Fact: Most teenagers do not use marijuana.
Fewer than one in four high school seniors
is a current marijuana user.
Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and
flowers of the hemp plant. You may hear marijuana called by street names such as pot,
herb, weed, grass, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, or chronic. There are more than 200 slang
terms for marijuana.
it's a Spanish word), hashish ("hash" for short), and hash oil are
stronger forms of marijuana.
All forms of marijuana
are mind-altering. In other words, they change how the brain works. They all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol),
the main active chemical in marijuana. They also contain more than 400 other chemicals.
Marijuana's effects on the user depend on the strength or potency of the THC it contains.
THC potency of marijuana has increased since the 1970s but has been about the same since
Q: How is marijuana used?
Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette (called a joint or a nail) or in a pipe
or a bong.
Recently, it has
appeared in cigars called blunts.
THC in marijuana is strongly absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs. Generally,
traces (metabolites) of THC can be detected by standard urine testing methods
several days after a smoking session. However, in heavy chronic users, traces can
sometimes be detected for weeks after they have stopped using marijuana.
Contrary to popular belief most teenagers have not used marijuana and never will. Among
students surveyed in a yearly national survey, only about one in five 10th graders report
they are current marijuana users (that is, used marijuana within the past month).
Fewer than one in four high school seniors is a current marijuana user.
A: There are many
reasons why some children and young teens start smoking marijuana. Most young people smoke
marijuana because their friends or brothers and sisters use marijuana and pressure them to
try it. Some young people use it because they see older people in the family using it.
Others may think it's
cool to use marijuana because they hear songs about it and see it on TV and in movies.
Some teens may feel they need marijuana and other drugs to help them escape from problems
at home, at school, or with friends.
No matter how many
shirts and caps you see printed with the marijuana leaf, or how many groups sing about it,
remember this: You don't have to use marijuana just because you think everybody else is
doing it. Most teens do not use marijuana!
Marijuana Fact: Marijuana can mess you up.
Your performance in school, sports and other activities
will suffer if you're high.
The effects of the drug on each person depend on the user's experience, as well as:
- how strong the marijuana is (how
much THC it has);
- what the user expects to
- where (the place) the
drug is used;
- how it is taken; and
- whether the user is drinking
alcohol or using other drugs.
Some people feel
nothing at all when they smoke marijuana. Others may feel relaxed or high. Sometimes
marijuana makes users feel thirsty and very hungry - an effect called "the
Some users can get bad
effects from marijuana. They may suffer sudden feelings of anxiety and have paranoid
thoughts. This is more likely to happen when a more potent variety of marijuana is used.
The short-term effects of marijuana include:
- problems with memory and
- distorted perception (sights,
sounds, time, touch);
- trouble with thinking and
- loss of coordination; and
- increased heart rate, anxiety.
These effects are even
greater when other drugs are mixed with the marijuana; and users do not always know what
drugs are given to them.
A: It can. Marijuana
affects memory, judgment and perception. The drug can make you mess up in school, in
sports or clubs, or with your friends. If you're high on marijuana, you are more likely to
make stupid mistakes that could embarrass or even hurt you. If you use marijuana a lot,
you could start to lose interest in how you look and how you're getting along at school or
Athletes could find
their performance is off; timing, movements, and coordination are all affected by THC.
Also, since marijuana use can affect thinking and judgment, users can forget to have safe
sex and possibly expose themselves to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Findings so far show that regular use of marijuana or THC may play a role in some kinds of
cancer and in problems with the respiratory, immune, and reproductive systems.
It's hard to know for sure whether regular marijuana use causes cancer. But it is known
that marijuana contains some of the same, and sometimes even more, of the cancer-causing
chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per
week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack
of cigarettes every day.
- Lungs and airways
People who smoke marijuana often develop the same kinds of breathing problems that
cigarette smokers have: coughing and wheezing. They tend to have more chest colds than
nonusers. They are also at greater risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia.
