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What is Marijuana?

What is marijuana? Most know it is a plant and when smoked causes a high. But do you know the effects of marijuana or the signs of marijuana abuse? This article will explain specifically what marijuana is, marijuana effects, and signs of marijuana abuse.


Marijuana, commonly known as hemp, comes from the green/brown/gray dried leaves, seeds, stems and flowers of the Cannabis Sativa plant. It contains a very potent ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (TNC) which changes how the brain works and causes the "high" that users experience.

Marijuana is grown in all 50 states, but most of it comes from other foreign countries including Mexico, Canada, Colombia and Jamaica.

Marijuana comes in various potencies. Low grade quality marijuana is made from the stems and seeds of the plant. High grade marijuana comes from the leaves and buds, which contain more TNC. The more TNC, the bigger the "high".

The are over 200 names for marijuana but some common names include weed, grass, pot, widow, hash, reefer, roach and herb. This drug is also used in various different ways. Some users will even eat it or mix it in with other foods.

  • Joints/Nails - Most common form of use. Hand rolled cigarettes which are then smoked. 
  • Pipes/Bongs (water-pipes) - Another common form of smoking Marijuana. 
  • Blunts - These are cigars which have the tobacco removed and replaced with the marijuana. Sometimes, other drugs are added as well.

What effects/harm does marijuana cause?

Marijuana abuse can take a toll on our physical, behavioral, mental and emotional well-being. Effects from marijuana use can be felt almost immediately and tend to last for several hours. Long term effects can linger on for weeks or even last a lifetime, as it permanently alters brain functions over time.

Physical/Behavioral Effects of Using Marijuana 

  • Harmful to lungs - increases respiratory problems such as coughs and chest illnesses 
  • Harmful to heart - increases the heart rate. It actually quadruples the risk of a heart attack in the first hour after use (1)
  • Lowers immune system
  • Increase risk of cancer - contains more carcinogens than tobacco smoke 
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Can lead to further forms of drug abuse down the road, especially if first abused at a younger age (The 2004 survey by NSDUH noticed that, "among adults aged 18 or older who first tried marijuana at age 14 or younger, 13.4 percent were classified with illicit drug dependence or abuse compared with only 2.7 percent of adults who had first used marijuana at age 18 or older")

Mental/Emotional Effects of Using Marijuana 

  • Memory problems - impairs short-term memory 
  • Learning problems - can lead to school difficulties and falling grades 
  • Difficulty thinking/problem solving 
  • Distorted perception 
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Mental disorders - depression and anxiety

Signs of marijuana abuse

Signs of marijuana abuse by your teen can sometimes be very hard to detect. Marijuana tends to cause varying amounts of symptoms/signs in each individual teen. The variation in symptoms can depend on the teen's amount of prior abuse and the quantity/quality of the marijuana used. Some possible warning signs of marijuana abuse by your teen may be obvious, others you may have to keep a closer watch for. 

  • Acting silly and having outbursts of laughter
  • Bloodshot eyes (look for excessive use of eye-drops) 
  • Lack of coordination (ex. trouble walking) 
  • Trouble remembering things 
  • Overly hungry or thirsty ("the munchies") 
  • Sleepiness (as drug wears off) 
  • Drug paraphernalia (rolling papers, bongs) 
  • Smell on clothing (look for excessive use of room deodorizers/air fresheners)

Marijuana tops the list as being the number one illicit drug abused in the United States. According to a NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) survey, "In 2004, an estimated 2.1 million persons had used marijuana for the first time within the past 12 months?approximately 6,000 per day." Although marijuana use has declined in recent years, these numbers indicate that a major problem still exists. Many people feel that marijuana isn't a hard core drug and should not be a cause for concern. Unfortunately, these ideas are misleading and incorrect. Marijuana is addictive and we need to educate our youth about the negative outcomes it will have on their lives.


1. nida.nih.gov
2. marijuana-info.org
3. whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/factsht/marijuana
4. drugabusestatistics.samhsa.gov

Related Article: Teen Drug Use / Abuse >>

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