The term “cannabis” includes all the substances psychoactive that are obtained from the cannabis sativa, or better, by the female inflorescence of this plant. This term contains about 60 active compounds of which the most important are: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the primary active ingredient, cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN).
Derivations of cannabis are the most difuse and widely used of the illegal drugs.
Hash: Hashish consists mainly of the resin produced from inflorescence, however other parts of the plant can also be used in its production, flowers and leaves.
Marijuana: Consists of dried leaves, flowers and stems
Hash-oil: The oil is obtained by extraction via organic solvents. It’s a viscous liquid, similar to tar, with a high THC content (10-30% and, in some cases, up to 60%).
There are many names and it depends on your location in the world. Here is a list of some of the names used: maria, erba, Hash, grass, shit, hemp, bhang, weed, Mary Jane, tea, Acapulco gold, pot, joint sticks, charas, ganja, kif, etc. etc.
Hash and Marijuana are usually smoked with tobacco in the form of a rolled cigarette (joint, blunt) or in special pipes
Moderate euphoria and a sense of “peace” are the primary effects of these substances. The collateral may consist of drowsiness, loss of hearing, changes in perception of space and time (driving under the effects of cannabis is extremely dangerous), agitation, irritation, mood swings, conjunctivitis, mydriosis (dilated pupils). There are also documented cardiovascular effects such as tachycardia and changes in blood pressure .
The state induced by the consumption of cannabis, varies greatly with the personality of the consumer, their psychological state, external conditions and the amount of THC consumed. Because of these variabilities cannabis can cause different effects even within the same individual and there for, the physical and emotional states are difficult to predict
Cannabis has a very low “direct” toxicity. There are no documented cases of people dying directly from the use of cannabis. However there are many deaths by way of accidents (car, at work, etc) related to the use of cannabis.
Cannabinoids, Mechanism of Action
Once absorbed, the THC distributes itself into the various organs of the body, especially those with a high concentration of fat. THC is also absorbed quickly in the brain; the blood brain barrier does not slow or stop its passage.
Beccause of this ability to diffuse itself into the fats, THC accumulates in the body, and its presence can be detected up to a month after the last dose.
The use of cannabinoids with radioactive markers has disclosed the existance of “selective” sites binding to the cannabinoid. Its also shown that these receptors moderate all of the behavioural and pharmacological effects of cannabinoids.The highest density of these receptors has been found in the basal ganglia and cerabellum (responsible for the time and space orientation of the individual). Levels of a miner density have been found in the brainstem, hypothalamus and corpus callosum. there are also low levels of recptors in other parts of the brain.
These receptors high density in the extrapyramidal motor system and cerebellum explains the effects cannabinoids have on motor function. The effects on cognition and memory could be due to the presence of receptors in the hippocampus and cortex. The discovery of receptors in the ventromedial striatum and nucleus accumbens suggests that there is a relationship with the dopaminergic neurons, and thus with the process of cerebral gratification.
Pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids
When the drug is smoked, the level of THC reaches its peak within 15-20 minutes. The max “high” you obtain in about 15-30 minutes. After which the period of euphoria slowly decreases for a period of 3-4 hours, even so the levels of THC diminish rapidly. Generally, when the effects where off, it is followed by a great desire to eat food that is high in calories.
The THC is almost completly metabolised into an active product (11-hydroxy-delta-9-THC) that is converted into an inactive metabalite, and then expelled from the body.
After the initial intoxication period, the levels of THC diminish rapidly, in about an hour, to a base level. however due to the extraordinary soluabilty of THC, it remains in the high fat areas of the body for several days. The metabalism of THC is quite slow; generally considered to be about 30 days, although some sources indicate a much smaller time period (about 4 days).
THC, therefore, persists in the body for several days or even weeks. This slow elimination tends to intensify the effect of cannabinoids smoked successively, this may partially explain why those who use marijuana more often tend to get “high” faster, easier and using less than those who use intermittently.
Recent studies have shown that cannabis is not as innocuas as previously thought.
The abuse of cannabis leads to a psychological dependence accompanied by a “change” in personality, loss of contact with reality and self denial.
Various studies both American and European have revealed several dangers: cromosomal damage, disruption to the hormonal balance (possible impotence, temporary sterility and the development of breasts in men)and metabolic hormones, damage to the lungs and respiratory system.
Last but not least, there is the possibilty of long term cerebral damage due to the fact that THC remains in the brain for a long time.