Marijuana is classified as both a stimulant and as a hallucinogen. Marijuana is composed of over 400 substances that convert to over 2,000 chemical compounds when marijuana is smoked or eaten. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, which produces the marijuana high. THC is absorbed through the lungs into the blood stream in a matter of seconds after it is smoked. Marijuana is fat-soluble. This means that it is absorbed into fat cells in the body and is retained by the tissues of the lungs, liver, reproductive organs and brains for at least one month after usage.
Marijuana interferes with the normal functioning of the respiratory, cardiovascular, nervous and immune system. It's impact on the lungs is similar to cigarette smoke and it contains about 12 times the tar and 10-20 times the amount of carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke, thus creating swelling, inflammation and changes in lung cells. Marijuana users are at increased risk for changes in the lungs, which often precede the development of chronic bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer. Marijuana use also impairs the special lung cells that fight infection, making regular marijuana smokers more susceptible to pneumonia, influenza, colds, sore throats, bronchitis, laryngitis, and other respiratory problems. It impairs eye-hand coordination, slows reflex time, destroys depth and time perception on a temporary basis and can greatly increase anxiety. It impairs the ability to complete and remember complex tasks and impairs learning.
Symptoms often associated with having a student high on marijuana include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Continued loss of train of thought
- Slowed reflex in response to questions
- Loss of sense of time
- Inappropriate depth perception
- Emotional responses such as laughter that appear to be inappropriate
People who use marijuana regularly also have often shown a marked increase in anxiety and panic attacks connected to marijuana use. This is often connected to an underlying, untreated anxiety disorder. In addition, marijuana may be laced with other drugs, such as PCP, which may create intense anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia and acting out behavior.
Students using pot also will often show an increased appetite and a need for consumption of food. They will also be thirsty as a result of the drying of the mucous membranes.
The method of ingesting pot is usually through smoking it, although stems and seeds can be brewed into a tea which is consumed by drinking it, or marijuana may be baked into brownies or something similar. Generally, if consumed by eating it, there is a much more intense high that lasts for a much longer period of time. The potency of the marijuana available in the United States has increased substantially over the last number of years.
Plants grown currently and sold contain at least twice as much THC as marijuana plants that were used in the 60's and early 70's. In addition, Hash is very popular, which has about a 30% level of THC in it, whereas marijuana itself, in terms of what is currently on the market, varies between 15-17% THC content, and Hash oil often has 60% THC content. The psychoactive nature of this drug usually produces euphoria in the user followed by relaxation, but again panic and anxiety are commonly associated with marijuana use or overuse. High doses of THC can produce significant fluctuation in emotions, fragmentary thought, disoriented behavior and hallucinating experiences, such as feeling disassociated from part of one's body, i.e. feeling like one's arm is dead, and also users may experience psychosis. In regards to withdrawal symptoms since the 1970's, studies have suggested marijuana withdrawal symptoms characterized by insomnia, restlessness, loss of appetite and irritability. Generally these symptoms do not appear for 7 to 14 days after the discontinuation of use because of the lipid soluble properties of marijuana. A 1999 study conducted at Harvard Medical School confirmed higher levels of aggression in marijuana users during withdrawal when compared to the infrequent or former marijuana users.
Other signs of marijuana intoxication include animated behavior, loud talking followed by sleepiness, dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes, distortion in depth and time perception, loss of coordination, paranoia and psychosis. Additional physiological problems can also result from marijuana use. Males who use it on a daily basis report erectile problems, and studies suggest lower testosterone levels and a disruption of normal sperm production. For females, prolonged use may result in abnormal menstruation and/or failure to ovulate. Female marijuana users report vaginal dryness, which may cause pain with intercourse.