Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug. It is considered to be a drug that is very addictive, and bad for you. Even though scientists have proven that it is not addictive, and that it is really no worse for you than other socially acceptable drugs like caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. There are many common myths about it, and about the people who use it. Some of which include, that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to the use of harder drugs like heroin, LSD, and cocaine. Others say that marijuana leads to a life of crime, and an unsuccessful future, and that it has no medical value. When in actuality, most users don t do any other type of drug, and if they do, studies have shown that it is not because the user is no longer satisfied with the effects if marijuana, but because they want to experiment with other mind altering substances. These people would have done the same whether or not they tried marijuana at all. Some very influential and successful people throughout the years have experienced the effects of marijuana. From our country s first president, George Washington, whom he himself grew it at his home on Mt. Vernon, all the way to present day athletes, movie stars, and musicians, who regularly get caught for possession of the drug. Studies have shown that marijuana can be effective in reducing nausea induced by chemotherapy, stimulating appetite in AIDS patients, and reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. In fact the only real health risks involved with marijuana, is the fact that it slows the users reaction time (driving a car would not be wise), and that it is a little worse for your lungs than cigarettes. The question now is, how does it effect your body, more specifically, your brain, and what makes it so bad that the federal government has declared it a Schedule one drug (drugs that are considered to have a high potential for abuse ).
Marijuana enters the body in one of two ways, through ingestion, to the stomach, or through inhalation, to the lungs. Either way, it quickly finds its way to the brain via the blood stream. Once there, the active ingredient or neurotransmitter in marijuana, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), activates the newly discovered THC receptor site in the brain. THC reduces the strength and speed of communication carried along the nervous system cells, both in the brain and between the brain and muscles. There is a dense concentration of these receptor sites in the basal ganglia and the cerebellum, at the base of the brain. The lack of these receptors in the medulla region of the brain reduces the possibility of accidental or even deliberate death from THC. The basel ganglia aid in actions that include walking, and laughing. The cerebellum has partial control over such things as learning, coordination, balance and the perception of time, and distance. This explains why people under the influence of marijuana, have trouble walking, experience uncontrollable laughing, have less coordination and balance, and a problem with the perception of time and distance. Marijuana also lessens the amount of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACH) in the area of the brain that is associated with long term memory. This is probably why marijuana users have problems remembering things. Another neurotransmitter affected by marijuana is called GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). This increased amount of GABA is why other symptoms like a reduction of anxiety, sleepiness, and muscle relaxation is felt by the user.
For years it was thought that marijuana increased the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates the user with extremely pleasurable sensations. This is known as the brain reward system , and this is what causes the user to become addicted. Drugs like LSD, cocaine, alcohol, amphetamines, opiates, and nicotine, all either stop the brain from receiving the signal to stop producing it, or they cause the brain to keep producing it by continually sending it the signal. But because there is a THC receptor site in the brain, the brain can actually in some respects process the THC. According to the congressional Office of Technology Assessment, research over the last ten years has proved that marijuana has no effect on dopamine related brain systems, thus it significantly reduces the risks of addiction and serious physical dependence.
The effects of marijuana usually last for approximately twenty- four hours, but the user only feels the effects for about four to six hours (depending upon how big the dose of THC is). Excess THC is stored in fat, metabolized by the liver, and slowly excreted through urine and feces. The user may test positive for the drug up to four weeks after the last time they came in contact with it.