What is marijuana?
Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The plant contains the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other related compounds. THC is the psychotropic ingredient in marijuana, the part that produces the high.
Is marijuana addictive?
In short, YES! And contrary to popular belief, it has always been addictive. The marijuana people smoked in the 80s & 90s contained about 4% THC; whereas, most of today's marijuana products contain 15%. In addition to much higher THC levels, in 2020, there are more ways to get the high from marijuana, such as: vaping, blunts, edibles, and resins.
What are edibles?
Edibles are food products that are made using some form of the plant, cannabis sativa (marijuana). This also means edibles contain the psychotropic chemical THC. They can come in many forms such as gummies, brownies, beverages, and even savory snacks. (see image below for popular products)
The effects of edibles depend on the dose a person takes in addition to the concentration of the THC within the product, which varies widely. Consuming too much THC through edibles is easy to do, and it can cause adverse effects. An overdose or poisoning can produce symptoms such as: paranoia, nausea, extreme bouts of vomiting, hallucinations, panic attacks, and impaired mobility.
A few notes of caution: Because many of the edible products look like common candies or treats, there is the possibility that children and even pets can accidentally ingest large quantities causing THC poisoning. Regular cannabis use can have adverse impacts on: brain development, heart health, memory and cognition, and psychiatric health. Long-term cannabis use may be especially worrisome in adolescents, where it may increase the risk of schizophrenia as well as learning and memory.
What are some things that marijuana does to the body?
THC is similar to a chemical already found in the brain, so it's structure allows the body to recognize it and alter normal brain communication. These chemical messages throughout the nervous system affect areas of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, and sensory and time perception. Using marijuana causes impaired thinking and interferes with a person’s ability to learn and perform complicated tasks. THC also disrupts brain areas that regulate balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time. This is the reason people who have used marijuana may not be able to drive safely and may have problems playing sports or engaging in other physical activities. For people under the age of 18, using marijuana has an even greater impact because their brain is still in the development stage.
Similar to tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke can irritate the mouth, throat and lungs. Also like tobacco, it contains volatile chemicals and tar. It inflames the airways which can lead to a chronic cough and can reduce the respiratory system's immune response which can increase the chance of developing pneumonia. Using vaping products that contain THC, has recently been linked to serious lung disease and even death.
How can I tell if my teenager is using?
Not every person reacts the same to using marijuana, but a few common signs include a noticeable change in behavior, irritability, bloodshot eyes, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, munchies, and general restlessness. Teens may have bottles of eye drops to mask the bloodshot eyes, and perfume/cologne to cover the lingering smell on their clothes. You may also notice a decline in grades and/or their desire to do things they once loved. As with any substance use suspicions, pay attention to their friends and the activities they are doing. Most importantly, start a conversation with your teen. Give them the chance to talk with you and ask questions, share the latest research about marijuana use; don't lecture, don't yell, be honest.
What about medicinal CBD products?
Although many CBD product users swear they experience relief from their ailments, recent studies show limited and specific medicinal benefits. Since CBD is an unregulated product, there just isn't sufficient evidence to back that it's a "cure-all". Additionally, the "100% free of THC" claim often made in CBD advertising is in fact, false. Trace amounts of THC is in CBD, period, and this could raise a problem because the body stores THC in a way that allows it to accumulate over time. Why is that bad? Well, if you're using CBD products and your employer does drug screenings, you could test positive for THC/marijuana and lose your job, just ask Bianca Thurston or Doug Horn.
Medical News Today. Leonard, Jayne. "What are the Effects of Cannabis Edibles?". 12 March 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/effects-of-edibles. Accessed 21 June 2021.
NIDA. "Marijuana Research Report." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 27 May. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/ Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
Gill, Lisa. "Can you take CBD and pass a drug test?". Consumer Reports.15 May 2019 https://www.consumerreports.org/cbd/can-you-take-cbd-and-pass-a-drug-test/ Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
Grinspoon, Peter MD. "Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t". Harvard Health Publishing. 15 Apr. 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476 Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
2020 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey. https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/samh/prevention/fysas/2020/docs/2020%20FYSAS%20State%20Data%20Tables%20per%20C2-2.1.pdf Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.