What is marijuana?

What is marijuana?

Cannabis, better known as marijuana or pot, is the most widely used illegal drug. Marijuana is derived from the cannabis plant; the major psychoactive ingredient in delta-9-THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). When the upper leaves, tops, and stems of the plant are cut, dried, and rolled into cigarettes called marijuana. Hashish is the dried, resin that seeps from the tops and undersides of cannabis leaves. Usually, marijuana is smoked in a cigarette ("joint") or pipe or it can be taken orally; mixed with tea or eaten as ingredient in foods (being cooked in brownies).

Users get high by holding the smoke in their lungs. Experienced users learn to hold the smoke in for longer periods to increase the amount of drug spread into the bloodstream.

Symptoms of Abuse

A user's high or "stoned" peaks within a half an hour and lasts for about three hours. It is not safe to drive for six hours after a person has smoked or ingested marijuana because it alters peoples' perceptions. Marijuana stays in the fat cells of the body for fifty or more hours so people may experience some of the effects for several days after using pot.

Physical Effects of Marijuana:

- increased pulse rate
- bloodshot eyes
- dry mouth and throat
- slowed reaction times
- impaired motor skills
- increased appetite
- impaired short-term memory

Health Risks

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Yes. Marijuana is an abusive, dependent drug that causes intoxication. Users usually become dependent with repeated use after a long period of time. Users do not think they are hooked because they do not usually smoke larger amounts; rather they smoke the same amounts more often. With chronic heavy use, users may feel a loss of the pleasurable effect and lose satisfaction in usual activities. Most people do not think marijuana is addictive because there is no clinically proven withdrawal stage but that does not mean users do not develop dependence on the drug.


Some marijuana users have described experiencing symptoms once they stopped using the drug. The following are possible cannabis withdrawal symptoms: irritability or anxiousness, mood changes, physiological changes such as tremors, perspiration, nausea, and sleep disturbances. These symptoms have been described with use of very high doses but clinical significance is still uncertain.

Does Marijuana Cause Health-Related Problems?

Yes. Chronic use can also lead to bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer . For example, smoking a single joint is as damaging to the lungs as smoking five tobacco cigarettes. Marijuana smokers absorb almost five times as much carbon monoxide into their bloodstream and inhale three times as much tar as tobacco smokers. Marijuana is known to suppress ovulation and change hormone levels in females and damage the fertility of male users. If women smoke pot while pregnant, they can harm their unborn child. They can also cause fetus abnormalities similar to those of fetal alcohol syndromes. Parents who smoke pot are more likely to have a child with problems such as small head size, irritability, poor growth, and lower infant birth weight.


Even though someone may be dependent on marijuana, chances are he or she will not experience withdrawal symptoms. Usually, hospital stays and medications are not necessary. Outpatient programs resemble alcohol programs; they involve group therapy, twelve-step meetings, individual therapy, family therapy, and educational programs. Most programs test users' urine to make sure they are not still using the drug, which can be detected in urine for as long as thirty days after it was last smoked.

The most effective approaches to stop using the drug include training in relapse prevention. Relapse prevention allows individuals to identify situations that may lead to marijuana use and avoid further situations.