Marijuana : Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs : Boynton Health Service : University of Minnesota
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Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

Marijuana

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S. It has incited controversial and heated debates regarding its use. Much of the controversy lies in its potential for medicinal use versus chronic abuse. Research has confirmed therapeutic efficacy of the cannabis plant for relieving pain, controlling nausea, stimulating appetite and decreasing ocular pressure in chronically ill patients. Though until scientists are able to further evaluate and harness effective cannabinoids in cannabis sativa, the adverse effects of marijuana use may not outweigh the medicinal properties.

On campus, the 2011 Boynton College Student Health Survey showed 18.7% of students have used marijuana within the past 12 months.

What does marijuana consist of?

The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. The shredded green and brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves derived from the hemp plan Cannabis sativa are often smoked as a joint or in a pipe. When smoked as blunts, cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with a mixture of marijuana and tobacco, users combine marijuana's active ingredients with nicotine and other harmful chemicals.

How it affects the brain

The human body naturally produces endogenous cannabinoids (e.g., anandamide, and 2-AG) with coordinating cannabinoid receptors involved in appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory. THC in marijuana attaches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain that triggers a cascade of intracellular interactions that gives users a "high" when smoking marijuana. The highest concentration of cannabinoid receptors exist in the hippocampus, cerebellum, and basal ganglia of the brain. These areas of the brain effect pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrating, sensory and time perception, and coordination. Chronic use of marijuana has been linked to increased anxiety, paranoia, depression, and schizophrenia. Research into whether marijuana use causes mental health problems, exacerbates them, or reflects an attempt at self-medication has yielded inconsistent results.

Dependence and withdrawal

Chronic marijuana use may lead to physical and psychological dependence that interfere with cognitive, goal orientation, and interpersonal relationships. According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, long-term marijuana abusers report both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms of irritability, anxiety, decreased appetite, sleeplessness, and cravings. Typically, withdrawal symptoms from marijuana use begin within one to two days of abstinence and peak at two to three days. The symptoms subside within one to two weeks once stopped. Marijuana is fat soluble, allowing it to diffuse into and be stored in fat tissue where it is slowly released over an extended period of time. Urine testing can detect positive marijuana levels 30 to 93 days from date of last use in chronic marijuana users.

 

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