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When people think of marijuana, they generally think of it as an illegal drug, the good or bad in it, and often debate about the effects that this drug has on the body and the brain. But to even begin to have an effective argument about this subject one must first know it detail what exactly marijuana is, how it effects a person once it is used, and the research to show and prove the details of whichever side of the fence one may stand on.
What effect does marijuana have on the brain?
For years scientists have and still are conducting studies about marijuana and the different effects that it has not only on the mind and body. Researchers have and still are doing all they can to learn the ways THC (THC-which causes the mind-altering effects of marijuana intoxication- National institute on drug abuse-1) works once it is consumed and has entered the body. Since THC is the major chemical in marijuana, it causes the most concern when it comes to the long-term and possibly even lasting effects that can occur from using this drug.
Is marijuana a gateway drug?
When someone uses marijuana, typically it is smoked like a cigarette. When you suck the smoke into your body the chemical THC goes into your lungs and from there enters into your bloodstream, this chemical then carries on to different organs in your body one of them being your brain. Once it has reached the brain it connects to a part of the brain known as, Cannabinoid Receptors, and these receptors rest on the cells of your nerves, and because they are located on these specific cells they can tell what type of activity that the cells are likely to produce. We all know what role our brain plays in the way our bodies function and how our brain aids us in remembering things, having general conversation, and even things that we sometimes overlook, such as coordination. The scary part is that those receptors located within parts of your brain which gives a person the ability to do the tasks stated above. It is unclear as to why, but some people do not have any of these receptors, while others have a lot, or in some cases just a few. Along with THC connecting with your cannabinoid receptors it has also been referred to as a neurotoxin and this is the reason why it intoxicates your body and brain. Contrary to what people believe about marijuana lingering in your system until the “high” you receive wears away, the THC stays in system and clings to the fat in your tissues, so its effects can last for days or even weeks in some cases, or to those who are described as heavy users.
THC produces an effect that some scientists say can be useful in treating certain medical conditions. Although its true medical value is still under debated, researchers still believe that it has many beneficial effects for patients who choose to explore this option. For obvious reasons this is a debatable issue but there are those that argue it is beneficial in the treatment of patients with cancer and that it helps when taken orally, to reduce nausea that can occur with chemotherapy. Many researchers and scientists would even say that it can benefit those living with AIDS that have issues with loss of appetite. Regardless of what one considers its medical
value to be or not to be, marijuana is still considered and has been classified as a schedule 1 drug which means, “Having a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value2”. Researchers categorized the drug as being; “(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse. (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. (C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision”(The Controlled Substances Act of 19903).
Why are marijuana and other drugs so easy to obtain?
Marijuana use is being more commonly spread among underage children and also those considered to be young adults. Marijuana is said to be one of our Nation’s leading and commonly used drug. It is reported that,” 94 million Americans (40 percent) age 12 and older have tried marijuana at least once”, this is according to the 2003 National Survey on Drug use and Health (NSDUH). Many of whom would more than likely agree that activities to consume free time are few and far between and many times fail to capture and hold the attention of those young adults who need it the most. I am almost certain that children in our society today are more easily influenced and have more outlets where drugs can be obtained; however there are health risks that for whatever reason are unknown and not easy available for the typical teenager. This makes one wonder how many of our youth would have just said no if another alternative was available that positively catered to their individual needs. Drugs are everywhere that is a sad but true fact and with the different types of media outlets that can sometimes knowing or unknowingly display drug usage as being fun or the thing to do makes it that much easier for peer pressure to take charge. The typical teen would more than likely not argue the fact that experimenting with drugs at an early age is viewed as acceptable in today’s society. So why are drugs so easy to obtain? There are a lot of reasons from problems at home to peer pressure but the main concern and key factor to this problem is that there are people who have access to drugs and are willing and ready to sell to whatever buyer that can afford it teenager or not.
When you speak about in terms of the heart marijuana is known to arrive at a fast rate, in fact, researchers say your heart beat can accelerate up to half of what it should be and this is a common effects that can be caused by this drug. The rate at which your heart speeds up does not last long, although realistically it could become a stressful situation for users with conditions such as increased blood pressure and or abnormal heart disease. But, an even more concerning issue to marijuana users would be the aggravation that can be experienced to the lungs and airways. Researchers have not yet found a solid enough connection that would link marijuana smoke to lung cancer (at least not to my research abilities). However marijuana smoke does contain a chemical that is known to cause cancer, an author by the name of Jim Parker researched this chemical (Marijuana: Health Effects article 2010 #126) and found its name to be polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. There is also something doctors refer to as your endocrine system, it is what causes hormones in a person, it is a very complicated chemical but basically it controls the rate and speed in which a person develops.
In adults, it is said that these types of changes do not always last forever. However this is not the case for young children, who can run the risk of long-range problems when it comes to their development. Nobody can actually confirm every little detail about how the human brain works. But what is said to be known for sure it that this drug has the ability to change other areas of our body than just our emotions, it can also change the way in which our brain functions and can be a major factor in the behavioral pattern of a person.
- “Marijuana tilts the balance of chemicals in the brain that regulate mood, energy, appetite, and attention” (Jim Parker 20104).
- “It affects learning and memory processes, and can cause forgetfulness and reduced concentration” (Jim Parker 20104).
- “Marijuana also reduces logical thinking and calculation skills, and can impair a user’s ability to perform complex tasks.” (Jim Parker 20104).
There are still a lot of major factors to include when speaking on a subject as serious as marijuana or any drug for that matter. It is a serious issue that seems to be growing at an alarming rate, and law enforcement can only do so much in the effort to stop this drug from being trafficked, distributed, and consumed. No matter which way you choose to look at it if you or someone you know has a problem with drugs seek help and be the example or the inspiration for someone else especially if you have children, after all we as adults should lead by example.
1ElSohly, M.A.; Ross, S.A.; Mehmedic, Z.; Arafat, R.; Yi, B.; and Banahan, B. Potency trends of delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids in confiscated marijuana from 1980-1997. Journal of Forensic Sciences 45(1):24-30, 2000. Retrieved from (http://www.nida.nih.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/Marijuana6.html#22)
2Drug Policy Alliance Network (http://www.drugpolicy.org/marijuana/medical/)
3The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, 21 U.S.C. §§ 812 et seq. Retrieved from (http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/54) #10
4Jim Parker 2010 pg.1 retrieved from (http://www.doitnow.org/pages/126.html)
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