Marijuana also known as weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, and a vast number of other slang terms—is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa; it is a naturally occurring plant that grows primarily in the Indian subcontinent and Asia, however, it is now increasingly been cultivated in other parts of the world such as the United States, Canada, Columbia, etc.
Marijuana is most commonly smoked in hand rolled cigarettes know as joints, through pipes/water pipes commonly referred to as bongs, or in a blunt form, i.e. marijuana rolled in a cigar cover. It can also be consumed in oral form by brewing it along with tea, or it can be mixed with candies, brownies or cookies and are known as edibles.
Higher or stronger forms of weed include Hashish or Kush, which are obtained from the resins of the cannabis plant. The psychoactive substance present in marijuana is the high THC content, a chemical that is produced in the bud and/or the leaf of the female cannabis plant. While other chemical compounds exist, THC and CBD are regarded as the main substance causing intoxication or mind altering.
Marijuana is the most common substance that is used globally. It has been existent for over a thousand years, so much so that it is often talked about in spiritual contexts too! However, it gained popularity in the 20th century, when it began to be used widely. Marijuana is widely used for medical and recreational purposes.
Medically, marijuana is used to treat several diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Muscle spasms, epilepsy, eating disorders, etc. While actual medical benefits of the plant are still under research, there is several evidence that confirms, marijuana helps reduce chronic pain and inflammation, eliminates the feeling of nausea, stimulates an appetite, and has therapeutic like qualities that help calm a person down. However, the legalization of marijuana even for “medical” purposes is an ongoing debate in most parts of the world.
Marijuana is also the most commonly abused substance globally. When inhaled, the THC and other compounds enter the bloodstream and brain directly, however, while consuming it in an edible form it has delayed results as eating or drinking marijuana delivers significantly less THC into the bloodstream than smoking an equivalent amount of the plant.
The common effects of marijuana are:
- Pleasant euphoria/ relaxation
- Heightened sensory perception
- Boost in appetite, and
- Altered perception of time
Unlike other drugs or substances, marijuana doesn’t pose a threat to human life and thus is often regarded as “not harmful” but it is important to understand that addiction is addiction. Increased and prolonged use of marijuana causes the following effects
The Harmful Effects of Marijuana
- Short term memory issues
- Delayed reflexes
- Increased heart rate, therefore increased risk of stroke
- Impaired motor skills/ coordination issues
- Impaired thinking and reduced ability to learn and perform complex tasks
- Dip in IQ by approx. 6-8 points
- Gateway to other drugs of higher power
- Shrinking of the frontal cortex
The aforementioned side effects of marijuana can be life altering for the user as well as those around him. Marijuana is a popular topic of discussion in pop culture and between teenagers, mainly due to its relatively easy to access. Marijuana is known to be a gateway drug to other illicit substances. This happens because while weed tends to give a certain amount of “kick” to the user, there is only a certain level till which the substance can be abused. However, a common thread amongst users is that they seek for higher dosages as they are on the path to addiction, therefore they venture into other drugs that give them a greater stimuli. Marijuana is thus the first pit stop on the long road to drug hell.
Unfortunately due to it “ease of access”, marijuana has commonly become a drug that is abused by teenagers, which have detrimental effects. Excessive smoking of weed, especially during developing years hampers the growth of the brain; it leads to the shrinking of the frontal cortex, due to which IQ levels drop and/or comprehension of day to day events lessen.
An addictive disorder to marijuana though medically is said to be rare, but dependence on the drug can cause an obstruction to day to day life, in the sense that an individual will not be able to perform daily tasks without “smoking up”
Treatment of Marijuana Addiction
In order to not find the need to use marijuana, one has to seek help.
- There are self-help groups across the world that help the individual get beyond addictions.
- Residential treatment programs, that is voluntary, preferably one on one, non-medical in nature. Duration of residential treatment is based on the kind of substances and duration of consumption. The treatment is not of the substance used but of the individual who has the addictive personality that has taken the self -destructive turn. The program should have professionals and experiential counselors too as the facilitators of the program.
- Experiential counselors have gone through the suffering of addiction, taken treatment for it and gone beyond it and are living a joyful life beyond addiction. They are inspirations to those suffering; giving hopes that if they walk the path they took, they too will reach the stage of not finding the need to use.
- Holistic therapies using meditation, counseling and other alternative healing techniques are those that facilitate an inner transformation.
- Treatment programs that break the associations with fun and frolic and using/drinking are the most essential. Living a life of freedom in a nurturing and conducive environment away from substances. An environment that is loving, accepting, compassionate, treating the person suffering from addiction with dignity is the bed rock of an appropriate therapeutic base.