The effect of drugs can be harmful to the body. They can damage nerves that are used for thinking. According to the 'Nation Institutes of Health' (NIH), cannabis is one of the most popular used drugs in America ranking third after tobacco and alcohol. Marijuana (the most common form used in America), is made of the dried leaves and flowers of the female cannabis sativa plant, and looks like oregano. It is usually smoked in a pipe or in hand-rolled cigarettes. Hashish (hash) is a dried-caked resin from the flowers and leaves of the plant.

It is sold in chunks and cubes, and its color range from light brown to black. Hashish is often blended with tobacco and smoked. It is more potent than marijuana because it contains a higher concentration THC (abbreviation for delta-nine-tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in all cannabis preparations (NIH). The more THC cannabis contains, the stronger it is.

The existance of the plant has been reported as early as 1500-1200 B.C. in China. Since then, an overwhelming number of studies have attempted to explain the physical and psychological effects of cannabis on humans. According to 'The National Clearinghouse,' (NCH), the effects of cannabis are similar to alcohol intoxication. Small amounts can make you relaxed and generally less inhibited. Some users say that it enhances the experiences of music, food and sex. Logical thinking tends to be slowed, but cannabis smokers often believe that their minds are flitting from thought to thought with great speed (NIH).

Intoxication is more intense during the first hour after smoking, although the drug's effects may persist for three to five hours, depending mainly on the dose. According to ' CESAR,' regular users often develop a psychological dependence on cannabis. They have a strong desire to continue its use, to get through the day. Without the drug, they can feel anxious, or panicky. Some heavy users of cannabis experience physical dependence. Their bodies become use to the drugs.

When they do not have the drug, they may go into withdrawal. Symptoms include sleeping problems, anxiety, sweating, and loss of appetite and upset stomach. Although most symptoms usually disappear within a few days, sleep disturbances may last longer. Regular use may cause a general loss of interest, motivation, memory and concentration. The user may also show a lack of concern for the future, and have problems with abstract thinking.

These effects may be harmful for young people, who are still making choices about the future. Once a person stops using cannabis, symptoms tend to disappear gradually, but problems with concentration and memory can persist (NIH). Studies have shown that long term use of the drug causes a structural change in the brain, depresses sperm count in males, causes chromosome damage, lowers testosterone levels, and damages the lungs. Most of these claims however have been un replicated in humans or have been contradicted by other works. The most serious physical danger of using cannabis is in smoking it. When smoking marijuana, the tar is stronger than tobacco brands.

The tar from cannabis has larger amounts of certain known cancer-causing substances. In Middle Eastern countries, it has been consumed through teas and food for centuries, avoiding the carcinogenicity of smoke altogether. Two or three marijuana joints per day may carry the same risk of lung damage as smoking an pack of cigarettes (NIH). Despitecannibis' known negative effects to lung function it has never been known to cause one of lung cancer. Tobacco, though, is expected to kill 400,000 people this year. If cannabis is so much more dangerous to a user's lungs than tobacco and is so much more carcinogenic, why aren't there stacks of reports of cannabis-induced lung cancer?

One interesting theory is that it's because tobacco tars are significantly radioactive, while marijuana tars aren't a tall... Cannabis has also been known for its many therapeutic uses, including the treatment of open angle glaucoma, asthma, and the nausea associated with chemotherapy. It has also been described as a tumor retardant, an antibiotic, a sleep-inducer, and a muscle relaxant. Heavy use of cannabis may also affect the body's immune system, which protects the body from disease. Overtime heavy users also may experience bronchitis, asthma and chronic irritation of the membranes of the nose and throat. Studies have found a decrease in the sex drive of heavy users (NIH).

Some scientists believe cannabis interferes with the normal sexual hormone actions in males, but its effect on human fertility our still unknown. When women smoke cannabis during pregnancy, a greater risk of low birth weight is found. The babies may also have tremors, changes in visual response, or startle easily (NCH). More research is needed on these drugs since over 49% of our teens have experimented with it in the past (NCH). Some people may argue that cannabis is less harmful then alcohol and other legal drugs, this may or may not be true. But, regular users often develop a psychological dependence...

Bibliography

Nation Institutes of Health. ' Marijuana. Home page. U S Department of Health. 4 March 1999.
web Marijuana. Home page. National Clearinghouse on Alcohol and Drug information. Nov. 1998.
web 'Cesar. ' Substance abuse. Home page. University of Maryland College Park. Sept. 25 1998.