Marijuana: Things You Should Know.

By Kevin G. Ramos

Things you may not know.

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. Although the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I substance (having no medicinal uses and high risk for abuse), two states have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, and 21 states have passed laws allowing its use as a treatment for certain medical conditions. In 2012, THC concentrations in marijuana averaged close to 15 percent, compared to around 4 percent in the 1980s. THC-based drugs to treat pain and nausea are already FDA approved and prescribed. Unlike most foods or drinks, marijuana takes longer to absorb into the body.

What it can Do

Marijuana over activates the endocannabinoid system, causing the “high” and other effects that users experience. These effects include altered perceptions and mood, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory. Marijuana also affects brain development, and when it is used heavily by young people, its effects on thinking and memory may last a long time or even be permanent. And a large long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38. Importantly, the lost cognitive abilities were not fully restored in those who quit smoking marijuana as adults.