Physical and Pharmacological Ramifications of Marijuana

Cannabis is not only probably the most abused illicit drug in the United States (Gold, Frost-Pineda, & Jacobs, 2004; NIDA, 2010) it is in fact the most abused illegal drug worldwide (UNODC, 2010). In the usa it is just a schedule-I substance which means that it is legally regarded as having no medical use and it is highly addictive (US DEA, 2010). Doweiko (2009) explains that not absolutely all cannabis has abuse potential. He therefore suggests using the common terminology marijuana when discussing cannabis with abuse potential. With regard to clarity this terminology can be used in this paper aswell.

Today, marijuana is at the forefront of international controversy debating the appropriateness of its widespread illegal status. rove carts In many Union states it has become legalized for medical purposes. This trend is called “medical marijuana” and is strongly applauded by advocates while simultaneously loathed harshly by opponents (Dubner, 2007; Nakay, 2007; Van Tuyl, 2007). It is in this context that it had been decided to choose the topic of the physical and pharmacological ramifications of marijuana for the basis of the research article.

What is marijuana?
Marijuana is a plant more correctly called cannabis sativa. As stated, some cannabis sativa plants don’t have abuse potential and are called hemp. Hemp can be used widely for various fiber products including newspaper and artist’s canvas. Cannabis sativa with abuse potential is what we call marijuana (Doweiko, 2009). It really is interesting to notice that although widely studies for quite some time, there exists a lot that researchers still have no idea about marijuana. Neuroscientists and biologists know what the consequences of marijuana are but they still do not grasp why (Hazelden, 2005).

Deweiko (2009), Gold, Frost-Pineda, & Jacobs (2004) explain that of approximately 500 known chemicals found in the cannabis plants, researchers know of over sixty that are thought to have psychoactive effects on the human brain. The most popular and potent of these is ∆-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Like Hazelden (2005), Deweiko states that while we realize many of the neurophysical effects of THC, the reasons THC produces these effects are unclear.

Neurobiology:
As a psychoactive substance, THC directly affects the central nervous system (CNS). It affects an enormous range of neurotransmitters and catalyzes other biochemical and enzymatic activity aswell. The CNS is stimulated when the THC activates specific neuroreceptors in the mind evoking the various physical and emotional reactions that will be expounded on more specifically further on. The only real substances that can activate neurotransmitters are substances that mimic chemicals that the brain produces naturally. The point that THC stimulates brain function teaches scientists that the mind has natural cannabinoid receptors. It really is still unclear why humans have natural cannabinoid receptors and how they work (Hazelden, 2005; Martin, 2004). What we can say for certain is that marijuana will stimulate cannabinoid receptors up to twenty times more actively than the body’s natural neurotransmitters ever could (Doweiko, 2009).

Perhaps the biggest mystery of most may be the relationship between THC and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin receptors are being among the most stimulated by all psychoactive drugs, but most specifically alcohol and nicotine. Independent of marijuana’s relationship with the chemical, serotonin has already been a little understood neurochemical and its supposed neuroscientific roles of functioning and purpose remain mostly hypothetical (Schuckit & Tapert, 2004). What neuroscientists have found definitively is that marijuana smokers have high degrees of serotonin activity (Hazelden, 2005). I’d hypothesize that it might be this relationship between THC and serotonin that explains the “marijuana maintenance program” of achieving abstinence from alcohol and allows marijuana smokers to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms and prevent cravings from alcohol. The efficacy of “marijuana maintenance” for aiding alcohol abstinence isn’t scientific but is really a phenomenon I have personally witnessed with numerous clients.

Interestingly, marijuana mimics so many neurological reactions of other drugs that it is extremely difficult to classify in a specific class. Researchers will stick it in any of these categories: psychedelic; hallucinogen; or serotonin inhibitor. It has properties that mimic similar chemical responses as opioids. Other chemical responses mimic stimulants (Ashton, 2001; Gold, Frost-Pineda, & Jacobs, 2004). Hazelden (2005) classifies marijuana in its own special class – cannabinoids. The reason for this confusion may be the complexity of the numerous psychoactive properties found within marijuana, both known and unknown. One recent client I saw could not get over the visual distortions he suffered as a result of pervasive psychedelic use given that he was still smoking marijuana. This seemed to be because of the psychedelic properties found within active cannabis (Ashton, 2001). Although not stro

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