Wednesday, January 23, 2013


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A drug is described by Webster’s New World Dictionary as “any chemical agent that effects body processes.” Is marijuana good or bad? Does it have more positive short-term effects than bad? What about the long-term effects? Is there really something that smokers have to be in fear of? By examining both sides of this controversy, we can decide if marijuana has more positive or negative effects.

Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried shredded flowers and leaves of “cannabis sativa,” or more simply, the hemp plant. Marijuana is a mood altering or “psychoactive” drug, it is also known as weed, trees, pot and many more nicknames (Comptons).

Marijuana itself comes from the Indian hemp plant. It is the third most widely used drug in the United States. And according to a survey taken in 188, and it is the number one illegally used drug in the United States. Marijuana is so popular that an estimated one out of every three people in the US has tried it and around 44% of US high school students have smoked it. Marijuana users are not easily detected. It is a drug used in all areas of society. The Indian hemp plant is found all over the world, including the US. There are three different types of Indian hemp, “Cannabis Sativa,” which is the most widely used and grown type of marijuana (Wu, TC).

Marijuana can be taken in three ways eating it, drinking it by making it into a tea, or the most popular way of smoking it. Sometimes, when potential smokers cannot bear the inhale of the smoke into their lungs, they will eat it, chewing it up, so it get diffused into their bloodstream, or make it into a tea, for the same reason. Smoking can be done two ways using a pipe, or by one of two cigarettes called a “joint” or a “blunt”. A joint is a rolled piece of paper that is twisted at the ends. A blunt is normally an emptied cigar wrapper filled with marijuana. In a blunt you can fit much more marijuana. Though a blunt isn't always purely marijuana, it can be mixed with other drugs such as angel dust.

Marijuana has different effects on people, and certain types of cannabis can cause different effects in the same person. The amount of “THC” (delta-tetrahydrocannabinol) may also change the reaction. THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana, lingers in the body for a long time. Four days after a joint is smoked, 0% of the THC is still in the body’s fatty tissues. In some cases THC is prescribed for treatment of vomiting and as an appetite stimulant under the alias of “marinol.” Combining alcohol or other drugs with marijuana can intensify the reaction. A first time marijuana smoker will usually feel no effects while a chronic or heavy user will get a “high.” This is because the user’s body does not already have marijuana in their system, so their body is not used to the reaction, so it might resist. When marijuana has been in your system a couple of times, the brain does not resist it, allowing the mind-altering effects to take place.

The effects of being high peak within seventy minutes of the first inhale. Within two to three hours, the effects will die down and the person will feel sleepy. When a person is high, normal sight sounds, tastes, or events can seem very funny or interesting. Some users believe they see and hear things more clearly while they are high. When intoxicated, time seems to pass a lot slower. To the user, minutes will seem like hours. The intoxicated person may get very thirsty or hungry, a common effect called the munchies. A few minutes after the person inhales they will probably get a dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, decreased reaction time, and also a loss of coordination. The blood vessels in the users eyes will probably enlarge, giving the person a “blood shot” appearance. Some users believe it enhances sexual relations (Mathew, RJ).

There are many ways that marijuana can harm the body, both the immediate and long-term negative effects. Some short-term effects are that it often disables the users short-term memory and may cause trouble with challenging tasks. Even very simple tasks can become a struggle for someone who is high. A student that is under the influence of marijuana may find it hard to learn or concentrate. 

Judgement helps make marijuana the leading cause of automobile fatalities. Timing and coordination are normally delayed by marijuana. As a result, users are often very confused and useless. The effect marijuana can have on the brain and central nervous system is very serious. Smoking marijuana reduces the strength and speed of communications between the mind and body. This occurs in the brain and muscles, causing the user to not be as focused (Wynder, Ernst L).

