Marijuana is one of the most conflicted illicit drugs out there today, as it has leached in from the streets and into the lives of our families, friends, and peers. Commonly called weed, pot, hash, ganja, or Mary Jane, marijuana is a psychoactive hallucinogen that is widely used, commonly accepted, and readily available throughout demographics all over the country. Due to its instant, mind-altering effects, it has become the most prevalent illegal drug in the world, and is most frequently used amongst adolescents and young adults today.
Derived from the Indian hemp plants, Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, marijuana is a blend of dried flowers, seeds, stems, and leaves. Cannabis contains over 400 known chemicals, including the same cancer-causing substances found in tobacco smoke. The primary active chemical in marijuana is “THC,”which gives the user his or her high. The substance distorts the mind, thought, and perception: it begins its work in the lungs, then immediately seeps into one’s bloodstream and travels straight up to the brain and other organs. The amount of THC in a batch of marijuana can vary considerably. The more it is present, the more potent the marijuana will be, and the more the mind will be altered.
Most often, marijuana is rolled and smoked as a joint, spliff, or blunt. It can also be smoked through a pipe, a bong, or mixed with foods and eaten. Those consuming marijuana experience immediate effects—an increased heart rate, a slow, dream-like state of mind, and a lack of coordination. Normally, the effects last no longer than two or three hours, but THC can remain in the body for weeks at a time.
Despite popular belief, those who smoke marijuana experience damaging physical consequences. By inhaling and holding in more smoke than with a cigarette, one severely harms the lungs. It has been said, even, that one joint can produce the same amount of cancer-causing chemicals as five cigarettes.
More significantly, marijuana can take a serious toll on a user’s mental capacity. With their minds still developing, adolescents and young adults are most prone to the negative mental consequences that marijuana can yield. The THC in the drug disrupts nerve cells within the brain, causing one’s memory and mental aptitude to diminish with repeated use. Early marijuana exposure, in fact, has been linked to great declines in IQ, and research has found that teens that using marijuana at least weekly are over five times more likely to be high school dropouts.
Warning Signs of Marijuana Addiction
If you believe your son is smoking weed, it is not a habit you should ignore or overlook. Marijuana affects the mind quickly and directly, and because your son’s brain is still maturing through young adulthood, the impact can be severe. He can easily become addicted.
If he is using marijuana regularly, you may notice that he’s acquired:
- Red, bloodshot, or inflamed eyes
- Disordered eating habits: no appetite during the day followed by intense, random cravings (known as the “munchies”)
- Slower reaction time
- A constant cough
- Forgetfulness or inability to carry a conversation
- Irritability, constant need to be alone
- Anxiety or paranoia
Over time, these immediate signs can develop into more evident symptoms:
- Ongoing problems with learning and ability to retain information
- Lack of motivation and apathy
- Lack of priorities (going to work, doing homework)
- Suppressed immune system, making him more prone to the common cold
- Constant anxiety, feeling the need to smoke “to relax”
- Losing interest in old friends—seeking out new friendships based on drug activity
One of the primary signs of a marijuana addiction is tolerance. When a person first smokes pot, he or she will feel the immediate sensations with just a hit or two. After repeated use, the effects come less quickly, and it takes more to achieve the same high. When the effects of marijuana decrease and the amount consumed increases, the more likely it is that an addiction has set in.