Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs throughout the United States and appeals to a wide range of ages. Understanding what is marijuana, its forms, and potential side effects along with withdrawal symptoms are extremely beneficial whether you are interested in utilizing marijuana medicinally or if you are struggling to overcome an addiction or dependence on the plant.
Marijuana refers to the plant Cannabis sativa along with Cannabis indica. Once the leaves, flowers, and stems are dried from the plant it is used in a variety of ways. Marijuana contains THC, also known as Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is a psychoactive compound that results in users of marijuana feeling “high” or relaxed. While THC is only one of 113 compounds found in the Cannabis plants, it is considered the most psychoactive and mind-altering.
Marijuana is typically smoked using papers or through items such as pipes and bongs. With plenty of options to smoke marijuana, individuals rarely have a difficult time using the plant. While smoking marijuana is one of the most popular and common methods of using cannabis, there are new methods on the rise due to new laws regarding medical use and consumption.
Another common method of using marijuana is by consuming the activated THC in edibles or oils. Edibles and oils use cooked marijuana and extracts from the cooked plant itself to create a myriad of dishes, desserts, and candy. Simply using dried marijuana that has not been heat-activated does not allow you to create edibles or oils, as the plant itself must be heated in order for the THC to become an active component in cannabis itself.
For those who have been involved in the marijuana industry, other forms of using the plant are now readily available on the market. Some of the newer ways to use marijuana include:
- Shatter: Shatter is an amber-colored solid form of marijuana that is often used with those who smoke using a specialty rig designed for maximum potency.
- Oil: Hash and marijuana oil is a liquid form of marijuana that contains readily-activated THC. Oils are useful for patients and users who cannot smoke or prefer a less invasive method of using the plant without causing lung-related issues or infections due to smoke inhalation.
- Wax: Wax is an increasingly popular form of marijuana with increased potency. Wax has a much higher THC percentage than even the most well-known medicinal strains available.
While marijuana is not life-threatening, it is important to note that users are likely to experience a wide range of side effects anytime THC is smoked or ingested. Both smoking and ingesting marijuana offer different side effects on the body, but overlap in many cases.
When marijuana is smoked, users almost instantaneously begin to feel immediate effects from the plant. Smoking marijuana allows THC to enter the bloodstream and brain much quicker than edibles or oil. With edibles, marijuana requires anywhere from 30 minutes to more than 1 hour to completely activate and trigger the desired response as it enters your bloodstream and brain.
Marijuana causes psychoactive side effects that are short-lived such as enhanced perception, taste, and even enhanced visual and hearing effects. Individuals who use marijuana are likely to feel mood changes that range from feeling happier, relaxed, and peaceful, to feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or paranoid depending on the plant’s strain and the user’s tolerance or state of mind prior to use. Some individuals who are inexperienced or new to marijuana may find themselves with laughter fits or finding normally mundane topics silly or entertaining. As THC activates in the brain, it skews users’ ability to perceive time, colors, food, and sounds. This is why so many users of marijuana feel as if time is moving much slower than it typically does when not using the plant.
Impaired body movements are also common in those who do not have a tolerance for marijuana in their system or for those who have used medicinal marijuana with a higher concentrated level of THC. Short-term memory loss is one of the most notable and common short-term marijuana side effects, which makes it challenging to remember conversations or even tasks while in the process of completing them.
In extremely rare cases, some individuals have experienced hallucinations, delusions, and even psychosis when using marijuana in high doses, although this is often to be found as a result of a combination of drugs, alcohol, and alternative substances.
While there are no life-threatening long-term marijuana side effects currently confirmed, there are other studies that show long-term marijuana side effects do occur in some individuals. Heavy users of marijuana are at risk of developing Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, or CHS which triggers intense bouts of nausea and vomiting that are only relieved with hot showers. Additionally, an increased heart rate is also possible for individuals of marijuana whose preferred method of using the plant is smoking.
Mentally, using marijuana in high doses over time can significantly increase anxiety and depression in users who are not adjusted to living without the plant any longer. Productivity, socialization, and motivation are also at risk in individuals who use marijuana daily and in high doses. Those who are extremely heavy users are likely to experience a wide range of non-life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal once they choose to abruptly stop consuming the plant.
While most individuals of marijuana are not addicted to the plant, it is possible to develop a dependence on cannabis when used frequently over time using heavy doses along with marijuana withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the most common mental marijuana withdrawal symptoms of marijuana include:
- Increased anxiety along with anxious moods or mood disorders
- Depression and social isolation from family, friends, and hobbies or activities that were once a source of joy
- Inability to focus for extended periods of time while detoxing from the use of marijuana
- Paranoia is likely to increase when quitting marijuana after long-term use, which also coincides with increased anxiety risk
- Increased cravings for marijuana are likely to occur in any individual who has become dependent on the plant
- Irritability is common among individuals who frequently use marijuana regardless of their method of choice for consumption
Other physical withdrawal symptoms that may occur in heavy users of marijuana include:
- Shakiness throughout the body including the hands is a possibility for individuals who utilize marijuana to calm their body and mind
- Nausea and vomiting is possible for individuals who have used marijuana to keep nausea and vomiting at bay
- Increased drowsiness while overcoming the withdrawal of marijuana after long-term usage
- Experiencing a loss of appetite is not uncommon with individuals who are heavy marijuana users and regularly associate eating with the use of the plant
Seeking Treatment for Addiction and Dependence
Although marijuana has been proven extremely beneficial for a variety of medical ailments, diseases, and conditions, it is still possible to become overly-dependent on the plant when using cannabis heavily over time. Seeking treatment for addiction and dependence is possible with both inpatient and outpatient programs depending on your location. Avoid spending time with others who smoke or use marijuana in your presence and build a support group of family and friends who understand the struggle you are going through regarding your use of cannabis. Reach out to local groups for support to discuss obstacles and challenges you are facing while experiencing traditional withdrawal symptoms of marijuana after years or even decades of heavy usage.
The more you understand about cannabis indica and cannabis sativa (marijuana), the easier it becomes to approach individuals who are using the plant for medicinal or recreational purposes.