Short-term marijuana use leads to a drowsiness and relaxing effect. This is why marijuana users have trouble remembering things. A heavy dose of marijuana can decrease the amount of blood pumped into the brain. Marijuana affects the brains control over muscles also. Heavy usage of marijuana can have a lasting effect on the users short-term memory. The blood flow to the back of the brain is greater than the front, after smoking. This is believed to cause the high sensation the user is after. The short-term effect of marijuana will increase blood pressure and pulse rate up to 16 points above normal. It will also slow down the digestive processing of food. People who smoke marijuana often will have a below normal pulse rate and blood pressure. A chronic user may experience dizziness or even faint. A user may not even need to be high to experience that, if the person stands up quickly they may faint (Mathew, RJ). Marijuana reduces mobility of sperm in males. It increases the production of abnormal sperm. Female marijuana users have three times as many defective monthly cycles.

A well-known and common effect is blood shot eyes, though this effect wears off quickly. During the time when the user is high they will have an increased heart rate 50% above normal. The amount the heart rate increases depends on the amount of marijuana that was smoked (Mathew, RJ). This will make exercise and other activities seem a lot harder. The effect could be extremely dangerous for a person with a congestive heart or with an irregular heartbeat. A chronic smoker will have a decreased heart rate, often below normal. The immediate effect of smoking marijuana on the lungs is a brief opening of the bronchial tubes. That is why marijuana has been tested for possible medical uses (Wyander, Ernst). It was not approved because there is a rebound reaction, which closes up the users airways. Marijuana also irritates lung tissue.

The long-term effect of smoking marijuana regularly is close to the effects of a tobacco cigarette smoker, but marijuana is more damaging to the lungs than cigarettes. Though the amount of tobacco consumed by the cigarette smoker is a lot higher than the amount of marijuana a chronic smoker will inhale, the harmful ingredients in marijuana are a lot higher than the amount in tobacco, causing a similar effect on the lungs (The Book of Health). Marijuana smoke in the lungs will kill cilia. Cilia moves mucous, dirt and other particles out of the lungs. Also the, “heavy usage will decrease your lungs defense against bacterial and fungal infections”. It does significant damage to the immune system, and it cans causes early onset of cancer of the head, neck, esophogus, and lungs. The damage to the immune system can cause the user to get pneumonia or a chest cold, etc. (Jaffe, Jerome H).

In an ironic situation, people who use marijuana for medicinal purposes are causing more harm to themselves than the good that they are supposed to be doing. Although some HIV-positive and AIDS patients use marijuana to manage their illnesses, studies show that marijuana can act as a catalyst in accelerating HIV to full-blown AIDS. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, marijuana use has been found to be a significant risk factor for rapid progression from HIV infection to AIDS and acquisition of opportunistic infections and/or Kaposis sarcoma (Tashkin). The negative effects of marijuana are greater for an individual infected with HIV/AIDS than the average, infection-free person because HIV and AIDS weaken the body's immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight diseases, including those that may originate with marijuana use like lung cancer.

Marijuana is considered to be a gateway drug. This means marijuana users tend to move on to more harmful drugs such as cocaine, heroin or LSD. However, there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana causes the use of more potent substances. When marijuana is combined with other drugs such as alcohol, the effects of each are compounded and become several times more harmful. While marijuana may not be physically addictive, regular users can develop a psychological dependence. Those who are psychologically dependent have difficulty limiting their use of the drug and can experience side effects such as insomnia and irritability when denied access to marijuana (Narconon Southern California, Inc).

Marijuana is very harmful yet very widespread. It causes structural damages in brain cells, and has been found to cause brain damage, mental illness, memory impairment and behavioral abnormalities. It is an illegal drug that can harm almost every vital part of your body. It can make your memory vanish and causes your heart rate to slow. You could develop lung cancer or a dangerously low blood pressure (Klein, TW). This drug is not deadly, but close to it. It causes Americans everyday suffering just for those few minutes or hours of a good feeling. With all of these negatives outweighing the few minutes of a high feeling, you may be asking yourself why anyone would do it. Even with all of the negative effects known, people continue to use marijuana for those few minutes of an escape from reality.

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