Identifying Marijuana Abuse

man smoking marijuana

Most people know what marijuana looks like. It most often appears as a dry, shredded mix of flowers and leaves from a cannabis plant. The substance may be green or brown, or occasionally gray, have seeds in it, and sometimes appear to be soaked with oil. Hashish IS that oil. Most often, marijuana is smoked in a joint, a hand-rolled cigarette. It is also frequently smoked in a tall glass pipe called a bong, or any pipe. As discussed earlier, it can be added to foods or made into a tea.

A person using marijuana may leave behind rolling papers, small ends of burnt joints that can be smoked in a pipe or reassembled into a new joint, or glass or ceramic pipes coated with resin.

Some people partially hollow out a cigar and fill it with weed. They may feel they can smoke this cigar in public and not be detected. A marijuana-tobacco cigar is called a ’blunt,’ said to be because Phillies Blunt cigars were originally used. Swisher Sweets brand of small cigars is often used to make blunts, along with Garcia y Vega and White Owl cigars. This practice may have started being popular among the rap music crowd but it has spread much farther today.

To detect marijuana use in a family member, look for these signs

  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Laughter and glee when it is not warranted
  • Euphoria
  • Strongly increased appetite for snack foods or sweets
  • Foggy, slow memory
  • Artificially increased tendency to chatter or be sociable
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Impaired judgment
  • Dizziness
  • Sedation, slow movement
  • Lethargy, lack of activity
lethargic man after smoking marijuana

Effects on the Body

A marijuana smoker acts lethargic and may suffer lung irritation and bronchitis. The heart rate increases while blood vessels dilate, leading to lowered blood pressure. Continuous use may suppress the immune system, resulting in more frequent illnesses.

Other physical effects include:

  • Urinary retention
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness

Marijuana is generally less physically damaging than some other drugs, but it is very common for a person who starts abusing marijuana to progress on to the use of other drugs. Marijuana, alcohol, tobacco or prescription drugs, particularly pain relievers, are the first drugs used by most young people.

For physical effects of heavy use of high potency marijuana, please see next page.

Effects on the Mind

Marijuana creates its most damaging and dangerous effects on the mind.

During immediate use, marijuana relaxes inhibitions and causes an artificial sense of well-being that is completely unrelated to one’s surroundings or situation. A person may feel that he has a more vivid sense of taste, sight, smell, and hearing. He will probably be less in control of his own concentration or ability to form complete thoughts or express his ideas. He will be less able to absorb or retain information, which impedes his ability to learn, of course.

For the longer-term mental effects of heavy use of high potency marijuana, please see next page.

Effects on One’s Ability to Drive or Operate Machinery

Distorted vision while driving

A marijuana user’s perceptions of time and space are distorted, which can make a stoned person a dangerous driver. He will have difficulty solving problems such as those required by changes in traffic. He will lose some of his coordination. A heavy user may suffer a greater loss in his ability to focus his attention or shift his attention when required by changes in the environment, and in registering and using the information he receives such as a change in traffic lights. Reaction and decision times are lengthened and the stoned driver is normally less vigilant. These losses are the greatest in the few hours after marijuana use but residual effects are noted up to 24 hours later.

A stoned driver may be able to pull himself together for a short period but he is unlikely to be able to maintain this greater focus. Monotonous and prolonged driving will be the most greatly impacted by marijuana abuse.

The primary intoxicating ingredient of marijuana is tetra-hydro-cannabinol or THC. In Colorado, the State Senate set a standard of five nanograms (five billionths of a gram) of THC per milliliter of blood to constitute “impairment when driving.” This ruling is controversial and may be modified when more research is done on the subject. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration states that “…THC concentrations generally fall below five ng/mL less than 3 hours after smoking.” This means that someone driving within 3 hours of smoking pot would probably be legally “driving under the influence.”