Marijuana

What is Marijuana?

Also known as Cannabis, Marijuana comes from the preparation of the plant called Cannabis [1]. Its preparation contains the mixture of the flowers, leaves, stems, as well as the seed of the plant.

When it is in its more concentrated and resinous form, it is referred to as hashish. This has a sticky black oil appearance.

The main component of Marijuana which causes mind alteration is the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) [2]. Other than THC, Marijuana contains other 483 compounds. 84 in these compounds include cannabinoids like cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabidiol (CBD), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) [1].

Marijuana is found to have originated in Central Asia but nowadays it can be grown anywhere in the world.

In the United States, it is considered to be a substance classified as a Schedule I agent. This means that it is included in the list of drugs which are known to have potential for abuse and has no proven medical use [3]. Though the use of marijuana is prohibited, it still ranks high as one of the most common illicit drugs abused in United States [2].

Uses of Medical Marijuana

The use of marijuana to treat medical conditions has been a big controversy over the years. Though there are many people who have suggested its legalization for medical use, still, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve. This is due to the fact that Marijuana has more potential harms caused than its benefits when it is taken [4].

Also, another reason why it still cannot be FDA-approved is the fact that it needs to be in the form of one unit such as a pill or injection. This should be done to help the doctors know about the frequency and dose. This given instance is contraindicated with the fact that the marijuana plant has numerous chemical compounds that may cause different effects to the people. Therefore, its medical use is hard to evaluate [2].

Though that’s the case, the drugs which have components of THC are FDA-approved. In the previous controlled clinical trials, it was discovered that THC-based medications have a therapeutic effect for nausea experienced by patients undergoing chemotherapy and increasing the appetite of the patients with wasting syndrome in AIDS [4].

Other possible medical uses for marijuana are:

  • Alleviating cancer symptoms: In a study conducted by New England Journal Medicine, out of 1,446 doctors surveyed, 76% of them agree with the use of marijuana to alleviate cancer symptoms. Though three fourths of the doctors would agree with its medical use, there are still a lot of factors to be considered.
  • Symptom management of Multiple Sclerosis: Studies regarding the effects of marijuana to symptom management of MS varies. Most medical professionals consider these studies as biased. There are some patients who would say that the marijuana use has improved their symptoms but it cannot be proven objectively. Some of the symptoms that are reportedly relieved with marijuana are tremors and spasticity.
  • Treatment for Glaucoma: In a study dated back to 1970s, it was shown that marijuana, whether smoked, injected, or orally taken can lower intraocular pressure. In treating glaucoma, it is known that the only treatment for the condition is lowering the intraocular pressure. 
  • Epilepsy treatment: Marijuana contents have been previously used to stop convulsions in Epilepsy.
  • Relieving dysmenorrhea or menstrual pain [4, 6, 7]

Effects of Marijuana

When an individual smokes or ingests marijuana, its chemical contents, such as THC, circulates throughout the body. THC and other components of marijuana can reach the brain within seconds of inhaling or ingesting it [7]. THC is one of the marijuana contents that have mind-altering or psychoactive effects.

When the THC reaches the brain, it attaches itself to special proteins called cannabinoid receptors (CBR). The CBRs are involved in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a part of the brain that functions for communication. This portion of the brain can control memory, concentration, pleasure, thinking, coordination, movement, sensation, and time perception.  When these receptors in the ECS become overstimulated, it results to the feeling of being “high” [4].

