What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is a short term to refer to the the drugs from the plant Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica. Its main active ingredient delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis is a depressant meaning it is slows down messages travelling between your brain and body.
Marijuana, weed, pot, banga dope, hash
How is it presented and used?
- Marijuana (weed, pot): Most common form. It is made from the dried leaves and female flower heads. Its color ranges from greyish-green to greenish-brown. it is either smoked in a pipe or rolled cigarette (with or without tobacco), eaten in food or inhaled using a vaporiser. It contains between 0.5-5.0% of THC.
- Hashish (resin): dried black or brown secretion of the flowering tops of the cannabis plant and compressed into blocks. It can also be smoked as a rolled cigarette or eaten. It contains between 7%-14% of THC
- Hash oil: It is a reddish-brown thick and oily liquid concentrated extract obtained by solvent extraction of the crude plant material or of the resin. Rarely used because of its high potency ( 15-50% level THC)
Onset and duration of effects
Potency, mode of administration and the user (experience of use, physiology and psychology) obviously impact on the onset and duration of effects.
- Eaten: It takes about 1-3 hours for effect to set in. This usually makes it easy to consume a lot.
- Smoke: effect is in minutes, effects peak within 15-60 minutes. Residual effects up to 2 hours after.
After effects can last up to 24 hours. Cannabis can be detected in the body for up to 30 days after use.
How many people use cannabis?
World Health Organization (WHO) records cannabis as the most widely abused illegal drug with over 145 million users (approximately 2.5% of world’s population).
How addictive is it?
Marijuana use can lead to the development of a substance use disorder. 1 in 10 people who abuse will get addicted. People who begin using marijuana before age 18 are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder.
Health effects and risks
The effects of cannabis will vary depending on the person (physical size, health status, previous experience), the drug (amount used, type used, how it was used), the environment when taken (social setting, at work, when driving…)
Short term effects
- Bloodshot/reddened eyes
- Increased appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Spontaneous laughter and excitement especially in the early stages of use.
- Feeling relaxed
- Anxiety, paranoia and panic reactions
- Poor concentration and short term memory
- Poor coordination (clumsiness) and reflexes
- Impairs judgement and ability to take decisions
- Dry mouth
- Respiratory problems at high doses.
Regular use of cannabis may eventually lead to:
- Depression, psychosis (characterized by an impaired relationship with reality) and schizophrenia (serious disorder which affects how a person thinks, feels and acts)
- Increased risk of respiratory illnesses like lung cancer, bronchitis
- Interference with sexual drive and hormone production
- Interfere with memory and learning abilities
- Strained family and friends relationships
- Increased roadside accidents (using marijuana and driving impairs perceptions, slows reaction time and poor coordination)
- Increased risk of sexually transmitted infections due to poor decisions like unplanned unprotected sex
- Financial hardship
- Poor school/work performance
- Problems with the law (illegal in most parts of the world)
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Limited information. It is however associated with low birth weight and premature births. Low birth weights increases risks of infection and breathing problems. Also when high the mother is not in a good state to take care of baby. Some THC can be found in breast milk and when used regular can reach amounts that affects the baby’s developing brain.
Cannabis and other drugs
Cannabis is considered a gateway drug, meaning using marijuana increases the risk of abusing other drugs. Cannabis is a depressant and when used with other depressants e.g. alcohol could be very dangerous and even deadly.
It is very unlikely to die from an overdose of cannabis
People try to quit for one reason or another. People who have used cannabis for a long time may experience the following when no longer exposed to marijuana.
- Trouble sleeping
- Reduced appetite
- Mood swings
- Sweating, chills and tremors
These usually last up to 2 weeks.
As of now, no medications to stop cannabis addiction. Treatment is by intensive behavioral and emotional support.
Cannabis is used in medicine to increase appetite in HIV and cancer patients, for glaucoma and to reduce nausea in chemotherapy. However, just like every prescription drug which are useful, it can be a potential source of harm if abused.
Seek professional help from your service provider if you or your loved ones are having problems with cannabis.
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About the author
Dr. Ekwoge Hilda is a trained pharmacist from Cameroon and Co-founder of HILPharma. When she is not busy creating content, she slings pills to pay the bills.
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