Risks Connected with Marijuana Abuse

Following the thread of our last post, we stated that marijuana has two main chemical compounds – the THC, psychoactive, and the CBD, non-psychoactive.

We have also talked about Cannabis and its most common uses – recreational, for the THC; medical, for the CBD; and industrial, as seen in the hemp.

Recreational Use – How Does It Influence Us?

Let’s focus, then, on the recreational use of the plant. As we previously stated, cannabis is a two-edged sword that can make you feel euphoric or relaxed, depending on the concentration of its components. The THC, for example, can be found in ascending order of concentration from marijuana or “weed” (1-5%), hashish (6-10%) and cannabis oil (>50%).

You can use the drug by:

  • oral ingestion (slower absorption)
  • inhaling it (the joint, the most common form of use)
  • intravenous (very rare).

When absorbed, it rapidly distributes itself through the bloodstream, being metabolized and broken in the liver. Once in the bloodstream, it eventually reaches the brain provoking a cerebral response by the cannabinoid receptors, acting as a neuromodulator which activates, for instance, the dopaminergic function. Pure science.

The Risks of Cannabis Consumption

With this being said, besides the casual “high” and medical usage, there are some problems related to the cannabis use. The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) distinguishes cannabis as a psychoactive substance associated with abuse and dependence.

But why? What does it cause?

  • Acute intoxication: depending on the doses, route of administration and context of consumption, it can induce a state of the previously mentioned relaxation or mild euphoria, with the increase of sociability and changes on the way one perceives the environment.
    In fact, there are studies which examine the relations between marijuana use and anxiety or panic attacks for a predisposed cohort, causing depersonalization (frequent) or even other psychiatric conditions as delirious / paranoid ideation (which is rare).
    The immediate physical effects are the conjunctival hyperemia – typical red eyes, accompanied by tachycardia – fast heart rate (>100bpm), and anticholinergic effects such as xerostomia – dry mouth.
  • Chronic use: marijuana is classically associated with the amotivational syndrome, leading to lack of motivation and detachment, which is similar to the depression without its affective component.
    Although this concept is controversial, this is the medical term for the typical “potheads” – however, it is not exclusive to the marijuana usage and can refer to other substances.
    Moreover, it is common to see marijuana linked to exacerbations of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia across medical literature.

To OD or Not to OD, That Is the Question

Ok, we understood the risks associated with the usage of the drug – but can I suffer a marijuana overdose? Not really.

Overdosing is the concept which describes the toxic effect that an excessive dose of a drug can produce. You usually associate overdosing with death, but not all those who overdose die. The question is that every single substance is toxic from a determinate dose onwards.

You can even overdose from water by drinking it to the point it totally deregulates intracranial pressure – it’s called water toxemia, and it is provoked by sodium and other electrolytes.

This is, obviously, very exceptional. And according to David Schmader, author of the book “Weed” – yeah, sounds suspicious, I know – you would have to smoke 680 kg of your regular cannabis in less than 15 minutes in order for it to kill you from overdose – not your regular ounce, though.

Can I Get Addicted to It, Though?

Minding the addiction to cannabis, there has been reported an abstinence syndrome associated with it, although it is light and not very specific.

There are certain diagnostic criteria you have to fulfill in order to be diagnosed with the syndrome, but we will not go further into this.

According to medical literature, it is yet unknown the exact amount, duration and frequency of cannabis smoking needed to produce an abstinence symptom once you drop your usage.

The symptoms are anorexia, craving and sleep disorder, and they usually begin in 24-72h and the peak is reached at the first week, with its duration being 1-2 weeks in total. On the other hand, insomnia can last for a whole month in some cases.

To conclude, take your precautions. Although not as toxic as other hallucinogenic drugs, stimulants, opioids and so on, marijuana usage must be conscious, and you must take the dark side of it into consideration.

See you next time!