Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. More than 83 million Americans ages twelve and older have tried marijuana at least once. Nearly 45% of United States teenagers try marijuana before finishing high school. Marijuana is a greenish mixture of dried and shredded leaves from the cannabis sativa, also referred to as the hemp plant. Marijuana is often referred to as pot, weed, grass, herb, reefer, and mary jane. Common symptoms of marijuana use include: irritability, anxiety, stomach pain, increased aggression and anger, a loss or increase in appetite, insomnia and strange dreams.
Although not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted to it, many people find themselves addicted to this drug. The main active chemical in marijuana is THC, this chemical creates a serious of cellular reactions ultimately leading to the high one experiences when smoking marijuana. The amount of THC determines the potency and therefore the effects marijuana has on the user. Marijuana users who have taken an extremely high dose of this drug may experience acute toxic psychosis. This induces symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and depersonalization. This person may experience a loss of personal identity and self-recognition. Cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs have also been linked with smoking marijuana. This is due to the fact marijuana contains irritants and carcinogens that are even more potent than tobacco products.
The side effects of smoking marijuana are felt within minutes of smoking and can last up to three or four hours. The amount of marijuana smoked affects the intensity of the side effects one experiences. A small dose often induces feelings such as relaxation, a heightened sense of smell and taste as well as creating an altered sense of thought and expression. A strong dose of marijuana is likely to create fragmented thoughts, impaired memory, false sense of heightened awareness, image distortion, fantasies and even hallucinations.
Marijuana use has been associated with depression, anxiety and disturbances in one's personal life. Students who smoke marijuana have been know to receive lower grades, while workers are also more likely to be fired from a job and have problems with co-workers. Although no medications are available to treat marijuana abuse, many rehabilitation centers have specific programs that deal with marijuana addiction. The majority of people addicted to marijuana are addicted to other illegal drugs and alcohol as well. Marijuana is referred to as the gateway drug, often leaving a person with the desire to try other illegal drugs which give them an even more intense high.