Sunday, 28 October 2012

Should Cannabis Be Legalised?

“I used to smoke marijuana. But I'll tell you something:
I would only smoke it in the late evening.
Oh, occasionally the early evening, but usually the late evening - or the mid-evening.
Just the early evening, midevening and late evening.
Occasionally, early afternoon, early midafternoon, or perhaps the late-midafternoon.
Oh, sometimes the early-mid-late-early morning. . . . But never at dusk.”
Steve Martin

Cannabis is a derivative of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa.  Cannabis contains a chemical called THC (Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol).  THC is a mind-altering drug.  People usually take it for the effects it has on their mood and their feelings.  THC is also a depressant drug, that is, it slows the brain down, particularly if taken in high doses.  It can give people hallucinations, make them feel sedated or sleepy or it can act as a stimulant.

Marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant.  It may range in colour from green to grey or brown. It may be fine like dried tea, or leafy.  Marijuana is usually smoked as a rolled cigarette, but it can be eaten if combined with food, most commonly cookies.  Other names for marijuana include dope, pot, grass, spliff, dak, buds, ganga, hooch, zol and weed.
Hashish, commonly referred to as hash, is made from the resin of the cannabis plant.  Hashish is often sold in hard cubes and may be brown to black in colour.  It is usually smoked with tobacco (rolled into a cigarette) but can be eaten as well.  Hashish is more potent or powerful in its effects than marijuana.
Hashish oil is a concentrated form of hashish.  It is very potent and small amounts can produce marked effects.  Marijuana, hashish and hashish oil are often taken through a pipe or bong which cools the smoke through water.  Sometimes hashish oil is taken by a process called spotting.  Spotting involves heating implements to combine with hashish to produce smoke - often cutlery knives are used on a stove.  Burnt tips of knives are usually a sign they have been used for this purpose.
How cannabis works
When smoked, cannabis is rapidly absorbed through the lungs into the blood, its level peaking in the blood about 30 minutes after being taken. However, cannabis is highly lipid soluble - that means it is attracted to fat cells. It is quickly taken from the blood and stored in fat cells. The THC is then released very slowly, and unevenly, back into the blood.
Different figures are sometimes quoted about how long THC can remain in the body's fat stores. The general answer is that it stays in the body for a very long period compared with other drugs, potentially for several months.
Effects of cannabis use
It is not possible to accurately summarise or predict the immediate effects of using cannabis because each person may experience individual and different effects.
These effects will depend on:
·         how much cannabis is taken, the way it is taken and the form in which it is taken
·         how strong it is
·         how experienced the user is
·         the general physical health of the user
·         the mental health of the user
·         the user's mood when they start taking the drug
·         the setting in which they take the drug
·         whether other drugs are taken as well.
Short-term effects
Although cannabis is a depressant or brain-slowing drug, people often say that being intoxicated (stoned, wasted, out of it) is a very stimulating experience.  The user feels very happy or high, loose or uninhibited.
Some people find that using cannabis is a negative experience.  They may feel anxious, self-conscious or have paranoid thoughts.  Some experience acute anxiety and panic.
People who are intoxicated on cannabis usually feel more sensitive to things around them and sensations can seem different. For example, time can seem to slow down, colours seem brighter and richer and new details and meanings can be seen in things.  People concentrate less well, often talk and laugh more than usual and can have problems with their balance.
If large doses of cannabis are taken, the resulting toxicity can cause symptoms of confusion, paranoia, panic attacks, hallucinations and feelings of unreality.  New users may also experience acute paranoid experiences which usually stop after intoxication wears off.
Cannabis also often impairs short-term memory and attention and makes it harder to complete complex tasks, especially tasks which involve doing several things at once.
Longer-term and chronic effects
A number of longer-term effects have been seen in people who use cannabis heavily. Some New Zealand researchers define heavy use as using 10 times or more in a 30-day period.   Heavy cannabis use effects can include the following.
·         An increased risk of developing cancer of the respiratory tract.  These risks are more likely to do with smoking as the method of taking cannabis, rather than the properties of the drug itself.
·         An adverse effect on people with pre-existing cardiovascular disease, since cannabis use significantly raises the heart rate.
·         A risk of developing chronic bronchitis, possibly irreversible obstructive lung disease, possibly lung cancer and cancers of the aero-digestive tract.
·         Heavy use of cannabis is sometimes associated with a reduction in energy and drive.  This has been referred to as "amotivation".  This problem is more likely to be an acute effect which will go away if cannabis use stops.  There is poor evidence of this syndrome existing even among heavy, long-term cannabis users.
·         Heavy cannabis use affects the ability to learn.  This is related to decreased concentration levels, reduced short-term memory and difficulties with thinking.  These problems go away if cannabis use stops.
·         Chronic, heavy cannabis use can reduce sex drive in some people.  It can lower sperm count in males and lead to irregular periods in females.  This problem goes away if cannabis use stops.
·         People can become dependent on cannabis.
·         Many people with mental health problems also use cannabis.  Generally, it is not a good drug for such people to use.  People with mental health problems need to try to keep their brain level or stable.  Cannabis excites and then slows the brain down.  In particular, it can make anyone who has ever been paranoid, more paranoid.
Signs and Symptoms of Cannabis or Marijuana Use:
If someone is intoxicated by Cannabis:
·         They may have balance problems and have trouble walking.
·         Their eyes may appear red and bloodshot and dilated pupils are common.
·         They may exhibit memory difficulties.  
·         The user can become hungry  -often referred to as getting the munchies
·         When the effects start to wear off they may become sleepy.

Getting hooked
As with other drugs, dependence on cannabis is influenced by a number of factors, including how long you’ve been using it, how much you use and whether you are more prone to becoming dependent. 
Compared to other widely used drugs like alcohol, tobacco and opiates, a smaller percentage of cannabis users become dependent.  Dependency is also less severe compared to many other legal and illegal drugs.  Adolescents are much more susceptible to marijuana dependence and to problems related to marijuana abuse than adults.  Researchers found that pot has a 9% addiction rate, which is low when compared with the legal substance of nicotine, which has a 32 % rate of addiction.  Heroin's addiction rate is 23 %, but the study found that about 10 % of pot smokers become daily users.
You may find you have difficulty stopping regular use, and you may experience psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms when you do stop.  Withdrawal symptoms can include cravings for cannabis, irritability, mood changes, appetite disturbance, weight loss, difficulty sleeping and, in some people, sweating, shaking and diarrhoea.
If you've only been using for a short while there should be no problem stopping, but after continued regular use of cannabis, stopping can become more difficult.  You’re also at risk of getting addicted to nicotine if you roll your spliffs with tobacco.
The active ingredient of cannabis, THC, is detectable in urine for typically 14 to 28 days for frequent use of the drug or around 5 days for a one-off use, at a cut-off level of 50 ng/ml.  The reason for this long retention time is that THC binds with the body's fat reserves - and leaches out over a number of days.  You will also undoubtedly have patients who claim that they are positive due to passive smoking.  Let us assure you that this is not the case.  The cut-off level of the test is set at a level much too high for passive smoking to affect the test results.
Check this world map for legal areas of cannabis use.

“Federal and state laws (should) be changed to no longer make it a crime
to possess marijuana for private use.”
Richard Nixon
What do you think?

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