Your Brain on Drugs: Marijuana

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Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the United States. About 2 in 5 Americans report smoking marijuana. 10% of the population uses marijuana on a daily basis.

Marijuana is made up of a mix of dried flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves derived from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana is THC.  This is the main psychoactive component in marijuana; it is the chemical that produces the “high” felt by users.

Marijuana is usually rolled in a cigarette-a “joint”- or put in a pipe and smoked. It can also be put in a hollowed out cigar to be smoked (a “blunt”). Occasionally, marijuana users will mix marijuana with food or brew it into a tea. The resinous form of cannabis is called hashish, and the sticky black liquid form is called hash oil.

Your brain on drugs: Marijuana affects the brain

When marijuana is smoked, it is almost instantly absorbed into the blood stream and travels to the brain. THC binds with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. THC appears to alter mood and cognition through its actions on the receptors it binds to. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrating, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.

Marijuana use can affect one’s ability to perform certain tasks that require focus. Marijuana can affect vision and sense of time, so a task that requires coordination, like driving, is often difficult. Marijuana use also affects short-term memory and concentration, so learning is often impaired. In addition, some users report a decrease in motivation and energy.

Your brain on drugs: Marijuana has physical and psychological effects

Most people report physiological and psychological effects after marijuana use. Short-term physical effects of marijuana include increased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and impairment of short-term and working memory. Behaviorally/psychologically, marijuana produces euphoria – a feeling of joy, relaxation, and increased visual, auditory, and taste perceptions. Most users also report an increase in their appetite. Unpleasant reactions that may result from smoking marijuana include acute feelings of panic, disorientation, or paranoia. The effects of THC last from a few seconds to several minutes after it is inhaled. Effects last from 30-60 minutes if marijuana is ingested.

Your brain on drugs: Marijuana can be addictive

The effects of marijuana can be very insidious. Since it is not as physically damaging as, say, heroin or cocaine, it can take a long time for someone to realize that marijuana is affecting their life negatively. Long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction. Marijuana addiction is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking despite negative consequences. Negative consequences of marijuana abuse and addiction can include lower performance at work or school, debt accrual or other financial consequences, or a decrease in the ability to participate in and enjoy recreational activities. When long-term marijuana abusers stop using marijuana they may experience withdrawal symptoms. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms can include agitation, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms can last longer than withdrawal from other drugs because marijuana is stored in the body fat for a long time after use. Marijuana metabolites can be detected in long-term users for up to 90 days after use.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for Marijuana Addiction please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at www.palmpartners.com.