Pronounced as /ˌmærəˈwɑːnə/
Marijuana is an illegal drug made from the cannabis plant, particularly the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant variety. It is a psychoactive drug that has many medical and recreational uses, including the treatment of conditions and health problems such as chronic pain relief, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
People who smoke marijuana use it to gain relaxation or a sense of euphoria. Marijuana can be smoked in joints or pipes, eaten in edibles, or cooked into oils for topical application.
The marijuana plant contains the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. The THC binds to receptors in the brain, affecting memory, coordination, and thinking. Depending on the marijuana plant, the THC level can range from 1-30%.
Along with THC, this psychoactive drug also possesses active compounds like CBD or cannabidiol, cannabinol (CBN), terpenes, and flavonoids. These compounds work together to create a unique effect on the user’s mind and body.
What Are the Other Names of Marijuana?
Latin Scientific Names
- Cannabis Indica
- Cannabis ruderalis
- Cannabis Sativa
- Alligator Cigarette
- Astro turf
- Aunt Mary
- Blue Sage
- Bubble Gum
- Mary Jane
Good Quality Cannabis
- Good stuff
- Kind bud
- Righteous Bush
- Dirt Grass
- Black Russian
- Texas Tea
- Thai Stick
- Maui Wowie
- Panama Gold
What Does Marijuana Look Like?
There are several forms of marijuana, each differing from the last. Listed below are some of the more common types.
Appearance-wise, weed has a greenish hue and herbal texture with dried leaves and stems tied together in a bunch. From the outside, it has the appearance of kitchen herbs, which is why herbs are sometimes mixed with weed to make it look inconspicuous.
The smell of weed marijuana smoke is particularly distinct—similar to smoked but unburnt earth. When people smoke marijuana, they usually smoke weed. Smoking marijuana in weed form is one of the easier and more common methods of taking marijuana.
Using hashish is another way people smoke marijuana. Hash (or hashish) is a cannabis-based resin from the marijuana plant that is dried and preserved into blocks. In solid form, hashish has the consistency of gum or licorice and when smoked, it comes off as an oily substance. Hash is used along with tobacco and can also be smoked using a pipe and bong.
Hashish comes in different shades of brown, almost black and the lightest type has a hint of dirty yellow. It also varies in textures: on the surface, it can be shiny or matte. Other types of hashish are pliable while some can be as tough as dessert fudge.
Another form of hashish is in condensed oil form—and it is probably the least commonly used type of this drug. A small amount of hash oil is enough for the effects to come through and is combined in cigarettes or smoked in a pipe. They can also be found in travel-sized bottles or plastic bags.
Known as Cannabis edibles, marijuana edibles are food and beverages infused with the drug. It is a means of marijuana use without having to go through the smoking or inhaling process.
Some people want to get marijuana's effects without necessarily having to deal with marijuana smoke. Cannabis smoke can have distinct odors that some people find unpleasant. People who use marijuana may also want to protect those around them from secondhand marijuana smoke or passive exposure especially if they are in a public place like coffee shops or restaurants.
Edibles provide a way to experience the effects of cannabis without having to deal with the secondhand marijuana smoke being exhaled by other marijuana users or being around for others to smell.
Edibles are usually found in sweets like chocolates and gummy bears, but can also be found in drinks, ice cream, and savory foods. Marijuana edibles can easily be put into baked goods (specifically brownies and cookies), in tea, or in oil and butter. These edibles are readily available in groceries, coffee shops, dispensaries, and stores where marijuana is legal.
The THC content in edibles usually varies from one product to another. This is the reason why there is a risk for people who use marijuana edibles to over-indulge, as the effects of edibles may take longer to kick in than when inhaling, yet their potency and duration last for much longer.
The effects of consuming marijuana extracts present in edibles would not manifest until 45 minutes to 3 hours later once the drug is absorbed by the bloodstream immediately after eating. Some people may experience physical effects after 20 minutes but it varies greatly depending on what is being consumed.
Therefore users need to exercise caution when consuming marijuana edibles. The more potent the edible, the less that should be taken at once.
Currently, there is an ongoing study being conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health regarding the efficacy of marijuana products like edibles in reducing pain and inflammation.
Many people use marijuana through hand-rolled cigarettes. These are dried weed buds from the cannabis plant combined with tobacco or on their own to produce something known as a joint. These cigarettes can be dried or wet, depending on how the user makes them.