The following are the effects of marijuana to the body:

1. Memory and Learning

  • Short-term memory loss: Hippocampus plays a vital role in the recall of short-term memory. When the marijuana enters the body and attaches itself to the CBRs located at the hippocampus, it results to deficits in having effective recall of the recent events. Thus, short-term memory loss occurs.
  • Impairment in learning and memory
  • Deficiencies with problem solving and thinking
  • Distortion in perception [7]

2. Coordination/Motor Problems

  • When the marijuana contents, especially THC, bind to the CBRs located at the cerebellum, it affects balance and coordination. Likewise when THC accumulates at the basal ganglia and attaches to the CBRs located there, it results to impaired motor coordination. [7]

3. Cardiovascular effects

  • Elevation of heart rate
  • Hypotension (Lowered Blood Pressure)
  • Marijuana abuse has been also linked with Heart attacks.  [1, 7]

4. Appetite

  • Enhanced appetite
  • Increased food consumption [1]

5. Long-term negative physiological effects

  • Pulmonary Disorders: Emphysema, Bronchial Asthma, Bronchitis
  • Impairments of the reproductive system
  • Addiction
  • Risk of psychosis [2, 7]

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person engages to long-term use of marijuana, several negative effects on that person’s health may occur. Long-term use of marijuana predisposes a person to have higher chances of obtaining cancer and other psychiatric disorders. Aside from that, problems such as cognitive deficits and memory loss may arise. [8]

For those who have used marijuana in a long period of time and decided to quit, several withdrawal symptoms appear [9]. Usually marijuana withdrawal occurs for 5-7 days. The condition depends on the person, the amount and duration of marijuana use. Just like in alcohol withdrawal, the first few days of marijuana withdrawal is the hardest. This is where the symptoms would be intense. Aside from that, this is when relapse among these individuals would be more likely to happen [10].

These are the marijuana withdrawal symptoms

1. Marijuana Craving

  • In people who have been smoking or ingesting marijuana, the hallmark sign that indicates addiction to a substance is the denial that they are addicted to it. Craving for marijuana is the most common symptom that occurs during the early stages of their marijuana abstinence.

2. Emotional/Mood Swings

  • The second most common symptom in withdrawal from marijuana is mood swings. The people who have stopped taking it would usually experience frequent changes of mood. It may be from euphoria, to anger, and depression. Other people report irritability and anxiety. These mood swings have been determined to disappear after 2-3 weeks but may also last up to 3 months.

3. Sleep Disturbances

  • Insomnia: It is also commonly experienced after avoiding marijuana use. This may occur in a few days and may extend to 2 weeks.
  • Vivid dreams and nightmares: Other former marijuana users say that they experience having vivid dreams as well as nightmares. These usually happen one week after quitting marijuana and for a month prior to tapering off.
  • Using dreams: Many previous marijuana users report of having “Using Dreams”. This refers to a dream wherein they smoke marijuana.

4. Headaches

  • The occurrence of headaches is not common to all individuals who stopped marijuana use. For those who experience having it, the headache is described to be intense which happens during the first three days following the day that they quit. Then, the headaches peak at 2 to 6 days after quitting. Then, after 2 weeks, the headaches start to fade away.

5. Other symptoms

  • Digestion/Nutritional problems: weight loss or weight gain, appetite changes, nausea, digestion problems
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of sense of humor
  • Sex drive: May be increased or decreased
  • Shaking and dizziness [11]

How long does marijuana (THC) stay in your system?

There is no exact answer to the question, “How long does marijuana (THC) stay in the system?” This is due to the fact that there are numerous factors which can influence the duration of the marijuana’s stay inside the body.

These factors include the overall health of the person, body fat composition, weight, metabolic rate, intake of fluids, drug used and the degree of exposure to that drug. Usually, after the ingestion or inhalation of marijuana, it can be detected by blood tests from 3 to 90 days.

Marijuana (THC) is taken through oral ingestion and inhalation. Most studies say that the components of the drug enter the blood stream seconds within its inhalation. As for ingestion, its components reach the blood stream within 30 minutes to 2 hours. After it has been circulated, the body absorbs it and stores it into the tissues, including liver, bladder, kidneys, and the brain. Since THC is fat soluble, the body tends to store it at the fatty tissues of certain organs at a slow pace. Then, when the by-products of THC have been produced, it will be released and cleared from the body.

