater chance of a harmful reaction. Higher THC levels may explain the rise in emergency room visits involving marijuana use.

The popularity of edibles also increases the chance of users having harmful reactions. Edibles take longer to digest and produce a high. Therefore, people may consume more to feel the effects faster, leading to dangerous results.

Dabbing is yet another growing trend. More people are using marijuana extracts that provide stronger doses, and therefore stronger effects, of THC (see "Marijuana Extracts").

Higher THC levels may mean a greater risk for addiction if users are regularly exposing themselves to high doses.

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What are the other health effects of marijuana?

Marijuana use may have a wide range of effects, both physical and mental.

Physical effects

  • Breathing problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Problems with child development during and after pregnancy

Mental effects

Long-term marijuana use has been linked to mental illness in some users, such as:

  • temporary hallucinations
  • temporary paranoia
  • worsening symptoms in patients with schizophrenia

Marijuana use has also been linked to other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among teens. However, study findings have been mixed.

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Is marijuana addictive?

Contrary to common belief, marijuana can be addictive. Research suggests that 30 percent of users may develop some degree of problem use, which can lead to dependence and in severe cases takes the form of addiction. People who begin using marijuana before age 18 are 4 to 7 times more like than adults to develop problem use. Dependence becomes addiction when the person can't stop using marijuana even though it interferes with his or her daily life.

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How can people get treatment for marijuana addiction?

Long-term marijuana users trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms that make quitting difficult. These include:

  • grouchiness
  • sleeplessness
  • decreased appetite
  • anxiety
  • cravings

Behavioral support has been effective in treating marijuana addiction. Examples include therapy and motivational incentives (providing rewards to patients who remain substance free). No medications are currently available to treat marijuana addiction. However, continuing research may lead to new medications that help ease withdrawal symptoms, block the effects of marijuana, and prevent relapse.

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Resources

Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center

For additional information please contact us at

530-898-6450

or email and cadecstudent1@csuchico.edu

Marijuana Anonymous

Find a meeting near you

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