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Home > Fitness & Health > Health Library > Marijuana
Marijuana, also called cannabis, is a drug that is made up of the leaves, flowers, and buds of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. It is often smoked in pipes or hand-rolled cigarettes. But it can also be vaporized, applied to the skin, cooked in food, or brewed into tea.
In the United States, it's against federal law to possess, sell, give away, or grow marijuana for any purpose. But many states have passed laws that allow people with certain health problems to buy or grow it for their own use. And some states allow people to use it for non-medical reasons. These laws vary from state to state. You can call your state department of health or health services to learn more about the laws in your state.
People often use marijuana for the way it makes them feel. Using it may make them:
But it may also cause unwanted side effects, such as:
The immediate effects of marijuana depend on the potency of its main active chemical, THC. THC affects areas of the brain that are involved in important functions such as memory, concentration, and coordination.
How quickly the effects start depends on several things, including how it was taken. When marijuana is smoked, the effects can usually be felt within seconds after inhaling. The effects last about 2 to 3 hours.
Marijuana is absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs of the body. THC usually can be detected in urine several days after marijuana has been smoked. If marijuana use is heavy, THC may be found in urine for weeks after use has stopped.
Long-term regular use of marijuana may cause problems such as:
Some people who regularly use marijuana may develop cannabis use disorder. This means that they keep using marijuana even though it's having harmful effects on their lives.
The risk of cannabis use disorder is higher in people who:
People who use marijuana often and then quit may have withdrawal symptoms. These include anxiety, trouble sleeping, and intense cravings for the drug.
Synthetic marijuana is made of dried plant material that is treated with chemicals that produce effects like marijuana's effects. It is sold in the form of incense under many names, such as K2 or Spice. The labels often claim that these products are "safe" or "natural." But in fact, the active chemicals are created in a lab. And they have not been tested for safety.
But young people often try these products because they are easy to buy and they may not be detected by drug tests.
People think that using these drugs will make them feel the same as when they use marijuana. But these drugs are stronger than marijuana. And the effects are hard to predict. That's because the type and strength of the chemicals used are often unknown. Some people have reported severe symptoms, such as:
Other Works Consulted
American Lung Association (2012). Health hazards of smoking marijuana. Available online: http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/about-smoking/health-effects/marijuana-smoke.html.
National Cancer Institute (2013). Cannabis and Cannabinoids PDQ – Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2012). DrugFacts: Marijuana. Available online: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2012). DrugFacts: Spice (Synthetic Marijuana). http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/spice-synthetic-marijuana. Accessed September 30, 2013.
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Patrice Burgess MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMichael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Patrice Burgess MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Michael F. Bierer MD - Internal Medicine, Addiction Medicine
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