Substance Types and Effects: Marijuana

Marijuana consists of dried leaves and flowers from the hemp plant. Marijuana can also be concentrated into a resin (hashish) or hash oil, which are more potent. Once illegal nationwide, marijuana is beginning to be legalized and regulated on a state-by-state basis, both for medicinal and recreational purposes.

How do you use it?

For recreational use, it’s most commonly smoked in joints (hand-rolled cigarettes), pipes, or water pipes (bongs). Marijuana can also be included in food (edibles)—most commonly brownies, cakes, and candy.

For medicinal use, patients can take pills manufactured from cannabis. They can also smoke marijuana or eat marijuana edibles as well.

What are the medical uses for marijuana?

The hemp plant contains the active ingredient delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC.

Marijuana’s medicinal benefits come from THC plus other cannabinoids.

Marijuana’s medicinal benefits come from THC, plus other cannabinoids contained in the drug. THC increases appetite and reduces nausea, which can be helpful for cancer patients in chemotherapy. THC may also reduce pain and inflammation. Other cannabinoids found in marijuana have been shown to be effective at treating epileptic seizures, as well as mental disorders like anxiety.

Marijuana is currently unregulated by the FDA. More research and clinical trials are required for marijuana to receive FDA approval. Scientists are conducting trials right now that investigate marijuana’s efficacy at treating a range of diseases, from substance use disorders and behavioral health disorders to Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis.

What about recreational use? How does that feel?

For a recreational user, THC results in a high that includes altered senses and euphoria. It can also include difficulty thinking or remembering things, paranoia, and temporary hallucinations.

What are some signs that someone is using marijuana?

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Lack of coordination
  • Increased appetite and heart rate
  • Feeling or acting silly, lethargic, or paranoid

How can people who use marijuana reduce risks?

  • If prescribed, always use as directed by your doctor
  • Start with a low dose, and go slowly
  • Stay out of the driver’s seat when you’ve been using marijuana

How can a marijuana use disorder be treated?

Like any other substance, it’s possible to develop an addiction to marijuana.

A marijuana use disorder occurs when someone continues to compulsively use marijuana despite the problems it’s causing in their life.

While there are currently no known medications to treat marijuana use disorder, there are effective treatments. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches practical strategies for self-control, and contingency management, which provides positive rewards for behavior change.

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