Marijuana calls by many names such as weed, pot, Mary Jane, herb, dope, grass etc., but no matter what you call it, it remains the number one illegal recreational drug in the United States. Though some states have laws permitting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, possession and distribution of the drug is still largely considered a misdemeanor. Yet, regardless of whether or not any drug is legal, abuse is still possible and always very harmful. Despite arguments for and against its use, marijuana users may not be immune to addiction.
A by-product of the Cannabis sativa plant, marijuana has been used by various cultures for centuries for medicinal and spiritual uses. The ancient Aryan Indians used a form of cannabis in tribal rituals, and the drug has been known to treat discomfort from headaches, glaucoma, and nausea resulting from chemotherapy. Marijuana also has a strong association to pop culture. It is not uncommon for people to pass around a joint during a rock concert, while recent films like "Half Baked" and "Harold and Kumar" have helped bring marijuana use into the mainstream.
It is the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in marijuana that effects the immune system during intake. THC may promote a prolonged feeling of relaxation and/or disorientation in users, that "stoned" feeling that encourages sleepiness and increases the appetite (also known as "getting the munchies"). Enjoying such a euphoria may encourage some to continue using the drug on a regular basis.
A number of negative side effects, including loss of memory and increasing paranoia, are thought to be attributed to overuse of the drug. Like ordinary tobacco, regular use of marijuana may also increase the risk for lung cancer and other related illnesses. It is also argued that marijuana is a "gateway" drug, leading users to try harder stimulants and narcotics once the body has become accustomed to THC's numbing effects, yearning for a stronger high.
Signs that a person may be abusing marijuana might include:
Sudden mood changes, depression and listlessness
Redness in the eyes
Problems with concentration, short-term memory loss
Change in appearance
Marijuana has a distinct odor that lingers in clothes and hair when smoked
Users of marijuana, whether for medicinal or recreational use, should be made aware of the risks of addiction and possible health damage. Parents who suspect their young children of abusing the drug look for the signs and immediately seek help from the professional to treat as soon as possible.