Marijuana also known as either grass, Mary Jane, pot and herb amongst many other slang words is a common name for a drug which originates from the upper leaves of the flower of Cannabis Sativa. Cannabis “remains the most widely used illicit substance in the world” is also a term which is referred to marijuana and to other drugs that are made from the same plant. It is generally smoked or ingested and it comes in three forms mainly being Marijuana or herbal cannabis, Hashish or hash and Hash oil or resin. Marijuana comes in the form of a mixture of dried leaves, stems and seeds which come from the plant and can be a greenish, brownish or a greyish colour. It contains a harmful mind-altering chemical called THC also known as Tetrahydrocannabinol which can have many adverse effects on the user’s organs but it also contains more than four hundred other chemicals.
The amount of THC in the drug determines how strong the effects will be whilst other factors such as the plant itself, the soil and the time of harvest determine the strength of the marijuana. The amount of THC has been on the increase since the 1970’s and this poses more health problems for the user since there is an increase in the physical and mental effects the marijuana causes. Herbal cannabis that is imported into Europe may originate from South East Asia, The Caribbean or West Africa but usually the resin comes from either Afghanistan or North Africa. In Malta, the resin mainly comes from Morocco whilst herbal cannabis is generally grown locally.
The Use and Abuse of the Drug
The use of marijuana can be explained through a number of reasons. Teenagers might start using and smoking marijuana from a tender age because they see others using it and are influenced to start using it as well. Others might be encouraged by their friends to use marijuana so they could be ‘’included’’ in the group. Researchers found that the most usage of this drug begins in later teens and early twenties whilst it declines in the later years. Marijuana could serve as a remedy for some teens to escape from problems at home or school which may seem a big burden for them whilst for some others it may be cool to experiment and try it out just because they are influenced by the media or just because they hear songs about it! One may ask how marijuana is used. Users usually roll some loose marijuana into a cigarette which is mainly known as “joint” or “nail”. It has a varied THC content between 5 and 150 milligrams whilst it contains round 0.5 and 1 gram of cannabis plant matter.
Marijuana can also be smoked in a pipe which can be referred to as a bong. Other marijuana users may use another method which consists of slicing open a cigar and replacing the tobacco with marijuana. Marijuana cigarettes which may contain other substances such as crack cocaine. Some may even decide to use marijuana to brew tea or even mix it into foods! Marijuana smoke is associated with “a sweet and sour odour.” When it is smoked, the drug enters into the bloodstream and then spread all over the body whilst when it reaches the brain; it attacks the receptors which influence thought, concentration, memory, pleasure, movements, time and sensory perception. According to the British Lung Foundation, smoking just three joints of marijuana a day causes the same lung damage as twenty cigarettes since Cannabis smokers tend to puff and inhale longer and deeper, resulting in increased tar and monoxide levels in the body. The way marijuana affects a person does not depend on just one factor but rather on several issues such as if this is the user’s first time experience, how much THC it contains, how it is taken and whether it is being mixed with any other illicit drugs or alcohol.
While some people may feel nothing while they smoke marijuana, others may feel high or relaxed as well some are likely to experience dry mouth after just a few minutes accompanied with rapid heartbeat, slow reaction time as well as intoxication. One of the main organs which are affected by marijuana is the brain. From mental studies conducted, researchers discovered that after chronic exposure to THC, learned behaviours which depend on the hippocampus which refers to the part of the brain that is crucial for learning and for the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivation, just deteriorate. Findings from animal studies showed that exposure to THC “damages and destroys nerve cells and causes other pathological changes in the hippocampus.” Marijuana also affects the user’s respiratory system. Those who smoke it regularly develop mainly the same problems that tobacco smokers do. Some of the symptoms include frequent chest colds and a daily cough.
Continuance use of marijuana can lead to injured or destroyed lung tissue as well as “abnormal functioning of the lungs and airways.” Traces of THC can be found in users several days after a smoking session whilst in heavy users, THC can be traced up till several weeks after they stopped using the drug. When young people use marijuana over long periods of time they become quite dull and slow moving and the term “burnout” was coined by marijuana smokers themselves to describe the prolonged effect. When a more potent variety of marijuana is used, users may suffer bad reactions such as have sudden feelings of anxiety and even have paranoid thoughts. Marijuana can double the normal heart rate and may even raise the blood pressure slightly but this effect is enhanced when the marijuana is mixed with other illicit drugs. Using Marijuana can eventually lead to health, learning, safety and social problems as well as continuous abuse of other drugs. Nowadays marijuana is more addictive than it used to be, hence increasing the problems of users getting addicted. Marijuana intoxication cause several problems some of which include difficulties in thinking and problem solving as well as causing distorted perceptions and impaired coordination. Prenatal exposure to this drug is usually linked with impaired verbal reasoning and memory in pre-school children.
