Marijuana, also known as cannabis, weed, dagga, pot or green herb is a commonly and widely used addictive drug after nicotine and alcohol.
American research indicates that the use of marijuana is common among younger adults, and is increasing among teens, especially those who are in grades eight to 10. Although the drug has been legalised in many countries for its medicinal properties and for adult recreational use, which is regulated, it’s still an illicit drug in Namibia and many other parts of the world.
The key ingredient of cannabis which is also the most potent chemical THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is responsible for the “high” the users enjoy. Marijuana is mostly taken in through smoking, which can be in a form of hand-rolled cigarettes (joints) or blunts – emptied cigarettes that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana – or in pipes or water pipes known as bongs. For those who prefer not to inhale the smoke, vaporisers are an alternative. Additionally, marijuana is mixed with food and can be consumed in a form of brownies, cookies and candy or brewed as tea.
So, what happens when we smoke or eat marijuana? When a person smokes marijuana it goes directly to the lungs and quickly travels into the bloodstream making it very dangerous in terms of THC toxicity levels. The bloodstream then carries the chemical to the brain and other organs of the body. However, when you eat it, it goes directly to your stomach and the blood absorbs it there. Thereafter, the blood carries it to your liver and the rest of the body. When you ingest marijuana, the
toxicity levels of the THC in the body are lower but the effects last longer. For those who drink it as tea, it absorbs fewer toxic levels of the THC chemical.
Generally, marijuana is known to have a sedative effect on the brain and tricks the user to live in a “fake world” where everything seems colourful and achievable.
However, when such an individual is sober, they realise that the reality of the “sober world” is nothing compared to that of the “high state world”. As a result, many people become depressed and anxious when they come out of the dreamy world and compare their lives to that of the general population. Important to note is that cannabis can also, amongst other things, cause psychosis (hearing of voices and seeing things that are not real) in users and can trigger other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, anxiety and depression.
Short-term effects of marijuana use:
- Altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colours)
- Altered sense of time changes in mood
- Impaired body movement
- Difficulty with thinking and problem solving
- Impaired memory hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
- Delusions (when taken in high doses)
- Psychosis (risk is highest with regular use of high potency marijuana)
- Altered brain development – younger people experience more adverse effects on their brains as their brains are still in the developing phase. Studies have indicated that adults who smoked marijuana regularly during adolescence have fewer neural fibres in specific brain regions. This can disrupt the brain development process
- School problems – frequent marijuana use has been linked to higher rates of school dropouts
- Cognitive impairment – regularly use of marijuana during adolescence has been linked to lower intelligence (IQ) as well
- Less satisfaction and achievement – those who use marijuana chronically also experience increase feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness which are symptoms of depression and may also suffer from anxiety when they compare their lives to that of the general population
- Impaired driving ability, which can lead to dangerous car accidents
- Temporary hallucinations
- Temporary paranoia
- Worsening symptoms in patients with schizophrenia
Physical illnesses associated with marijuana use are:
- Breathing problems
- Increased heart rate
- Problems with child development during and after pregnancy
- Intense nausea and vomiting
Although treatment is available for mental health illnesses related to cannabis, the public mental health hospitals where these treatments are offered are limited in Namibia. Often times there are not enough medications in the state facilities to cater for patients who need biomedical treatment due to budget limitations, but also bed availability becomes a concern for those who need admission. In addition, the damage done to the brain through cannabis use is often irreversible and the affected population is likely to suffer from poor mental health and physical health, lower quality of life and more relationship problems. Therefore, it’s crucial to make informed decisions when it comes to especially habits that can influence your overall well being and health.