Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the United States. Marijuana or pot as it is frequently called, is derived from the cannabis plant which has a main active chemical ingredient called delta – 9 – tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. THC acts upon specific areas of the brain which leads to the “high” that users experience when they smoke or ingest marijuana. Marijuana use can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory.
Marijuana has become much more potent; the amount of THC in pot has increased more than 150% since 1983. Marijuana can also be laced with other drugs. Sometimes unbeknownst to the user, marijuana can be laced with heroin or cocaine or with insecticides and embalming fluid. High doses of marijuana can produce an acute psychotic reaction in some individuals.
In terms of physical effects, marijuana has negative effects on the heart by increasing heart rate which can last for up to three hours. Marijuana smokers, especially long-time users who began smoking marijuana as teenagers, can have the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers since smoking is the main method of use. Smoking marijuana puts the individual at comparatively higher risk because marijuana has four times the tar, 3-5 times higher levels of carbon monoxide and greater than 50% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than cigarettes. In terms of damage to the lungs, 3 or 4 joints cause as much lung damage as 20 cigarettes.
Long –term marijuana use can lead to addiction which affects the user’s ability to function in their family, at work and school. Research clearly demonstrates that marijuana abuse has the potential to cause problems in daily life and can impair the user’s ability to cope with social interactions and occupational performance. While marijuana use has not been definitively linked to mental illness, a number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Marijuana treatment programs may indicate whether marijuana use causes mental problems, exacerbates them or if the use itself is an attempt to self – medicate symptoms of a mental health condition already in existence.