There is no safe recreational drug. Although many people think that cannabis, or commonly referred to as marijuana, is safe to use, it is not. Cannabis sativa contains the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which can lead to many harmful side effects.
Since 2007, marijuana use has been steadily increasing among young people, which corresponds with the diminishing perception of risks that are associated with the drug. This may have something to do with the increased public debate of the drug’s legal status. Although marijuana is still federally illegal, two states have legalized the drug for recreational use, and 21 states have passed laws that allow marijuana use as a treatment for certain medical conditions.
Marijuana is usually smoked through a pipe, water pipe, or in a hand-rolled cigarette, called a joint. The smoke has a very pungent smell that is very distinctive from many other smells. The drug can also be added to food or brewed as tea to get high.
When marijuana is smoked, the THC passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which then leads it to the brain and other organs in the body at a very rapid pace. If it is ingested through food or a drink, it takes longer for the body to absorb. Either way that it is ingested, the THC targets cannabinoid receptors, which are specialized brain cells. These receptors are usually activated by naturally occurring chemicals that are similar to THC, and are part of the endocannabinoid system, which is important to normal brain development and function.
Marijuana over-activates the endocannabinoid system, which is what gives the user the sensation of being “high.” This sensation includes altered perceptions and mood, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning memory. It can also affect brain development, and when used heavily by young people, can have a long lasting or permanent effect on thinking and memory.
It also has a negative effect on a user’s cardiopulmonary and mental health. Marijuana smokers can have the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers experience, such as a daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses, and a heightened risk of lung infections.
If you, or anyone you know needs help dealing with a marijuana problem, or would like more information about the harmful effects of the drug, contact Community Presbyterian Counseling Center, located in San Ramon, California.