Marijuana or Dagga

See also Spiders on Marijuana

Marijuana is a green or gray mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). It is the most often used illegal drug in this country. All forms of cannabis are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs; they all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana.

There are about 400 chemicals in a cannabis plant, but THC is the one that affects the brain the most. There are many different names for marijuana. Slang terms for drugs change quickly, and they vary from one part of the country to another. They may even differ across sections of a large city. Terms from years ago, such as pot, herb, grass, weed, Mary Jane, and reefer, are still used. You might also hear the names skunk, boom, gangster, kif, or ganja. There are also street names for different strains or “brands” of marijuana, such as “Texas tea,” “Maui wowie,” and “Chronic.”

A recent book of American slang lists more than 200 terms for various kinds of marijuana. Marijuanas effect on the user depends on the strength or potency of the THC it contains. THC potency has increased since the 1970s but has been about the same since the mid-1980s. The strength of the drug is measured by the average amount of THC in test samples confiscated by law enforcement agencies.

Most ordinary Marijuana has an average of 3 percent THC. Sinsemilla (made from just the buds and flowering tops of female plants) has an average of 7.5 percent THC, with a range as high as 24 percent. Hashish (the sticky resin from the female plant flowers) has an average of 3.6 percent, with a range as high as 28 percent. Hash oil, a tar-like liquid distilled from hashish, has an average of 16 percent, with a range as high as 43 percent.

Marijuana use

Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette (called a “joint”). The drug can also be smoked in a water pipe, called a “bong.” Some users mix marijuana into foods or use it to brew a tea. Marijuana cigarettes or blunts often include crack cocaine, a combination known by various street names, such as “primos” or “woolies.” Joints and blunts often are dipped in PCP and are called “happy sticks,” “wicky sticks,” “love boat,” or “tical.” Hash users either smoke the drug in a pipe or mix it with tobacco and smoke it as a cigarette.

Marijuana addiction

Not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted, when a user begins to seek out and take the drug compulsively, that person is said to be dependent on the drug or addicted to it. Most people entering drug rehab programs reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, showing they needed help to stop using. Some heavy users of marijuana show signs of dependence because when they do not use the drug, they develop withdrawal symptoms. Some subjects in an experiment on marijuana withdrawal had symptoms, such as restlessness, loss of appetite, trouble with sleeping, weight loss, and shaky hands. According to one study, marijuana use by teenagers who have prior serious antisocial problems can quickly lead to dependence on the drug. That study also found that, for troubled teenagers using tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, progression from their first use of marijuana to regular use was about as rapid as their progression to regular tobacco use, and more rapid than the progression to regular use of alcohol

Signs of marijuana addiction and abuse

Short-term (immediate) effects of marijuana use

The most common side effects of marijuana are:

  • sleepiness
  • difficulty keeping track of time, impaired or reduced short-term memory
  • reduced ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination, such as driving a car
  • increased heart rate
  • potential cardiac dangers for those with pre-existing heart disease
  • bloodshot eyes
  • dry mouth and throat
  • decreased social inhibitions
  • paranoia, hallucinations
  • impaired or reduced short-term memory
  • impaired or reduced comprehension
  • altered motivation and cognition, making the acquisition of new information difficult
  • paranoia
  • psychological dependence
  • impairments in learning and memory, perception, and judgment – difficulty speaking, listening effectively, thinking, retaining knowledge, problem solving, and forming concepts
  • intense anxiety or panic attacks

Long-term effects of marijuana use

  • Enhanced cancer risk
  • Decrease in testosterone levels and lower sperm counts for men
  • Increase in testosterone levels for women and increased risk of infertility
  • Diminished or extinguished sexual pleasure
  • Psychological dependence requiring more of the drug to get the same effect.

Effects of marijuana on men

Marijuana is the most common drug used by adolescents in South Africa today. Marijuana affects the parts of the brain which controls the sex and growth hormones. In males, marijuana can decrease the testosterone level. Occasional cases of enlarged breasts in male marijuana users are triggered by the chemical impact on the hormone system. Regular marijuana use can also lead to a decrease in sperm count, as well as increases in abnormal and immature sperm. Marijuana is a contributing factor in the rising problem of infertility in males. Young males should know the effects and potential effects of marijuana use on sex and growing process before they decide to smoke marijuana. It has also been linked to schizophrenia.

Effects of marijuana on women

Just as in males, marijuana affects the female in the part of the brain that controls the hormones, which determines the sequence in the menstrual cycle. It’s been said that females who smoked or used marijuana on a regular basis had irregular menstrual cycles, the female hormones were depressed, and the testosterone level was raised. Even though this effect may be reversible, it may take several months of no marijuana use before the menstrual cycles become normal again. Mothers who smoke marijuana on a regular basis have been reported of having babies with a weak central nervous system. These babies show abnormal reactions to light and sound, exhibit tremors and startles, and have the high-pitched cry associated with drug withdrawal. Occurring at five times the rate of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, Foetal Marijuana Syndrome is a growing concern of many doctors. Furthermore, doctors worry that children born to “pot-head” mothers will have learning disabilities, attention deficits and hormonal irregularities as they grow older, even if there are no apparent signs of damage at birth. Pregnant or nursing mothers who smoke marijuana should talk to their doctors immediately.

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