The half-life of marijuana or THC in the body ranges to a period of 1 to 15 days. Half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of drug’s amount to be eliminated from the body.

So, all in all, it can be expected that the drug will stay in the body for 2 to 30 days. With regards to the amount of time that it will remain detectable by drug tests, this will be discussed on the following sections. [12]

How Come Marijuana Takes Longer To Leave The Body Than Other Drugs?

There are various reasons why marijuana takes so much time to be eliminated from the body. Again, it is influenced by many factors such as the weight of the person, type of drug used, degree of exposure, fat composition of the body, metabolic rate, and many more. [12]

The number one reason why marijuana stays long in the system is the fact that it is fat-soluble. This means that the components of marijuana, particularly the THC, bind with fatty tissues of various organs. These organs include liver, kidneys, bladder, and brain.

When the THC has been stored in the fatty tissues of certain organs, it will involve a slow paced release and metabolism by the body. After the release and metabolism of the THC components, the metabolites or the by-products will be eliminated from the body [12].

However, the release and elimination of THC from the body depends on the metabolism and weight of an individual. Metabolism varies from person to person. Also, when the person is heavier, it is more likely that he/she has more fats. So, the heavier a person is, the longer it will take the THC to be eliminated from the body [13].

Another reason why marijuana stays longer in the body than the other drugs is due to the reason that it is a natural substance. This means that the body doesn’t perceive it as a synthetic product that the body needs to get rid that fast. [12]

Lastly, the degree of exposure to marijuana determines how long it will stay inside the body. When an individual ingests or smokes it frequently, it will be difficult to eliminate it from the system [12]. Here are the different “half-time” (period that it takes for THC to be eliminated from the body) based on the frequency of smoking marijuana:

  • Constant Smoker: Lasting up to 90 days
  • Regular Smoker: Lasting up to 45 days 
  • Occasional Smoker: Lasting up to 10 days [14]

 

Marijuana Drug Test

In order to test a person for marijuana use, there are a total of four methods which can be used in detecting its presence. These four methods are divided into two categories.

First, these are the methods utilized to determine if a person is under the marijuana influence. Second, these are the methods used to test if an individual used marijuana in the past. [15]

1. Methods for determining if a person is under the marijuana influence

Saliva Test

  • This test is known to be the newest method for testing marijuana.
  • Its main purpose is to detect marijuana use within 24 hours.
  • This comes useful in investigating car or work-related accidents.

Blood Test

  • This is more widely used than saliva test.
  • It is also used for the same instances of accidents.
  • A person who has taken marijuana once will be positive for 6-24 hours after use. On the other hand, for people who have regularly used it, will be positive for 7 days from the point of use.

2. Methods to determine the use of marijuana in the past

Hair Test

  • This test is rarely used since it is too expensive and unreliable.
  • The hair sample used for this test includes hair on the scalp, legs, arms, and even pubic hair.
  • However, it is very useful for determining regular use of marijuana for months to years.
  • For an individual who is a heavy marijuana user many years ago but has not cut his/her hair, there is a possibility that the individual will fail the test.

Urine Analysis

  • This is considered as the most dependable and most popular method in detection of marijuana use.
  • It is done using a two-step method.
  • First, the subject is asked to pass a urine sample.
  • Then, it will be screened with the threshold sensitivity level of 50ng/mL of THC.
  • When the urine is found to have more than 50ng/mL of THC, it will be tested again using the Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS). The threshold level set for this is 15 ng/mL. When the sample is more than this set threshold, the urine sample will be concluded as having a positive result. [15]

Drug Test Types and the Detection Times

1. Saliva Test: The result will be positive if marijuana is used within an hour up to 12 hours after the last use.

2. Hair Test: When this test is used, THC will be detected within 7 days after  use. Also, most of  the hair drug tests nowadays covers up to 90 days period.