A cigar can be cut open, removing the tobacco and replacing it with marijuana. This is referred to as a blunt. Tobacco pipes can also be used. Another popular way of marijuana use is using water pipes that have a long tube rising out of a bowl that sees the user inhaling the smoke.
People who smoke tobacco often switch to joints as a means to reduce their nicotine use. However, tobacco smoke smells different from marijuana smoke so if marijuana is illegal in your area, it is best to avoid smoking altogether.
Vaporizers are electronic devices that heat marijuana extracts, flowers or concentrated oils until they produce a vapor, which is then inhaled. Unlike hand-rolled cigarettes, this method provides users with the effects of marijuana without the smoke or odor that comes with smoking marijuana in the traditional way.
Usually, people use marijuana called dab weed or dab for vaping. This form of marijuana is much stronger compared to regular marijuana, with THC levels up to 80%. Hash oil is another form of marijuana used in vaping.
Those who prefer vapes for consuming nicotine or marijuana believe it's a much healthier alternative because they don't get exposed to weed or tobacco smoke. However, not enough research can prove this. More research is needed on this topic as there is limited evidence as of now.
Medical marijuana refers to the pure cannabis indica plant that contains the two components tested to help cure diseases: the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (TBC) and cannabidiol (CBD) chemicals.
The proposal for submitting this drug as an alternative to medicine has been brought to the public’s attention. Clinical trials, however, have yet to push through. Without the trials, there will be no long-term study and proof that marijuana use in this form can indeed help with symptoms of illnesses. Moreover, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to give their approval on continued marijuana use either. (FDA, 2018)
In the United States, 29 of 50 states legalized marijuana for medical use. A 2013 survey by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that 8 out of 10 doctors recommend that their patients use marijuana, particularly seniors. Research suggests that marijuana use is efficient in lessening and eventually curing symptoms of life-threatening diseases such as cancer and the long-term discomfort of migraine, nerve damage, and arthritis.
The National Cancer Institute continuously conducts studies on the effectiveness of cannabis. The goal of the National Cancer Institute is to identify and determine new opportunities when it comes to the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
Medical marijuana is not just a cure for physical illnesses. General symptoms for a variety of mental disorders including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder have shown improvement once marijuana was introduced to their system regularly.
However, not all effects of medical marijuana are positive. Some patients manifest panic attacks after smoking the drug. Consulting a medical professional for a full diagnosis and check-up would still be the best option.
People who use marijuana often turn to devices that allow them to engage in long-term marijuana use. Some common paraphernalia for marijuana use includes pipes, water pipes, bongs, and vaping devices.
What Is Marijuana Used For?
Marijuana is known for having potential therapeutic benefits and health effects for various medical conditions, including insomnia, neuropathic pain, inflammation, eating disorders, and more.
Cancer-related symptoms such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, as well as muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, are also treated with medical marijuana.
Furthermore, marijuana is also used in treating mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorder (SUD).
The enduring health effects of marijuana are some of the reasons why many states legalized the use of marijuana.
How Does Marijuana Work?
Marijuana contains various chemical components called cannabinoids, which interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for regulating many bodily functions such as mood, appetite, pain perception, and memory.
The two most studied cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana, responsible for its euphoric effects, while CBD has a non-intoxicating effect and this, in turn, helps to reduce anxiety and pain.
The exact combination of cannabinoids present in each strain of marijuana affects its therapeutic and health effects. For example, strains with high levels of THC are best used to reduce pain and inflammation, while strains with higher levels of CBD are better suited for treating mental illness.
How Strong Is Marijuana?
The potency of marijuana has gradually increased over the past few decades and is now up to 15% more potent than it was in the 1960s and 1970s.
Marijuana usually has 20% to 40% THC but some forms of marijuana like dab weed can have THC levels of up to 80 to 90 percent.
The strength of the drug also depends on how it is produced. For example, indoor-grown cannabis has 2-3 times greater potency than imported cannabis.
There have been accounts of marijuana users taking dab weed with a very high level of THC being taken to the emergency room due to its strong and unexpected effects. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the risks when consuming marijuana with high THC concentrations.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Your System?
Marijuana is a drug that can be detected in a drug test. Like other drugs consumed, marijuana can stay in your system, blood, urine, saliva, or hair for a certain period.
