Marijuana is the slang term for portions of the Cannabis plant. It is one of the oldest psychoactive substances used by man. You can buy marijuana online in any Canadian dispensary.
Marijuana, also called pot, weed, ganja, mary jane, and a host of other nicknames, is made from the Cannabis plant, which has three species: Cannabis sativa; Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. The flowering plant, which can grow to 16 feet (5 meters) high, likely originated in the Central Asian steppe, near the Altai or Tian Shian Mountains, and was first cultivated in China and India, according to “Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutic Potential,” (Routledge, 2002).
The leaves, stems, flower buds and extracts from the marijuana plant can be eaten, brewed in a tea or put into a tincture. It can also be vaporized using an e-cigarette pen. Yale University researchers surveyed 3,847 Connecticut high school students about this practice in a 2015 study that was published in the journal Pediatrics. The study found nearly one in five e-cigarette users also have vaporize cannabis or byproducts like hash oil using the device.
“This is a relatively novel way of using marijuana, and kids are using it at a fairly high rate,” said lead author of the study Meghan E. Morean in a Yale press release.
There are hundreds of compounds in marijuana, but scientists believe the one responsible for the drugs’ psychoactive effects is tetrahydrocannbinol, or THC. THC binds to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, and marijuana’s “high” comes from THC’s binding to brain regions responsible for pleasure, time perception and pain, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This binding in turn triggers a chemical cascade that eventually stimulates the production of dopamine, a brain chemical often called the “feel good chemical,” which is part of the body’s reward system,” said Mitch Earleywine, a psychology professor at the University at Albany in New York, who studies marijuana’s health effects.
“Subjective effects really vary, folks who like it emphasize the euphoria and the relaxation, and then depending on the strain, it’s mildly stimulating, or mildly sedating.”
What’s in Your Marijuana?
Cannabis, or marijuana, is a complex plant that has psychoactive and medicinal elements. It contains more than 480 naturally occurring ingredients, including at least 65 unique chemical structures called cannabinoids found in the actual plant.
What are some of the other components, you ask? Read on to find out:
- TetrahydrocannabinolOtherwise known as “THC,” this is the major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you high, comprising up to 30 percent of the cannabis plant. THC doesn’t naturally occur in its active form, but rapidly converts from THC acid (THCA) when burned in a cigarette or heated in cooking, in a heat-propelled reaction called decarboxylation. Not much is known about THCA, but experts have found that is an effective therapeutic agent that has been used to reduce pain, relieve nausea and stimulate appetite.
- CannabidiolCannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most popular and well-known ingredient in cannabis. Prevalent in hemp varieties of cannabis, it actually lacks any noticeable psychoactive effects and works in concert with THC to decrease any of its psychoactive effects. If taken by itself, CBD is a pain reliever that has anti-inflammatory properties and is effective at reducing the frequency of seizures, mitigating anxiety and improving wakefulness. Unfortunately, most marijuana that’s sold to consumers has significantly lower levels of CBD because growers tend to selectively breed out the enzyme in order to produce more mind-altering levels of THC.
- CannabinolThe third most common cannabinoid is Cannabinol, or CBN, which is a byproduct of the chemical breakdown of THC after the plant is exposed to oxygen or heat. Though it lacks the strong psychoactive and medicinal qualities of THC and comprises less than one percent of cannabis, even a small amount of the CBN can have a significant, sedating effect.
- CannabigerolRecent studies have reported on the potential medicinal value of Cannabigerol, or CBG, another ingredient that only amounts to about one percent of cannabis. For instance, studies have shown it to delay the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, as well as reduce cancer cell growth in mice.
- TerpenoidsIn addition to cannabinoids, marijuana contains over 100 terpenoids, which produce the unique aroma and flavor of marijuana. Researchers believe that terpenoids may also display therapeutic effects, as well.
Interestingly enough, however, there are different types of cannabis, and marijuana users have reported experiencing different highs and medicinal effects for each. This is largely due to the different chemical concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenoids in every type of marijuana.
What determines how marijuana effects a person?
Like any other drug, marijuana’s effects on a person depends on a number of factors, including the person’s previous experience with the drug or other drugs, biology (e.g., genes), gender, how the drug is taken, and how strong it is.
When marijuana is smoked, THC and other chemicals in the plant pass from the lungs into the bloodstream, which rapidly carries them throughout the body to the brain. The person begins to experience effects almost immediately. Many people experience a pleasant euphoria and sense of relaxation. Other common effects, which may vary dramatically among different people, include heightened sensory perception (e.g., brighter colors), laughter, altered perception of time, and increased appetite.
If marijuana is consumed in foods or beverages, these effects are somewhat delayed—usually appearing after 30 minutes to 1 hour—because the drug must first pass through the digestive system. Eating or drinking marijuana delivers significantly less THC into the bloodstream than smoking an equivalent amount of the plant. Because of the delayed effects, people may inadvertently consume more THC than they intend to.
Pleasant experiences with marijuana are by no means universal. Instead of relaxation and euphoria, some people experience anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic. These effects are more common when a person takes too much, the marijuana has an unexpectedly high potency, or the person is inexperienced. People who have taken large doses of marijuana may experience an acute psychosis, which includes hallucinations, delusions, and a loss of the sense of personal identity. These unpleasant but temporary reactions are distinct from longer-lasting psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, that may be associated with the use of marijuana in vulnerable individuals.
Although detectable amounts of THC may remain in the body for days or even weeks after use, the noticeable effects of smoked marijuana generally last from 1 to 3 hours, and those of marijuana consumed in food or drink may last for many hours.
According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, there is conclusive evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids can help manage:
- chronic pain in adults
- nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy treatment
- some symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS)
There is moderate evidence that it can help with sleep problems relating to sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and MS.
Other conditions that it may be helpful for include:
- low appetite
- Tourette’s syndrome
- anxiety, in some individuals
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a medication that derives from cannabis, to treat two rare and severe types of epilepsy that do not respond well to other treatments. Epidiolex is a purified form of CBD that does not contain THC.
Three drugs that contain synthetic substances with a structure similar to that of THC have received FDA approval. Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet are treatment options for some kinds of anorexia.
There are different ways of using cannabis, and the method can determine the effects of the drug.
Smoking or inhaling: A sense of elation can start within minutes and peak after 10–30 minutes. The feeling will typically wear off after about 2 hours.
Ingesting: If a person consumes products containing cannabis by mouth, they will usually feel the effects within 1 hour, and the sensations will peak after 2.5–3.5 hours. One study suggests that the type of edible affects the time it takes to feel the effect, with hard candies kicking in quicker.
Topical: Transdermal patches allow the ingredients to enter the body over a prolonged period. This steady infusion can benefit people who are using cannabis to treat pain and inflammation.