The Legal Aspect of the use of the Drug
Although some people are in favour of having marijuana legalized for medical reasons, there is still an on-going debate whether marijuana should be legalized or not. Some may argue since marijuana can relieve nausea in people who are suffering from cancer and help those patients suffering from AIDS to regain their appetite. The U.S Food and Drug Administration approved Marinol- pills that actually contain THC which is widely available through prescription. Currently there is not enough existent date that determine whether taking the pill is more detrimental than actually smoking marijuana even though it was found that the pill relieved “the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy for cancer patients” and “assist[ed] with loss of appetite with AIDS patients.”
In the early 1980’s, the National Cancer Institute approached the DEA about the study of the ingredient TCH which helped in relieved nausea and vomiting. As a result, the DEA helped to facilitate the research and registration for the study. The DEA has registered seven research initiatives that are helping in researching the effects of smoked marijuana as medicine but so far there isn’t enough sufficient data to conclude that smoked marijuana is actually better than Marinol!
Every state has its own laws about possession, growth, distribution and the sale of marijuana. Usually penalties vary depending on the state but the common penalties involve fines or jail for those who are caught using marijuana or even distributing it. Users may end up with a criminal record thus leading them to unemployment. In Malta, the possession and use of marijuana is illegal and importation of the drug even if for personal use, can lead to a maximum prison sentence of six months.
The Socio-Psychological Explanation of its Use
Researchers are still studying marijuana and the effects it causes on the human body as well as deviant behaviours it may lead to. Apart from the long-term and short-term effects there might be a link between marijuana and other drug use since marijuana users “are eight times more likely to have used cocaine, 15 times more likely to have used heroine, and five times more likely to develop a need for treatment for substance abuse.” Users who frequently make use of marijuana can get addictive as one can get addictive to cigarette and to give it up its like giving up nicotine. In fact those who try to give up using marijuana will experience withdrawal symptoms and must not treat themselves since stopping drug use without any help or supervision may cause irritability, low moods and ongoing anxiety. Marijuana addiction can cause adverse effects whether it is taken on a casual or frequent basis where they cause difficult social situations in which the user might experience difficulty in comprehending speech and understanding situations or start experiencing hallucinations.
There is no evidence that marijuana is the cause of psychological damage or mental illness in teenagers or in adults although some users experience psychological distress including feeling of panic and paranoia. Some behaviours which are associated with marijuana include walking around as if in a daze accompanied by lack of emotion, staring out at nothingness or burst into fits of laughter when there is actually nothing to laugh about or being very hungry! The user may start refraining from face to face conversations and since there will be a lack of motivation to see any other person apart those who he/she smokes marijuana with, friendships are threatened and may lead the user losing friends. Also at work or at school having no motivation at all can result in bad performance leading to even termination.
Punishment/Treatment and Prevention Aspects
In Malta, it is strictly illegal to bring or export from Malta any resin obtained from the plant Cannabis. If a person is caught having marijuana in his possession, produces or sells or deal in the resin he/she will be guilty of an offence and brought to court. “There is no magic bullet for preventing teen drug use.” Parents could be influential by discussing with their children about using drugs such as marijuana and taking interest in what their children do. Patients that are dependent on marijuana are usually referred to substance abuse treatment programs which are designed to avoid relapse. Withdrawal symptoms are usually mild and do not require drug therapy but if there are any acute panic reactions and flashback they are usually managed with supportive therapy. Some symptoms may include anger, irritability, loss of appetite and cravings. Some suggestions to help resisting cravings include taking a walk every day, avoiding people who use marijuana and maybe listen to music so that you take you mind off the marijuana.
One way how to enforce marijuana prevention is by understanding how users are gaining access mainly through their friends. It is important for parents to know with who their children are hanging with. Another way is by keeping the computer in a public area where you can keep an eye on what your children are doing. Another factor which is a must is Education. This must be most targeted to teenagers who are interested in experimenting new things. Parents must talk with their children and explain to them that marijuana is illegal. They must also point out that is much stronger than it was before and tell them the consequences and the effects that marijuana brings with it. The Key to SUCCESSFUL PREVENTION is two words long: BE INVOLVED!
Conclusion: No matter how many shirts and caps you see printed with the marijuana leaf, or how many groups sing about it, remember this: You don’t have to use marijuana just because you think everybody else is doing it. Most teenagers do not use marijuana!]
* http://psychology.about.com/od/classicalconditioning/a/pavlovs-dogs.htm * http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/Behavioral_Psychology.hmt
* http://www.essay-911.com/samples/psychologicalandbiological.htm * http://www.casebook.org/intro.html
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