Marijuana (also known as marihuana, pot, weed, grass, mary jane, etc.) is a fast-growing, bushy, annual plant with dense sticky flowers. It produces psychoactive cannabinoid chemicals, such as THC and CBD. Marijuana is the most widely used illegal psychoactive and it has a long history of medicinal, recreational, and industrial use. The legal status of marijuana is rapidly changing in the United States and around the world.
Marijuana is typically smoked though it can be taken orally. It can be smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), in emptied cigars that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana (blunts), or in pipes or water pipes (bongs). To avoid inhaling smoke, vaporizers are used, which pull the active ingredients from the marijuana and collect their vapor in a storage unit. A person then inhales the vapor, not the smoke.
Marijuana can also be mixed in food or drink (edibles), such as brownies, cookies, or candy, or brewed as tea.
A method of use that is on the rise is smoking or eating different forms of THC-rich resins (dabbing). Various forms of extracts can be used, including:
- hash oil or honey oil—a gooey liquid
- wax or budder—a soft solid with a texture like lip balm
- shatter—a hard, amber-colored solid
These extracts can deliver extremely large amounts of THC and their use has sent some people to the emergency room. Another danger is in preparing these extracts, which usually involves butane (lighter fluid). A number of people who have used butane to make extracts at home have caused fires and explosions and have been seriously burned.
When marijuana is smoked, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. Blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it. In that case, the user generally feels the effects after 30 minutes to 1 hour.
THC acts on specific brain cell receptors that ordinarily react to natural THC-like chemicals in the brain. These natural chemicals play a role in normal brain development and function. Marijuana over-activates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of these receptors. This causes the "high" that users feel. The primary effects sought by those using marijuana are euphoria, relaxation, and changes in perception. Effects vary depending on dosage. Effects at low doses including a sense of well-being, mild enhancement of senses (smell, taste, hearing), subtle changes in thought and expression, talkativeness, changes in mood, and mild closed-eye visuals. At higher doses, effects may include impaired body movement, sense of time is altered, attention span and memory are frequently affected, and thought process and mental perception may be significantly altered.
Marijuana use may have a wide range of effects, both physical and mental, that may last a long time or even be permanent. Other long-term effects include breathing problems, increased heart rate, extreme confusion, short-term memory loss, hallucinations, panic, paranoia and worsening mental health symptoms.
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