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Understanding Marijuana Addiction

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Also called weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, and a vast number of other slang terms—is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa. The main psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical in marijuana, responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that people seek, is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol ). The plant also contains more than 500 other chemicals, including more than 100 compounds that are chemically related to THC, called cannabinoids.

Risks of Marijuana Use

Ongoing marijuana use has been linked to lung changes, memory loss, and a number of other health problems. When you smoke pot, THC and other chemicals travel from your bloodstream to your brain. THC causes the feel-good “high.”

Some of the other affects you may feel:

  • Trouble thinking and remembering
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth (cotton mouth)
  • Increased appetite (the “munchies”)
  • Fast heart rate
  • Slowed coordination

Marijuana Smoke: What’s in it?

Marijuana smoke contains about 60 chemicals and is also filled with many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke, including ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and formaldehyde. Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. Most people that use pot smoke it in a joint or water pipe, so they breathe the smoke straight into their lungs.

Marijuana effects on the Brain

Brain imaging scans of heavy marijuana smokers have revealed changes in blood flow to parts of the brain involved in memory and attention. Researchers have also noted differences in the size and shape of the thalamus, the part of the brain that’s involved in consciousness and information processing.

Other Health Effects

Marijuana can have effects beyond the lungs and brain. These include:

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