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Marijuana: Not As Harmless As You Think

Marijuana Facts

Also referred to as pot, weed, herb, Mary Jane, bud, grass and reefer, marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems and flowers of the hemp plant called Cannabis sativa. Marijuana's active ingredient is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in America with 17.4 million past-month users and used by 76.8% of current illicit drug users. (NSDUH) New growing and harvesting techniques produce marijuana that is about 275% more potent than it was just 10 years ago.

Marijuana smoke contains 50-70% more carcinogens than tobacco smoke.* Limited evidence suggests that a user's risk of heart attack more than quadruples in the first hour after smoking marijuana.

Marijuana DangersRecently marijuana has been approved for medical use in more than 20 states and its recreational use has even been legalized in Colorado and Washington. Although attitudes seem to be changing about whether or not marijuana is legal, the fact remains marijuana use is associated with health and developmental risks for both adults and teens.

Marijuana is particularly harmful to the still developing brains of young people. It is connected to changes in adolescent brain development resulting in learning, memory problems and IQ loss.

  • Smoking marijuana can damage the brain of a developing embryo as early as two weeks after conception.
  • Marijuana smoke contains 50-70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.
  • Marijuana use increases the risk of psychosis.
  • Marijuana use may cause bronchitis and lung complications.
  • There is a possibility that street marijuana is laced with other dangerous substances, such as: cocaine, crack, PCP or even embalming fluid.

Cannabis has what are called psychoactive chemicals, the main one being 'tetrahydrocannabinol' or THC for short. When you smoke marijuana, the THC goes into your lungs and then into your heart, which pumps it into your bloodstream and then takes it directly to your brain. When marijuana is smoked, it only takes a few minutes for the THC to get to the brain, whereas if it is eaten, it would take a little longer because it first has to pass through the digestive system.

Once it's in your brain, the THC activates what are called 'receptors,' and gives you the feeling of being high. In short, marijuana changes the physical and chemical balance in your brain and this is what people refer to as a 'high.'

A Marijuana High

Depending upon the user and setting, the effects and categorization of marijuana can vary from a stimulant to a depressant to a hallucinogen. The effects can begin within a few minutes after inhaling, and can last 2 to 3 hours after initial intoxication. Marijuana affects every user differently and those effects can depend on:

  • The person–their mood, personality, size and weight;
  • The amount taken and whether it is mixed with anything else;
  • The environment in which the drug is used.

Many users describe two phases of the marijuana high: initial stimulation (giddiness and euphoria), followed by sedation and a pleasant tranquility. Users also report altered perceptions of distance and time along with a heightened sensitivity to sights and sounds. While some users may experience lowered inhibitions, drowsiness, and contentment, others may feel great anxiety and paranoia.

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