- Immune system
Animal studies have found that THC can damage the cells and tissues in the body that help
protect people from disease. When the immune cells are weakened, you are more likely to
A: It could. Long-term
studies of high school students and their patterns of drug use show that very few young
people use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana. For example, the risk of
using cocaine is 104 times greater for those who have tried marijuana than for those who
have never tried it. Using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who
are users and sellers of other drugs. So there is more of a risk that a marijuana user
will be exposed to and urged to try more drugs.
To better determine
this risk, scientists are examining the possibility that long-term marijuana use may
create changes in the brain that make a person more at risk of becoming addicted to other
drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine. While not all young people who use marijuana go on to
use other drugs, further research is needed to predict who will be at greatest risk.
If someone is high on marijuana, he or she might
- seem dizzy and have trouble
- seem silly and giggly for no
- have very red, bloodshot eyes;
- have a hard time remembering
things that just happened.
When the early effects
fade, over a few hours, the user can become very sleepy.
A: There has been much
talk about the possible medical use of marijuana. Under U.S. law since 1970, marijuana has
been a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that the drug, at least in its smoked
form, has no commonly accepted medical use.
THC, the active
chemical in marijuana, is manufactured into a pill available by prescription that can be
used to treat the nausea and vomiting that occur with certain cancer treatments and to
help AIDS patients eat more to keep up their weight. According to scientists, more
research needs to be done on marijuana's side effects and potential benefits before it is
used medically with any regularity.
Marijuana Fact: Marijuana and driving do not mix.
Users often have delayed responses to sights and sounds
drivers need to notice.
A: Marijuana has
serious harmful effects on the skills required to drive safely: alertness, the ability to
concentrate, coordination, and the ability to react quickly. These effects can last up to
24 hours after smoking marijuana. Marijuana use can make it difficult to judge distances
and react to signals and sounds on the road.
Marijuana may play a
role in car accidents. In one study conducted in Memphis, TN, researchers found that, of
150 reckless drivers who were tested for drugs at the arrest scene, 33 percent tested
positive for marijuana, and 12 percent tested positive for both marijuana and cocaine.
Data have also shown that while smoking marijuana, people show the same lack of
coordination on standard "drunk driver" tests as do people who have had too much
A: Doctors advise
pregnant women not to use any drugs because they could harm the growing fetus. One animal
study has linked marijuana use to loss of the fetus very early in pregnancy.
studies have found that babies born to marijuana users were shorter, weighed less, and had
smaller head sizes than those born to mothers who did not use the drug. Smaller babies are
more likely to develop health problems. There are also research data showing nervous
system problems in children of mothers who smoked marijuana.
Researchers are not
certain whether a newborn baby's health problems, if they are caused by marijuana, will
continue as the child grows. Preliminary research shows that children born to mothers who
used marijuana regularly during pregnancy may have trouble concentrating.
A: Some studies show
that when people have smoked large amounts of marijuana for years, the drug takes its toll
on mental functions. Heavy or daily use of marijuana affects the parts of the brain that
control memory, attention, and learning. A working short-term memory is needed to learn
and perform tasks that call for more than one or two steps.
causes some changes in the brain that are like those caused by cocaine, heroin, and
alcohol. Some researchers believe that these changes may put a person more at risk of
becoming addicted to other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. Scientists are still learning
about the many ways that marijuana could affect the brain.
A: Yes. While not
everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted, when a user begins to seek out and take the
drug compulsively, that person is said to be dependent or addicted to the drug. In 1995,
165,000 people entering drug treatment programs reported marijuana as their primary drug
of abuse, showing they need help to stop using the drug.
According to one
study, marijuana use by teenagers who have prior serious antisocial problems can quicky
lead to dependence on the drug.
Some frequent, heavy
users of marijuana develop a tolerance for it. "Tolerance" means that the user
needs larger doses of the drug to get the same desired results that he or she used to get
from smaller amounts.
A: Up until a few
years ago, it was hard to find treatment programs specifically for marijuana users.
Now researchers are
testing different ways to help marijuana users abstain from drug use. There are currently
no medications for treating marijuana addiction. Treatment programs focus on counseling
and group support systems. There are also a number of programs designed especially to help
teenagers who are abusers. Family doctors are also a good source for information and help
in dealing with adolescent marijuana problems.
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.