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Facts about Drugs: Marijuana Consumption around the World!

Terminology

Cannabis is a generic term used to denote the several psychoactive preparations of the plant Cannabis sativa. The major psychoactive constituent in cannabis is ∆-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Compounds which are structurally similar to THC are referred to as cannabinoids. In addition, a number of recently identified compounds that differ structurally from cannabinoids nevertheless share many of their pharmacological properties. The Mexican term 'marijuana' is frequently used in referring to cannabis leaves or other crude plant material in many countries. The un-pollinated female plants are called hashish. Cannabis oil (hashish oil) is a concentrate of cannabinoids obtained by solvent extraction of the crude plant material or of the resin.

Epidemiology

Cannabis is by far the most widely cultivated, trafficked and abused illicit drug. Half of all drug seizures worldwide are cannabis seizures. The geographical spread of those seizures is also global, covering practically every country of the world. About 147 million people, 2.5% of the world population, consume cannabis (annual prevalence) compared with 0.2% consuming cocaine and 0.2% consuming opiates. In the present decade, cannabis abuse has grown more rapidly than cocaine and opiate abuse. The most rapid growth in cannabis abuse since the 1960s has been in developed countries in North America, Western Europe and Australia. Cannabis has become more closely linked to youth culture and the age of initiation is usually lower than for other drugs. An analysis of cannabis markets shows that low prices coincide with high levels of abuse, and vice versa. Cannabis appears to be price-inelastic in the short term, but fairly elastic over the longer term. Though the number of cannabis consumers is greater than Opiate and cocaine consumers, the lower prices of cannabis mean that, in economic terms, the cannabis market is much smaller than the opiate or cocaine market.

Acute Health Effects of Cannabis Use

The acute effects of cannabis use have been recognized for many years, and recent studies have confirmed and extended earlier findings. These may be summarized as follows:

  • Cannabis impairs cognitive development (capabilities of learning), including associative processes; free recall of previously learned items is often impaired when it is used both during learning and recall periods.
  • Cannabis impairs psychomotor performance in a wide variety of tasks, such as motor coordination, divided attention, and operative tasks of many types; human performance on complex machinery can be impaired for as long as 24 hours after smoking as little as 20 mg of THC in cannabis; there is an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents among persons who drive when intoxicated by cannabis.
  • The immediate effects of taking marijuana include rapid heart-beat, disorientation, and the lack of physical coordination, often followed by depression or sleepiness. Some users suffer panic attacks or anxiety, but the problem does not end there. According to scientific studies, the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, remains in the body for weeks or even months.
  • Marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke. One major research study reported that a single cannabis joint could cause as much damage to the lungs as up to five regular cigarettes smoked one after another. Long-time joint smokers often suffer from bronchitis, an inflammation of the respiratory tract.
  • The drug can affect more than your physical health. Studies in Australia in 2008 linked years of heavy marijuana use to brain abnormalities. This is backed up by earlier research on the long-term effects of marijuana, which indicate changes in the brain similar to those caused by long-term abuse of other major drugs. And a number of studies have shown a connection between continued marijuana use and psychosis.
  • Over the last 10 years many children of marijuana users have been born with reduced initiative and lessened abilities to concentrate and pursue life goals. Studies also suggest that prenatal (before birth) use of the drug may result in birth defects, mental abnormalities and increased risk of leukemia (cancer of the bone marrow) in children.
  • Even small amounts of marijuana can cause temporary sterility in men. Marijuana use can also disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle.
  • Studies show that the mental functions of people who have smoked a lot of marijuana tend to be diminished. The THC in cannabis disrupts nerve cells in the brain, affecting memory.

 

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