What is it about marijuana that fascinates so many people? Recently, there has been a high demand for its legalization across the country today. As the knowledge regarding the medicinal and therapeutic benefits that cannabis is believed to offer becomes prevalent, there has been an outcry for its legalization, both for medical and recreational use.
As a result, the drug has been legalized in many countries – some have attached conditions to its distribution and usage, while others have completely authorized its usage unconditionally. Many other countries are in the process of making amendments in laws regarding the drug’s status and usage.
An Introduction to Cannabis
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is one of the most popular drugs in the world. While there are claims that certain strains of this plant can help treat and manage a number of health conditions – including the ones that medical science has not been able to find cures for – marijuana use still falls under the Schedule I category of controlled and illegal substances.
Where Does Cannabis Come From?
Cannabis comes from the buds, flowers, stems, leaves, and seeds of the Indian hemp plant, also called Cannabis plant. While there are many different varieties of the plant, the drug is derived from the only two varieties – Indica and Sativa.
A dried mixture of marijuana seeds, flowers, stems, and leaves is used to experience the effects. It is usually brown, green, or gray in color.
Alternative Names for Cannabis
There are a lot of different names for the cannabis drug. Some of the commonly known ones are: marijuana, pot, weed, dope, hash, joint, gunja, yarndi, stick and cone.
Cannabis’ Effects on the Human Body
How cannabis interacts with the human brain and body depends upon a variety of factors. These include the strain of the plant, dosage, method of consumption, the biology of the person’s body, and even their age.
This is why the drug affects every person in a different manner – some people find it highly effective in relieving symptoms of certain diseases, while others find it ineffective or even counter-productive.
Research has shown that Cannabinoids – the chemicals found in the cannabis plant – have a chemical structure similar to some naturally occurring compounds in the human body. Due to this, when cannabinoids enter into the body, they get attached to the brain receptors looking for similar compounds and provide relief from certain health problems.
Most Important Chemicals in Cannabis Plant
The cannabis plant contains around 400 different types of chemicals, 80 of which are known as cannabinoids. But only two of the cannabinoids are known for producing the effects that the drug is widely known for. The chemicals – Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – produce contrasting effects on the human mind and body.
CBD is known to help manage and treat various health issues whereas TCH has been found to produce psychotropic and mind-altering effects. THC is responsible for causing the ‘high’ that is associated with cannabis.
Some Commonly Used Forms and Methods of Cannabis Consumption
Cannabis is available in a variety of forms and people use different methods to consume the drug. Some of the commonly used ones are:
- The most common way to consume cannabis is smoking the dried plant i.e. marijuana in a bong or joint.
- The dried plant resin is often mixed with tobacco and smoked. However, it can also be added to various foods and baked. Known as Hashish, it is widely used in brownies and cookies.
- Hash oil
As evident from the name, this is the liquid form of the drug. It is often consumed by adding it on the tip of a cigarette.
Cannabis produces immediate effects when smoked, but it takes an hour or so to show results when eaten. The time taken by the drug to show its effects is proportional to the increased likelihood of over-dosage.
Health Benefits Cannabis Can Provide
Research shows that CBD which can be referred to as the good chemical, is safe and well-tolerated when consumed as prescribed. Also, it can provide relief from many health conditions. Some of the health issues CBD are said to help with are:
- Chronic pain
- Nausea caused due to chemotherapy
- Muscle spasms or stiffness due to multiple sclerosis
- Seizures caused due to epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
There is also limited evidence that cannabis can benefit people experiencing from:
- Sleep problems due to sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and long-term pain
- Extreme weight loss and reduced appetite due to AIDS
Effects of Recreational Usage
When used for recreational purposes, cannabis can cause any of the following effects:
- Increased appetite (‘the munchies’)
- Altered thinking
- Slight hallucinations
- Increased heart rate
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced psychomotor coordination
- Increased breathing rate
- Mood alteration, such as relaxation or euphoria
- Altered sense of time
- Altered sense of distance
- Impaired memory and coordination
- Difficulty focusing
When marijuana is consumed in high quantities, cannabis can also cause delusions.
Possible Side Effects
The reason why it is recommended to always use cannabis under the supervision of a healthcare expert is because you need to be careful about the strain and dosage. The use of the wrong strain or overdose can cause a number of negative effects, some of which are:
- When consumed for a long period of time, it can weaken the immune system. This makes a person more vulnerable to catch different types of infections and diseases.
- When used without supervision, it can increase the risk of developing psychosis
- Increases the risk of gum-related diseases
- According to research, regular consumption of cannabis for a long time can negatively impact the functioning of the brain and can even lead to memory loss
Cannabis is a unique drug. On one hand, there is a significant amount of evidence that it can help to manage or treat a variety of health problems. On the other hand, there is research that does not support the use of cannabis due to its potential negative effects.
What makes the situation even more complicated is the fact that even though the medicinal use of the drug has been legalized in about 60% of the U.S., the Drug Enforcement Administration still classifies it as a Schedule I drug. Due to these opposing views, the legalization of cannabis has been one of the most debated issues lately.
To sum up, it can be said that pot use shouldn’t be freely consumed by anyone. Since there are a number of factors that need to be considered to gain the benefits, using cannabis without consulting a doctor is not recommended. Even when intended to use for medical purposes, cannabis should always be taken under the supervision of a healthcare expert.