Chemical dependence is a puzzling, baffling issue. It is important to understand that it is a disease issue, not a moral issue. And while it may be a critical issue for those who become addicted (and those around them), it is not a hopeless issue. The hope lies in acceptance and courage, in surrender and gratitude, and most of all in the ordinary people who are willing to share their stories with others who need to hear them.
Marijuana comes from the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. The active ingredients that contains the mind altering effect is delta-9-tetrahhydrocannabinaol (THC).
Marijuana is now the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States (SAMSA 2014).The use has become widespread among young people. According to a yearly survey of middle and high school students, rates of marijuana use have steadied in the last few years after years of increase. However, the number of young people who believe marijuana use is risky is decreasing (Johnston, 2014).
The amount of THC in Marijuana has gone up in recent years. Most leaves contain between 1% and 4% OF THC. Now most have closer to 7%. Experts believe this make it more likely to become dependent on marijuana, and it also strengthens many of the drug’s mind altering effects.
Contrary to common belief, marijuana can be addictive. Research suggests that 1 in 11 become addicted to marijuana (Anthony, 1994; Lopez-Quintero 2011). This number increase for those who start as teens (to about 17%, or 1 in 6) and among people who use marijuana daily (to 25 to 50 percent) (Hall, 2009a; Hall 2009b).
Smoking THC-rich resins extracts from the marijuana plant is on the rise. Users call this practice “dabbing.” Some of these various forms of extracts are hash oil, wax or budder, and shatter. These extracts can deliver extremely large amounts of THC to users, and their use has sometimes sent them to the emergency room. Another danger is in the preparation of 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.
Most people smoke the plant’s dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds. Some people may use it in brownies, cookies, lollipops, brewed in tea, or inhaled with a vaporizer.
No matter how it gets into your system, it affects almost every organ in your body, and your nervous system and immune system. When one smokes pot the THC is absorbed into your system right away. If it is eaten in a baked good or another item, it may take much longer for your body to absorb THC, because it has to break down in the digestive system before it enters the blood stream.
Marijuana affects brain development. When marijuana users begin using as teenagers, the drug may reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. Marijuana’ effects on these abilities may last a long time or even be permanent.
A Study showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing cannabis use lost an average of 8 IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38. The lost mental abilities did not fully return in those who quit marijuana as an adult (Meier, 2012).
Research shows a link between marijuana use and mental health problems like depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, short term psychosis, and schizophrenia. While it is not sure if marijuana can cause these conditions it can make them worse. Some other long term use can be temporary hallucinations, temporary paranoia, and disorganized thinking.
If you are a male, heavy use could lower your testosterone levels, and your sperm count and quality. That in turn can compromise your libido and fertility.
Some other long term effects can also include lower satisfaction, poorer health, and more relationship problems.
If one is a long time user they can have some withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, irritability, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and anxiety. These symptoms can usually be managed with minimal medication, group and individual support.