3. Blood Test: For individuals who used marijuana once, intoxication from marijuana can be detected from 6 to 24 hours. As for those who regularly use it, the test may be positive up to a period of 7 days.

4. Urine Test: When using Urine Drug Test, THC may be detected within 2-5 hours after use. The results of the urine test vary with factors such as weight, body fat, and frequency of use.

  • For Single Marijuana Users: (+) for 1-6 days
  • For Moderate Marijuana Users: (+) for 7-13 days
  • For Frequent Marijuana Users: (+) for 15 or more days
  • For Heavy Marijuana Users: (+) for 30 days and beyond
  • For Some Heavy Marijuana Smokers: (+) for 45-90 days [15] and [16]

How to Pass a Marijuana Drug Test?

Unfortunately, though many websites and magazines suggest various ways of passing a marijuana drug test, it seems unlikely to happen. Most of those tips can be said to be urban legends. The examples of the tips that are “believed” by many people to help in passing a Marijuana drug test include:

1. Washing/Cleaning

  • This method involves increased fluid intake to urinate frequently. Most people advise this to dilute the urine and lower the amount of THC detected in it. Though that’s the case, drinking too much water or any other fluid will not totally eliminate the THC metabolites since they are attached to the fatty tissues of the body.

2. Utilizing Drug Screening Agents

  • Many companies offer different teas and supplements which claim to clean and detoxify the body from traces of marijuana. The truth is, there is little evidence that these agents will work effectively.

3. Tampering the test sample

  • This method involves the use of agents such as bleach, salt, detergent, or Visine to the urine Sample. Doing this is risky because those added agents to the urine sample may be detected by the lab technicians. [17]

Marijuana Pictures

marijuana (THC)  pictures

Picture 1 : Marijuana plant pictures

Source: breakthematrix.com

Marijuana-Uses

Picture 2 :  Marijuana uses

Source: herbalmission.org

 

Marijuana-Effects

Picture 3: Marijuana effects

Source: montereybayholistic.wordpress.com

Points to Consider

 

Marijuana is one of the top illicit drugs worldwide. Its legalization has become a controversial topic over the years that have passed.

Though many claim that its use is harmless, long-term marijuana use can result to various dangerous effects to the body. It may cause diseases such as cancer, respiratory disease, and heart attack.

Also, FDA has not approved its use since there are just a few numbers of studies about its medical benefits. Though there are the determined medical benefits of marijuana, it still does not outweigh the risks that come with its use.

Many people have become addicted to the “high” feeling that marijuana gives off. Some people even say that they just use it recreationally. Even if that is the case, make sure to consider the benefits versus the risks. After all, it’s your health that is gambled with each use of this drug.

References:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_(drug)

2. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

3.http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional/page2

4. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_137301.html

5. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/treatments/complementary–alternative-medicine/marijuana/index.aspx#

6. http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/medical-marijuana-glaucoma-treament.cfm

7. http://science.howstuffworks.com/marijuana3.htm

8. http://recoveringaddict.hubpages.com/hub/Marijuana-withdrawal-symptoms-Insomnia–anxiety–iritability–headache

9. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-different-marijuana-withdrawal-symptoms.htm

10. http://www.michaelshouse.com/marijuana-rehab/marijuana-withdrawal/

11. http://alcoholism.about.com/od/pot/a/Marijuana-Withdrawal-Symptoms.htm

12.http://www.helium.com/items/694423-how-long-does-marijuana-thc-stay-in-your-body?page=2

13. http://mbdetox.com/blog/uncategorized/why-does-marijuana-stay-in-your-system-so-long/

14. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/how-long-does-weed-stay-in-your-system.html

15. http://www.thccalc.com/how-long-does-marijuana-stay-in-your-system.html

16. http://www.theweedblog.com/how-long-does-marijuana-stay-in-your-system-infographic/

17. http://alcoholism.about.com/od/pot/a/marijuana_test.htm

 

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