Find Drug Addiction Treatment

Talk to a drug addiction treatment advisor:  855-889-0555

Marijuana

Street terms for Marijuana:

Pot, ganga, weed, grass, and many others.

As of 2015, about half of the people in the United States have tried marijuana, 12% have used it in the past year, and 7.3% have used it in the past month. Usage has increased since 2013.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, there were 455,000 emergency room visits associated with cannabis use in 2011.

Contrary to common belief, marijuana can be addictive. Research suggests that about 1 in 11 users becomes addicted to marijuana. This number increases among those who start as teens (to about 17 percent, or 1 in 6) and among people who use marijuana daily (to 25-50 percent).

What is Marijuana? Are there different kinds?

Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). Before the 1960s, many Americans had never heard of marijuana, but today it is the most often used illegal drug in this country.

Cannabis is a term that refers to marijuana and other drugs made from the same plant. Strong forms of cannabis include sinse-milla (sin-seh-me-yah), hashish (“hash” for short), and hash oil.

All forms of cannabis are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs; they all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. They also contain more than 400 other chemicals.

Marijuana’s effect on the user depends on the strength or potency of the THC it contains. THC potency has increased since the 1970s and continues to increase still. The strength of the drug is measured by the average amount of THC in test samples confiscated by law enforcement agencies. Reports show:

  • Most ordinary marijuana contained, on average, 5 percent THC.
  • Sinsemilla (made from just the buds and flowering tops of female plants) contained, on average, 12 percent THC, ranging from less than one percent to 27 percent.
  • Hashish (the sticky resin from the female plant flowers) had an average of 10 percent, ranging from one percent to 26 percent.

How is marijuana used?

Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette (called a joint or a nail) or smoke it in a pipe. One well-known type of water pipe is the bong. Some users mix marijuana into foods or use it to brew a tea. Another method is to slice open a cigar and replace the tobacco with marijuana, making what’s called a blunt. When the blunt is smoked with a 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor, it is called a “B-40.”

Lately, marijuana cigarettes or blunts often include crack cocaine, a combination known by various street names, such as “primos” or “woolies.” Joints and blunts often are dipped in PCP and are called “happy sticks,” “wicky sticks,” “love boat,” or “tical.”

Marijuana Extracts

Smoking THC-rich resins extracted from the marijuana plant is on the rise. Users call this practice dabbing. People are using various forms of these extracts, such as:

  • 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 to users, 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.

How many people smoke marijuana? At what age do children generally start?

A recent government survey tells us:

  • Marijuana is the most frequently used illegal drug in the United States. Nearly 95 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana at least once.
  • Over 14 million had used the drug in the month before the survey.

The Monitoring the Future Survey, which is conducted yearly, includes students from 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. The survey shows that 18 percent of 8th-graders have tried marijuana at least once, and by 10th grade, 17 percent are “current” users (that is, used within the past month). Among 12th-graders, 46 percent have tried marijuana/hash at least once, and about 21 percent were current users.

What are the short-term and long-term effects of marijuana use?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Short-term effects
When a person smokes marijuana, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The 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. Other effects include:

  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • impaired memory

Long-term effects
Marijuana also 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’s effects on these abilities may last a long time or even be permanent.

For example, a study showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing cannabis use disorder lost an average of eight IQ points between ages 13 and 38. The lost mental abilities did not fully return in those who quit marijuana as adults.

Marijuana and Pregnancy

Marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to increased risk of both brain and behavioral problems in babies. If a pregnant woman uses marijuana, the drug may affect certain developing parts of the fetus’s brain. Resulting challenges for the child may include problems with attention, memory, and problem-solving. Additionally, some research suggests that moderate amounts of THC are excreted into the breast milk of nursing mothers. The effects on a baby’s developing brain are still unknown.