Marijuana is the common name for a crude drug made from the plant Cannabis Sativa.  It is often called grass, pot, or weed.  The main mind-altering ingredient in marijuana is THC, but more than 400 other chemicals are also in the plant.  Marijuana "joint" is made from dried plant particles.  The amount of THC determines how strong the effect will be.   Hashish, or hash, is made from parts of the marijuana plant and is usually stronger than marijuana and may contain much higher THC levels.

What are the warning signs

One major concern about marijuana is its possible effects on young people as they grow up.  Research show that the earlier people start using drugs, the more likely they are to go to experiment with other drugs.  In addition, when young people start using regularly, they often lose interest and are not motivated to do their schoolwork.  The effects of marijuana can interfere with learning by impairing thinking, reading, comprehension, and verbal and mathematical skills.  Research shows that students do not remember what they have learned when they are "high".

Long-term marijuana use can cause both physical and psychological dependence.  Users may have a hard time limiting their use.  They may need more of the drug to get the same effect, and they may develop problems with their jobs and personal relationships.  The drug can become the most important aspect of their lives.

What are the effects of marijuana use?

Some immediate physical effects of marijuana include a faster heartbeat and pulse rate, blood shot eyes, and a dry mouth and throat.  No scientific evidence indicates that marijuana improves hearing, eyesight, and skin sensitivity.  Studies have found marijuana to impair or reduce short-term memory, alter sense of time, and reduce ability to do things that require concentration, swift reactions, and coordination (e.g. driving a car) for at least 4-6 hours after smoking a single marijuana cigarette.  Studies have indicated that marijuana abusers’ risk for heart attack more than quadruples in the first hour after smoking marijuana.  Some research studies suggest that marijuana use may result in premature babies, low birth weights, and influence hormone levels in both men and women, and effecting menstrual cycles and temporary loss of fertility for women.  Scientists believe that marijuana can be especially harmful to the lungs because users often inhale the unfiltered smoke deeply and hold it in their lungs as long as possible.  Marijuana smoke contains some of the same ingredients known to cause emphysema and cancer.

How can someone get help?

The first step is to determine if there is a problem.  A Certified Addictions Counselor can effectively perform an assessment to determine what level of care is most appropriate.  For a free confidential assessment, call the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery at (800) 522-3784.  An assessment can be completed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins are always welcome. 

Sources: American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Heath

"The IIAR gave me a starting point on how to live my life. When I got there I was pretty much a mess." Chris