The exact duration will depend on several factors like the amount of marijuana use, the frequency of use, and individual characteristics such as age, gender, body weight, and metabolism.
If you use marijuana only rarely, the duration of the drug staying in your system is shorter than if you're a long term marijuana user. People who use marijuana in high doses also tend to have longer detection times. We will give you an estimate below depending on the type of drug test.
Regardless of how the drug is ingested, traces of THC can be detected in the individual’s bloodstream 12 to 48 hours after use. For regular and frequent use, marijuana can be detected even after 20 or 25 days.
Between blood and urine, the presence of marijuana in urine has a greater chance of being measured through tests. A urine test is the common test form for the drug. Depending on the frequency of use, it remains in the system for the following period:
- Occasional use (using 3x a week): 72 hours or 3 days
- Moderate use (using 4x or more): 5 to 7 days
- Chronic use (daily use; 7 days): 10 to 15 days
- Chronic heavy use (two to multiple times in a day): more than 30 days
Marijuana use through smoking and inhaling can cause the drug to be detected in the saliva. A sample of oral fluid can be tested when one is caught or in situations where there are no testing centers or tools available.
- Occasional use: 1 to 3 days
- Chronic use: 1 to 29 days
Traces of the drug can be found in a user’s hair through blood vessels. For marijuana use of up to 90 days, a 1.5-inch strand of hair can be taken from the scalp to test drug usage in a span of 3 months.
What Are the Short and Long-term Effects of Marijuana?
Aside from the feelings of pleasure and the painkiller effect, there are other short-term and long-term effects associated with the use of this drug. While there are positive health effects, not all of the effects are desirable. If you are experiencing adverse effects, it's important to seek medical help.
- Increased heart rate
- Increased risk of having a stroke
- Increased appetite
- Lower testosterone levels (for men)
- Increased prolactin levels that can lead to a lack of milk secretion (for women)
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle relaxation
- Short-term memory problem
- Emotional and physical dependency
- Distorted perception
- Difficulty and detached problem-solving skills
- Lack of movement coordination
- Impaired motor movement
- Memory and learning disruption
- Early signs or evolution of psychosis
- Panic attacks
- Impaired learning abilities
- Potential opiate abuse
- Problems with the respiratory system
- Behavioral problems
- Mental health problems
Is Marijuana Dangerous?
With marijuana being legal in many states, a lot of people believe that marijuana use is safe. With so many documented health effects in the past few decades, many argue that it is even safer than other synthetic drugs.
However, there are still risks involved that impact your safety, and side effects can be permanent. While there may be some benefits of the drug, these must be weighed against the potential risks that come with its use. Excessive marijuana use can pose a danger to teens, young adults, pregnant women, new mothers, and the general population.
One of the primary risks involves children, teens, and young people who use marijuana. The use of marijuana before reaching adulthood can affect the brain development of young people. When brain development is affected, this can lead to issues such as poor memory, impaired brain function, and learning ability, which can have a life-long impact.
Aside from problems in brain development, marijuana can also act as a gateway drug, especially in teens. A gateway drug is a drug that may result in an increased risk for people to move on to harder, more dangerous drugs. This can quickly result in substance abuse called marijuana use disorder.
In the general population, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that marijuana drug abuse can affect brain health, athletic performance, and mental health of individuals.
Combining marijuana with other substances can also increase the risk of health problems. When mixed with alcohol, marijuana can increase the chances of d having impaired concentration and judgment. It's not advisable to use two drugs or more in combination, as this may cause even more side effects and health risks.
Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should also be aware of the risks that come with marijuana use. The active ingredients in marijuana may pass through the breast milk. When the infant drinks breast milk laced with marijuana, this may affect child development. Pregnant women and new mothers should be cautious about taking marijuana.
Some people who are not used to consuming marijuana can also experience harmless yet unpleasant side effects, such as anxiety, confusion, and paranoia. For those who already have a mental health disorder, marijuana can worsen its symptoms. There have been reports of people being brought to the emergency room after using marijuana due to anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia.
How Can You Be Addicted to Marijuana?
Marijuana use disorder is also another risk of marijuana use. You might have heard these questions many times before: Is marijuana addictive? Can taking too much weed equate to drug abuse? Is drug abuse possible if I just take weed?
