People have been using marijuana, also known as weed or pot, for many years. Marijuana, weed, and pot have negative connotations. We now prefer to use the word cannabis instead. But what is cannabis? Let us explore a bit more.
Cannabis: A Definition
Cannabis has many different names: weed, pot, marijuana, grass, ganja, Mary Jane, herb, and more. Most of these names have a negative or racist slur. But, over time, the preferred name for marijuana has changed. Now the more neutral, apt, or correct name is cannabis. Cannabis comes from the dried flowers of the plants, Cannabis indica, Cannabis ruderalis, and Cannabis sativa.
A lot of people use cannabis as a recreational drug. It is usually smoked rolled in a paper-called a joint-or wrapped in tobacco-called a blunt. It is also fashionable to consume marijuana through a pipe, a bong, or a vaporizer. marijuana is also brewed as a tea and mixed in food items called “edibles.”
Many people now use medicinal cannabis because of its calming and relaxing effects. Cannabis and derivatives are also used to relieve chronic pain and anxiety.
A Brief History of Cannabis
Marijuana has been a part of history since ancient times. The history of cannabis is quite fascinating. The earliest use of cannabis goes back to the Hebrew version of Exodus. The holy anointing oil referred to in the ancient version has marijuana as one of the ingredients. Even the ancient Egyptians used marijuana for medicinal purposes to reduce inflammation.
Chinese medicines used marijuana as an ingredient as far back as 2900 BC. There are hundreds of uses for marijuana in Chinese medicine. Over time, many cultures have used marijuana as a pain reliever. The ancient Greeks used marijuana to reduce swelling, inflammation, and earaches. The Romans used marijuana to suppress sexual desire and cure earaches. They also use the boiled roots of the cannabis plant as a general treatment for pain, arthritis, and gout. The Arabians used marijuana and derivatives as cures for syphilis, migraines, and pain.
Cannabis is still used in India. It has a colorful history in the cultural landscape of the country. Ancient Hindu scriptures have a story about the marijuana plant. The story talks of a drop of heavenly nectar that fell to earth and became a marijuana plant. In another story, the Hindu God Shiva rested under a marijuana plant after a family argument. And he ate its leaves. Because of this, Shiva is the Lord of Bhang. Bhang is an edible mixture of the leaves, buds, and flowers of the marijuana plant added to foods and drinks. Bhang is a part of Hindu religious practices and rituals and the festival of colors, Holi. The English have used marijuana as a pain reliever for gout, rheumatism, and muscle spasms.
The Chemical Composition of Cannabis
The are many compounds found in the cannabis plant. These compounds are cannabinoids. Of these, the two most well-known compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Whereas THC produces psychoactive reactions in the body, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound. By psychoactive, we mean that THC is a compound that affects your body’s mind and mental processes. In other words, THC is the component that gives you a “high.” But, CBD is more of a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.
Common Reason Why People Use Cannabis (Marijuana)
As we said earlier, marijuana use has many racial and negative connotations. Mexican laborers and black jazz musicians allegedly used cannabis. But it is a well-known fact that musicians of all hues and genres use marijuana. Not only musicians but the population, in general, has several users. A recent study has shown that about 20% of young people between 18 and 25 use marijuana. Let us examine some of the reasons people use this drug, which is getting legal acceptance.
This is the main reason why a person starts using cannabis. Young adults trying to discover their identity responds to their surroundings. If they see an adult in the family using marijuana, it seems to be an OK choice. Films, TV, music, and celebrities all flaunt their drug use. This gives impressionable youngsters the feeling that it is acceptable to use cannabis. Friends and the need to conform and fit in may also force a young adult to start using marijuana.
As more states legalize the use of cannabis, it is becoming easier for people to get marijuana. The availability, peer pressure, and the need to conform can lead young people into using the drug. Earlier, governments used to clamp down on drug use. It may have been more challenging to get marijuana, but it was still available in illegal ways. The recent move to legalize marijuana use in many US states has made it easier to get now.
Believing it is Harmless
Many people believe that using cannabis is not harmful to health. But, studies show that marijuana use does have detrimental effects on health.
Many young people use cannabis as a means to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. Ironically, regular use of the drug may lead to the same problems they are trying to get rid of!
What are the Effects of Cannabis?
As we mentioned earlier, the two primary compounds found in marijuana are THC and CBD. Of these, THC is the compound that affects your mind and alters perception. It gives you a “high.” CBD does not alter perception. Also, as we said earlier, there are short-term and long-term effects of cannabis use. Let us see what these effects are.
The short-term effects of cannabis use, mainly THC, include:
- a feeling of exhilaration and relaxation
- greater creativity and focus
- intense sense and feeling of sound, music, and light
- altered perception of place, time, and events
- increased appetite
- Besides this, there may be adverse effects like:
- giddiness, nausea
- anxiety, paranoia
- decreased blood pressure
- increased heart rate
- lethargy and delayed reaction time
The short-term effects are also based on how you used the cannabis. If you smoked it, the effects are instantaneous. But, if you ingested it or ate it, it may take effect after a few hours. The effects of using marijuana with alcohol may vary and can be dangerous for the individual.
There are long-term effects of using cannabis. Regular smokers of cannabis are likely to contract the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This could be because of the inflammation and irritation in the air passages. Stunted brain development is another negative long-term effect of marijuana use. Young people who use marijuana may have learning and memory issues. Mental health issues like schizophrenia can result from prolonged marijuana use.
Addiction or dependence is yet another negative impact of long-term marijuana use. Withdrawal symptoms are visible when the drug is not available. These include mood swings, irritability, and low appetite. Fertility is also affected by long-term cannabis use. In men, it leads to a lower count and quality of sperm. In women, long-term use alters menstrual cycles. Small or premature babies may be born if the mother smokes marijuana with tobacco. Such babies may have brain development issues as they grow up.
Are there any Medicinal Benefits of Cannabis?
As we saw in the history of marijuana, there are many medical benefits of cannabis. Since ancient times, marijuana was used as a pain reliever for many ailments. It was grown in many parts of the world. The prescription drug Sativex relieves muscle spasms in patients with multiple sclerosis. Nabilone, another prescription drug, brings relief to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Other drugs help in pain alleviation in glaucoma and children with epilepsy. Cannabinoids also help increase appetite in people with HIV/AIDS.
Is Cannabis Legal?
In many places all over the world, the use of cannabis is illegal. But many countries are now starting to legalize cannabis for medicinal and recreational use. It is legal to use cannabis in some states in the US. For example, cannabis is now legal in Minnesota. Be aware that the use of marijuana is illegal in many countries and states. Before you decide to use marijuana, make sure you first determine whether it is legal in that state or country.
Evidence suggests that since ancient times marijuana helped in relief from pain. Even now, prescription drugs with cannabis extracts help to reduce pain. But it is the recreational aspect of marijuana that is a cause of concern. Illegal recreational marijuana has been around since time immemorial. Celebrities flaunt and promote the use of cannabis in their personal lives and on films and TV. This influences impressionable young people to experiment with the drug.
But we need to be aware that the drug does have severe side effects in the short- and long term. We also need to be aware that the drug is still illegal in many places. Use caution and understand the pros and cons of cannabis use before deciding to go down this path.