Physical and Pharmacological Effects of Marijuana
Cannabis isn’t just the most abused illicit drug in the United States (Gold, Frost-Pineda, & Jacobs, 2004; NIDA, 2010) it’s in fact the most abused illegal drug worldwide (UNODC, 2010). In the United States it’s a schedule-I substance which means that it is officially regarded as having no medical use and it is highly addictive (US DEA, 2010). Doweiko (2009) explains that not all of cannabis has abuse potential. He therefore suggests utilizing the common terminology marijuana when referring to cannabis with abuse potential. For the sake of clarity that this language is employed in this paper also.
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Today, marijuana is in the forefront of global controversy debating the appropriateness of its prevalent illegal status. In many Union states it has become legalized for medical purposes. This trend is called “medical marijuana” and can be strongly applauded by advocates while simultaneously loathed aggressively by rivals (Dubner, 2007; Nakay, 2007; Van Tuyl, 2007). It is in this context that it had been decided to pick the subject of the physical and pharmacological effects of marijuana to the cornerstone of the research article.
Marijuana is a plant more correctly referred to as cannabis sativa. As stated, some cannabis sativa plants don’t have abuse potential and are known as hemp. Hemp is used widely for various fiber products such as newspaper and artist’s canvas. Cannabis sativa with abuse potential is that which we call marijuana (Doweiko, 2009). It’s interesting to note that although widely studies for many years, there is a lot that researchers still do not know about marijuana. Neuroscientists and biologists understand exactly what the consequences of marijuana are but they still do not fully understand why (Hazelden, 2005).
Deweiko (2009), Gold, Frost-Pineda, & Jacobs (2004) point out that of about four hundred known compounds found in the cannabis plants, researchers know of over sixty that are thought to possess carcinogenic effects on the human brain. The most well known and potent of these is â??-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Like Hazelden (2005), Deweiko states that while we know many of the neurophysical effects of THC, the motives THC produces these effects are uncertain.
As a carcinogenic chemical, THC directly impacts the central nervous system (CNS). It impacts a enormous range of neurotransmitters and catalyzes other biochemical and enzymatic activity as well. The CNS is stimulated while the THC activates specific neuroreceptors in the brain causing the various physical and emotional reactions which are going to be expounded on more especially further on. The only substances that may activate neurotransmitters are substances that mimic chemicals that the brain produces naturally. The fact that THC stimulates brain function educates scientists that the brain has natural cannabinoid receptors. It is still unclear why people have natural cannabinoid receptors and how they work (Hazelden, 2005; Martin, 2004). What we do understand is that bud will stimulate cannabinoid receptors up to twenty times more knowingly than some of their body’s natural hormones ever could (Doweiko, 2009).
Perhaps the biggest puzzle of all is that the relationship between THC and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin receptors are among the most stimulated by all psychoactive drugs, but most specifically alcohol and nicotine. Independent of bud’s connection with the chemical, serotonin is already a modest understood neurochemical and its supposed neuroscientific roles of function and functioning are still largely hypothetical (Schuckit & Tapert, 2004). What neuroscientists have discovered definitively is that marijuana smokers have very substantial levels of dopamine action (Hazelden, 2005). I would hypothesize that it may be this relationship between THC and serotonin that explains the “marijuana maintenance program” of attaining abstinence from alcohol also enables marijuana smokers to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms and avoid cravings from alcohol. The efficacy of “marijuana maintenance” for helping alcohol abstinence is not scientific but is still a phenomenon I have personally witnessed with many clients.
Interestingly, marijuana mimics a lot of neurological responses of other drugs that it is very difficult to classify in a certain class. Researchers will place it in one or more of these classes: psychedelic; hallucinogen; or serotonin inhibitor. It has properties that mimic similar chemical responses as opioids. Other chemical reactions mimic stimulants (Ashton, 2001; Gold, Frost-Pineda, & Jacobs, 2004). Hazelden (2005) classifies marijuana in its own special class – cannabinoids. The reason for this confusion is that the intricacy of the many psychoactive properties found within bud, both known and unknown. One recent customer I saw could not recover from the visual distortions he suffered as a consequence of pervasive psychedelic usage as long as he was still smoking marijuana. This seemed to be as a consequence of the psychedelic properties found in busy cannabis (Ashton, 2001). Although not strong enough to produce these visual distortions by itself, marijuana was powerful enough to stop the brain from healing and recovering.
Cannibinoid receptors can be found throughout the brain thus affecting a huge array of functioning. The most important on the emotional level is the stimulation of the brain’s nucleus accumbens perverting the brain’s natural reward facilities. Another is the fact that of the amygdala which controls one’s emotions and anxieties (Adolphs, Trane, Damasio, & Damaslio, 1995; Van Tuyl, 2007).
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