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What is Marijuana

Marijuana plantMarijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). Before the 1960s, many Americans had never heard of marijuana, but today it is the most often used illegal drug in the United States.

Cannabis is a term that refers to marijuana and other drugs made from the same plant. Strong forms of cannabis include sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah), hashish (“hash” for short), and hash oil. All forms of cannabis are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs; they all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. They also contain more than 400 other chemicals.

Marijuana’s effect on the user depends on the strength or potency of the THC it contains. THC potency has increased since the 1970s and continues to increase still. The strength of the drug is measured by the average amount of THC in test samples confiscated by law enforcement agencies. For the year 2006, most ordinary marijuana contained, on average, 7 percent THC.1

The most commonly used illicit drug is marijuana according to the United Nations report "Youth and Drugs" A Global Overview. Marijuana is the most widely abused drug with about 2.5 percent annual use by the global population.

The short-term effects of marijuana use include: problems with memory and learning; distorted perception; difficulty in thinking and problem-solving; loss of coordination; increased heart rate; and anxiety and panic attacks. Smoking five joints a week is equivalent to smoking a whole pack of cigarettes a day which leads to lung and respiratory problems, wheezing, chest colds and a bad cough.

Long-term use can increase the chances of tissue damage and lung cancer and also causes changes in the brain similar to those caused by heroin and cocaine.

Several studies have linked marijuana with poor school performance. It is harder to concentrate and retain information when a person has been smoking marijuana. Sixty percent of teenagers in drug treatment programs are there because of marijuana.

According to a National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, kids who frequently use marijuana are almost four times more likely to commit a violent act against either people or property than those who don't. They are five times more likely to steal than those who don't use marijuana.

Marijuana in some areas is reportedly more potent today than it used to be. Growing techniques and selective use of seeds have apparently produced a more potent form of marijuana. Correspondingly, there has been a sharp increase in the number of marijuana-related emergency room visits by young pot smokers.

Marijuana can lead to the consumption of other stronger drugs. When the effects of marijuana start to wear off, the person may turn to stronger drugs to rid himself of the unwanted conditions that prompted him to take the drug in the first place. Marijuana itself does not lead the person to taking the other drugs: people take drugs to get rid of unwanted situations or feelings. The drug (marijuana) masks the problem for a time (while they are high). When the "high" fades, the problem, unwanted condition or situation returns, more intense. The user may then look to stronger drugs to mask the problem.

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In a booklet released by Narconon International called 10 Things Your Friends May Not Know About Drugs, the section on cannibis states that there are 400 chemicals in marijuana smoke and 60 of these have been proven to cause cancer. These chemicals can stay in the body for months or even years. Also, marijuana contains THC, a "neurotoxin" (a poison that damages nerves). Of all the chemicals in marijuana, THC affects the mind the most.

When someone smokes pot, it makes two things happen: 1) There's an almost immediate burn-up of vitamins and minerals in the body. 2) The nervous system changes and the nerves in the body go numb. Each time soneone gets "high," they don't feel quite as "high" as they did before, and each time they feel a little worse afterwards. Eventually, pot smokers don't want the drug -- they NEED the drug to get rid of the unwanted conditions the drugs created in their bodies. Their bodies can't take in enough vitamins to make up for what the drugs destory.2

Man smoking a marijuana cigaretteThe Alcohol and Drug Information Clearinghouse, an online information resource for Nebraska substance abuse prevention lists a number of facts pertaining to marijuana's effects:
Marijuana Affects Brain Cells - Cannabinoids remain in the fat cells of the bodies of marijuana users. Since one-third of the brain is fat, cannabinoids are stored in the brain. Marijuana can hinder learning by impairing thinking, reading comprehension, and verbal and math skills. It can impair or reduce short-term memory, alter sense of time, and reduce concentration. Breakdown products from THC have been detected in fat tissues for up to one month.

Marijuana Weakens Your Immune System - Marijuana use reduces white cell production, which lowers the body's ability to fight infection and disease. Heavy cannabis users have higher rates of illness such as flu, colds, and infections.

Marijuana Accumulates in Your Body - THC can remain in the tissues of the body for days or weeks. Frequent users may never be rid of the drug, and the long-term health effects of this accumulation are unknown.

Marijuana Harms Your Heart and Lungs - Marijuana smoke contains more cancer-causing agents than tobacco smoke. Researchers report that marijuana cigarettes release five times as much carbon monoxide into the bloodstream and three times as much tar into the lungs of smokers as tobacco cigarettes. Marijuana speeds up the user's heart rate as much as 50%. It causes chest pains in people who have a poor blood supply to the heart.

Marijuana Affects Reproduction - In females, changes in brain signals caused by THC may affect ovulation and decrease fertility. In males, even one marijuana cigarette can cause a temporary drop in male hormone production. Human and animal studies show that marijuana smoking can cause incomplete genetic information to be transmitted to offspring. The chemicals in marijuana can be toxic to an unborn baby, affecting its development and growth.

(Other adverse side effects): low energy, lack of ambition, lack of interest in school activities, short-term memory -kids may be labeled "slow learners," when in fact their memory is affected by the drug, low achievement -frequent users tend to have lower grades than nonusers.3

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1. NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
2. 10 Things Your Friends May Not Know About Drugs (Narconon Drug Prevention and Rehabilitation)
3. The Alcohol and Drug Information Clearinghouse
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