Marijuana is the common name for a crude drug made from the plant Cannabis Sativa. Cannabinoids are the active ingredients of marijuana. The most proactive cannabinoids chemical that marijuana has is THC (tetrahydrocannibol), which has the biggest impact on the brain. THC affects the brain by binding to and activating specific receptors, known as the cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are responsible for controlling memory, thought, concentration, time and depth and coordination movement. THC also affects neurotransmitters, which are chemical messages that carry signals between neurons. When the THC affects the neurotransmitters, some problems may occur, such as personality disturbances, depression, or chronic anxiety.
Short term effects of Marijuana consist of faster heartbeat and pulse rate, bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and throat, impaired short term memory, altered sense of time, coordination problems when driving a car or operating machinery.
Why do people smoke marijuana? Some people smoke for the relaxing effects or to help them sleep. Other people smoke to make things more interesting and liven up social situations. Still others smoke to ease depression or painful feelings. However, along with the enjoyable effects, marijuana users typically report several downsides. Many regular users find that they are eating more food and putting on weight, or doing things while they are high that they later regret. Others report the financial cost as a downside to using. Some experienced users find that it is not as enjoyable as it used to be, and that it makes them tired or that they have difficulty sleeping when they are not using.
Marijuana can have negative effects on school or work performance, or personal relationships, depending on characteristics of the user. Other people, such as those who have heart conditions, asthma, or are pregnant, are advised not to use marijuana at all because of potential cardiovascular damage, lung problems and harm to the fetus. Women who smoke should also be aware that marijuana crosses the placental barrier and is transmitted through breast milk. One study found that children whose mothers smoked marijuana during pregnancy had memory and decision-making deficits as compared to other children whose mothers did not smoke. Finally, for some men, marijuana can lead to lower sperm count and motility.
For those who decide to cut down or quit, each path is different. For some, that may mean avoiding friends or situations that lead to marijuana use. For others, it may mean making the choice to spend money or time on other activities. Each person is different, but when individuals choose to decrease or stop usage, they commonly report increased energy, improved breathing and more time for other activities such as schoolwork or sports.
How can it be made easier to cut down or quit? Set a limit on the amount or time that you will use marijuana; for instance use only certain amounts or on certain days. Keep a record of how much is used and compare that to your goal. Find someone who doesn’t use, spend time with them and ask them to hold you accountable. Avoid situations where marijuana is present or you are likely to use. Have a plan for saying no if you are offered marijuana.
Plan alternate activities during times when it might be difficult not to use. Put your paraphernalia out of sight when you are not using it. Post a note on your bathroom mirror that reminds you of your choice. When you go out, only take the cash you will need for the evening and leave your ATM card at home. Look for other ways to relax.
Some students often find it useful to attend a Marijuana Anonymous support group meeting. For information and meeting times on or near your campus go to:www.marijuana-anonymous.org. The Wellness Center staff can meet with you to discuss results or discuss any type of substance use. Call the Student Health Center at 610-436-2509 to set up an appointment.