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The Effects of Marijuana on the Human Body
What is marijuana and it's history? Marijuana is mixture of the dried and shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant. It is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States and in the world. Some slang terms for marijuana are pot and weed in addition to over 200 more names. It can be smoked and mixed in food. The scientific name of hemp is Cannabis sativa. The source of marijuana, the hemp plant, was being cultivated for psychoactive properties more than 2,000 years ago. There are at least 400 chemicals that can be found in marijuana.
One of the main bad ingredients or active chemicals in marijuana is THC. The amount of THC in marijuana determines the drug's strength and THC levels are affected by a great many factors, including plant type, weather, soil, and type of harvest. The way cannabis is grown today makes high levels of THC in marijuana that is far more potent then marijuana of the past. When a person smokes marijuana, it quickly leaves the lungs and goes into the bloodstream. The bloodstream carries the chemical throughout the body and into the brain. When THC reaches the brain, it connects to sites called cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells. Many of these receptors are in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movements. Short- term effects of marijuana can include problems with memory and learning; distorted perception (making it dangerous to operate machinery, drive a car or boat, or ride a bicycle); difficulty in thinking and problem solving; loss of coordination; and increased heart rate.
A mild hallucinogen, marijuana has some of alcohol's depressant and
disinhibiting properties. Users experience different reactions, influenced by expectations and past experience. Effects of smoking are generally felt within a few minutes and peak in 10 to 30 minutes. They include dry mouth and throat, increased heart rate, impaired coordination and balance, delayed reaction time, and diminished short-term memory. Strong doses prompt more intense and often disturbing reactions including paranoia and hallucinations. Long-term use of marijuana can lead to addiction for some people. This addiction causes them to use the drug compulsively even though it often interferes with family, school, work, and recreational activities.
Most of marijuana's short-term effects wear off within two or three hours. The drug itself, however, tends to linger on. THC is fat-soluble substance and will accumulate in fatty tissues in the liver, lungs, testes, and other organs. Two days after smoking marijuana, one-quarter of the THC content may still be retained. It will show up in urine testes three days after use, and traces may be picked up by sensitive blood tests two to four weeks later.
The use of marijuana may have adverse consequences to the abuser's physical health. Studies have shown that an abuser's risk of heart attack more than quadruples in the first hour after smoking marijuana. This is possibly due to the reduced ability of blood to carry oxygen. Also, studies have also shown that people who smoke marijuana frequently have more health problems and respiratory illnesses than non-smokers. Even occasional abuse of this drug can cause burning and stinging of the mouth and throat. The use of marijuana may result in a greater risk of lung infections and developing cancer of the head or neck. Research shows that puff for puff, smoking marijuana may be more harmful to the lungs than smoking tobacco. THC impairs the immune system's ability to fight disease.
Marijuana has the potential to cause problems in daily life or worsen the problems a person already has. Depression, anxiety, and personality disorders are all associated with marijuana use. Marijuana can affect a person's ability to learn and remember information. These adverse reactions can last for days or weeks after other effects of the drug have worn off. In one test, heavy marijuana smokers scored significantly lower on mathematical skills and verbal skills than non-smokers. Someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level all of the time. (Making it dangerous to operate machinery, drive a car or boat, or ride a bicycle).
Another study found evidence that marijuana's effects on the brain can cause deterioration of critical life skills in the long run. Marijuana use has been liked to reduce capacity for self-reinforcement, a group of psychological skills that enable individuals to maintain confidence and persevere in the pursuit of goals. Marijuana users report poor outcomes on a variety of measure of life satisfaction and achievement. Fewer marijuana users finished college and users reported marijuana affected their cognitive abilities, career achievements, social lives, and physical and mental health. Laboratory rats treated with THC displayed reduced ability to perform tasks.
Although dangers exist for all marijuana users, young people are at greater risk. It is more critical to their learning ability, resulting in the failure to master vital coping skill and making appropriate life-style consequences. Therefore marijuana can inhibit maturity.
Marijuana is considered a "gateway drug" and marijuana users are more likely to subsequently use more potent and disabling substances. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found adolescents who smoke marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine, than non-smoking adolescents. Teens who use marijuana are more likely than adults to be victims of automobile accidents due to marijuana's impact on judgment and perception.
Are there any medical benefits in marijuana? The main ingredient in marijuana, THC, produces effects that potentially can be used for treatment of medical conditions. This is the main ingredient in an oral medication that is being used to treat nausea in cancer chemotherapy patients. The effect of marijuana on appetite stimulation and certain types of pain are being studied but the adverse effects of marijuana will offset the helpfulness for some patients. Little is known about the many chemicals other than THC, in marijuana and their impact on patients with medical conditions.
There are serious penalties for federal marijuana drug trafficking. If someone is found guilty of trafficking 1 to 49 marijuana plants or less than 50 kg mixture, the 1st offense penalty is "not more than five years (in prison); and a fine of not more than $250,000." A conviction on a 2nd offense of trafficking marijuana is punishable by "not more than 10 years; and a fine of not more than $500,000.00." The penalties continue to rise with the amount of marijuana and the number of offenses. Trafficking marijuana of 1,000 kg or more mixture; or 1,000 or more plants on a 2nd offense carries a sentence of, "not less than 20 years (in prison), not more than life." If death or serious injury occurs, the person must serve a mandatory life sentence in prison and pay a fine of not more than $8 million.
In conclusion, the use of marijuana can be detrimental to the physical and mental health of a person. Use of marijuana can lead to addiction and abuse of other illegal drugs. A person who trafficks a large amount of this drug can be sent to prison for the rest of their life which will also effect the lives of their husband or wife, children, and other family members.
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