Many believe marijuana addiction to be impossible but there has been evidence from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that shows otherwise.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1 in 10 people who use marijuana can develop a substance abuse problem called marijuana use disorder.
So like any other drug use, marijuana use can cause substance abuse and possible health risks if used in high doses or over a prolonged period. Drug abuse involving marijuana may not be as serious as other drugs, but it can still have a negative impact on an individual’s life.
When marijuana use is already causing problems in your daily functioning, then this could be an indication of addiction or dependence. Drug abuse with marijuana can interfere with work, relationships, family life, as well as school performance. It also increases your risk for lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema.
Signs of marijuana use disorder include cravings for the drug, lack of control in drug use, and withdrawal symptoms when stopped. When these symptoms become severe, especially if the user is also using other drugs, a trip to the emergency room might be necessary.
People with marijuana use disorder are more likely to have other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. Those with existing mental health problems who use marijuana to self-medicate can also develop an addiction.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Marijuana Drug Abuse?
Drug abuse involving marijuana can lead to withdrawal symptoms when the individual stops using it. The symptoms of withdrawal can be physical, behavioral, and mental. Some may experience mild withdrawal symptoms but those who struggle with long term marijuana drug abuse may experience more severe symptoms that may require medical care.
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Dry mouth
- Increase rate of vital signs
- Lack of motivation
- A change in friends
- Shift of activities and interests
- Decrease or increase in appetite
- Cravings for marijuana
- Anxiety or irritability
- Mood swings
- Other mental health conditions
Is It Possible to Overdose on Marijuana?
Yes, it is possible to overdose on marijuana – although the incidence of such an event is rare. It is also rarely fatal unless you are also taking other substances at the same time like alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids.
If you take weed with a very high THC content, it might cause some pretty serious side effects. It can even cause paranoia which could make you think you're overdosing. The best way to avoid drug abuse or overdose with marijuana is to not use it in the first place.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Medicinal Marijuana
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the sale and use of medicinal cannabis in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to companies that are marketing unapproved products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, and is actively monitoring compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.
The agency continues to evaluate data on possible benefits and risks associated with the use of cannabis products, including medical and non-medical uses. While the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drug product containing or derived from botanical cannabis for any indication, it can be legally prescribed by healthcare providers under the Controlled Substances Act. The FDA is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that safe and effective products are available to patients in need.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on Marijuana Use
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which conducts and supports research into substance use, addiction, and related health issues.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse works to increase knowledge about cannabis-related health effects by conducting clinical and epidemiological studies. Through these efforts, the institute aims to inform the public, health care providers, and policy makers about the risks associated with cannabis use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also provides resources to help prevent and treat substance-related disorders, including cannabis use disorder. Additionally, NIDA supports research into potential medical uses of cannabis and its components as well as other strategies to reduce misuse and abuse. By continuing to support research in this area, NIDA hopes to further our understanding of the effects and consequences of cannabis use.
SAMHSA National Surveys on Cannabis Use
The Behavioral Health Statistics Program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes national surveys and reports on substance use and mental health. These data provide information on the prevalence, patterns, and trends of cannabis use in the United States.
The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 22 million Americans aged 12 or older used cannabis in the past year, with more than half of those using it on a daily or near-daily basis. The survey also found that young adults aged 18 to 25 had higher rates of cannabis use than any other age group. These findings highlight the extent of marijuana use in our society and the need for continued education, prevention, and treatment efforts. The program also works to raise awareness of the potential risks associated with cannabis use, including addiction and impaired social functioning.
How Can You Treat Marijuana Addiction?
It is important to be aware of the risks and effects of marijuana use so that you can make informed decisions about your health. If you or someone you know is struggling with a marijuana addiction, seek help from a professional treatment center as soon as possible.
If you're an occasional user, quitting on your own may be possible. If you find it difficult to quit on your own, seek out professional help. Treatment for marijuana use disorder can include counseling and therapy as well as medications to help reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms.
It is important to remember that quitting any drug can be a long process and requires commitment. Drug abuse and addiction are serious conditions that require professional help. You can overcome marijuana addiction, but it will take time and support. So don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. With the right treatment and support, you can begin your journey to recovery today.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): "Marijuana Use Disorder/Cannabis Use Disorder"
National Academies Press: “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.”