Cannabis is not only the most abused illicit drug in the usa (Gold, Frost-Pineda, & Jacobs, 2004; NIDA, 2010) it is in fact the most abused illegal drug worldwide (UNODC, 2010). In america it is a schedule-I substance meaning that it is legally considered as having no medical use in fact it is highly addictive (US DEA, 2010). Doweiko (2009) explains that not all cannabis has abuse potential. He therefore suggests using the common terminology marijuana when discussing cannabis with abuse potential. For the sake of clarity this terminology can be used in this paper aswell.
Today, marijuana is at the forefront of international controversy debating the appropriateness of its widespread illegal status. In many Union states it is becoming legalized for medical purposes. live carts This trend is known as “medical marijuana” and is strongly applauded by advocates while simultaneously loathed harshly by opponents (Dubner, 2007; Nakay, 2007; Van Tuyl, 2007). It really is in this context that it was decided to pick the topic of the physical and pharmacological effects of marijuana for the basis of this research article.
What is marijuana?
Marijuana is really a plant more correctly called cannabis sativa. As mentioned, some cannabis sativa plants don’t have abuse potential and are called hemp. Hemp can be used widely for various fiber products including newspaper and artist’s canvas. Cannabis sativa with abuse potential is what we call marijuana (Doweiko, 2009). It is interesting to notice that although widely studies for many years, you will find a lot that researchers still do not know about marijuana. Neuroscientists and biologists know what the effects of marijuana are but they still do not grasp why (Hazelden, 2005).
Deweiko (2009), Gold, Frost-Pineda, & Jacobs (2004) point out that of approximately 500 known chemicals within the cannabis plants, researchers know of over sixty that are thought to have psychoactive effects on the human brain. The most popular and potent of the is â-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Like Hazelden (2005), Deweiko states that while we know many of the neurophysical ramifications of THC, the reason why THC produces these effects are unclear.
As a psychoactive substance, THC directly affects the central nervous system (CNS). It affects an enormous selection of neurotransmitters and catalyzes other biochemical and enzymatic activity aswell. The CNS is stimulated when the THC activates specific neuroreceptors in the brain causing the various physical and emotional reactions that will be expounded on more specifically further on. The only substances that may activate neurotransmitters are substances that mimic chemicals that the mind produces naturally. The truth that THC stimulates brain function teaches scientists that the mind has natural cannabinoid receptors. It really is still unclear why humans have natural cannabinoid receptors and how they work (Hazelden, 2005; Martin, 2004). What we do know is that marijuana will stimulate cannabinoid receptors up to twenty times more actively than the body’s natural neurotransmitters ever could (Doweiko, 2009).
Perhaps the biggest mystery of all may be the relationship between THC and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin receptors are among the most stimulated by all psychoactive drugs, but most specifically alcohol and nicotine. Independent of marijuana’s relationship with the chemical, serotonin has already been a little understood neurochemical and its own supposed neuroscientific roles of functioning and purpose remain mostly hypothetical (Schuckit & Tapert, 2004). What neuroscientists have found definitively is that marijuana smokers have very high degrees of serotonin activity (Hazelden, 2005). I’d hypothesize that it might be this relationship between THC and serotonin that explains the “marijuana maintenance program” of achieving abstinence from alcohol and allows marijuana smokers to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms and prevent cravings from alcohol. The efficacy of “marijuana maintenance” for aiding alcohol abstinence isn’t scientific but is really a phenomenon I’ve personally witnessed with numerous clients.
Interestingly, marijuana mimics so many neurological reactions of other drugs that it’s extremely difficult to classify in a specific class. Researchers will stick it in any of these categories: psychedelic; hallucinogen; or serotonin inhibitor. It has properties that mimic similar chemical responses as opioids. Other chemical responses mimic stimulants (Ashton, 2001; Gold, Frost-Pineda, & Jacobs, 2004). Hazelden (2005) classifies marijuana in its special class – cannabinoids. The reason for this confusion may be the complexity of many psychoactive properties found within marijuana, both known and unknown. One recent client I saw cannot get over the visual distortions he suffered because of pervasive psychedelic use so long as he was still smoking marijuana. This seemed to be as a result of the psychedelic properties found within active cannabis (Ashton, 2001). But not stro