Marijuana is the most common narcotic drug used globally because it is easily available in both developing and developed nations and still remains the cheapest drug on the market. There is a common misconception that regular marijuana use will not lead to addiction or not produce serious health effects. However, marijuana is as dangerous and addictive as other drugs. Regular marijuana users should be aware that this drug is often seen as a ‘gateway drug’ in that it may lead to experimentation and addiction to other narcotic substances.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is the dried and shredded leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. It may look similar to tobacco but has more of a brownish-green to green-grey tinge and a distinctive pungent odor. Sinsemilla, hashish (or hash) and hash oil are other more potent forms of marijuana that are also commonly used.
The main active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It is not the only chemical present in marijuana but it is the concentration of THC that determines the potency of marijuana. Most of the effects associated with marijuana use can be attributed to THC. This includes the intoxicating effects as well as the other physical and psychological effects which are not thought as part of the marijuana ‘high’.
A marijuana drug test detects the presence of THC or THC metabolites in the urine, blood, saliva, sweat and hair.
Methods of Marijuana Administration
How is Marijuana Used?
Marijuana is used in different ways but most commonly it is smoked by rolling it into a loose cigarette (‘joint’ or ‘nail’) or smoked in a pipe or water pipe (‘bong’). Often the tobacco in a cigar is replaced with marijuana to form a “blunt”. Here the dangerous effects of marijuana are combined with the harmful effects of nicotine from the tobacco leaf wrapper of the cigar.
Sometime other drugs such as cocaine or phencyclidine (PCP) are mixed with the marijuana in the cigarette or blunt and can produce a combination of effects. A few drops of hash oil may be put at the end of a cigarette and smoked.
Marijuana may be brewed and sipped like a tea. It may also be mixed with food or baked to form a marijuana cookie or brownie, which is also known as a ‘space cake’.
Other Names for Marijuana
Marijuana goes by many names in different parts of the world, with a variety of colloquial terms and street names. There may well be over 200 of such names but the common ones are :
- Hashish or hash (a resinous concentrated form of marijuana which comes in blocks).
- Hash oil (a sticky black or brownish liquid which is extracted from hashish).
- Mary Jane.
- Purple haze.
- Sinsemilla (seedless flowering tops of the female plant).
- Northern lights.
- Dope – this term is used for many types of drugs.
- Tree of knowledge.
Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Use
- Dry mouth.
- Uncoordinated gait.
- Increased appetite commonly referred to as “the munchies”.
- Impaired memory.
- Talking and laughing loudly and/or excessively.
- Inability to concentrate.
- ‘Bloodshot’, red eyes.
- Inappropriate behavior.
- Loss of inhibitions.
- Impaired attention.
Marijuana Overdose, Toxicity, Poisoning
There is much concern regarding the high concentration of THC in the newer breeds of marijuana, where the possibility of severe overdose is present. Overdose deaths with marijuana have not been reported. The few cases of deaths suspected to be due to marijuana overdose may actually have been caused by other substances used along with marijuana.
Overdose or toxicity symptoms are rare with marijuana because a relatively high dose of it is necessary to produce such symptoms. It is more likely to occur when marijuana is ingested with food, where its rate of absorption can vary, often with delayed onset of action. This may prompt further amounts to be ingested resulting in a high dose of the drug in the body.
Rapid heart rate, severe paranoia, breathing difficulty, slurred speech, insomnia, delirium, panic attacks, restlessness, hallucinations and disorientation could be the symptoms of overdose. Children have been known to show symptoms of marijuana poisoning when they have inadvertently ingested a marijuana cigarette.
There is no specific antidote for marijuana overdose, so general measures are undertaken as for any drug overdose.
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