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April 6, 2014 | by  | in Being Well Opinion | [ssba]

Being Well: Marijuana – Friend or Foe?

Grass. Pot. Weed. MJ. Dak. Hash. Smoke. Buds. Skunk. Ganja. Dope. Reefer.

  • Whatever you want to call it, cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in New Zealand.
  • Half of all 16–64-year-olds have tried it at least once.
  • Use is more common among 18–24-year-olds, and regular use is more common in men.

So why is it so popular, and is it safe?

Cannabis plants are the source of the compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The amount of THC in a plant will determine how strong the effect of the drug will be. Cannabis usually comes in one of three forms:

  • Marijuana – most common and least potent. This is the dried leaf and buds of the plant, and resembles dried herbs. It is smoked.

  • Hashish – the resin from the plant is dried and compressed into small blocks. Hash is more concentrated than marijuana, and is usually smoked, or added to baking.

  • Cannabis oil – this is the strongest form of cannabis. It is a thick oily liquid and is usually smoked.

When smoked or ingested, cannabis produces a sense of euphoria, relaxation and wellbeing. It is a depressant, which means it slows down messages between the brain and the body. The ‘high’ from smoking cannabis comes on within minutes, and can affect users for up to several hours later. Students report using cannabis as a way to reduce stress and tension associated with the demands of study, and to help them sleep better. Unfortunately, this type of ‘self-medicating’ comes with risks.

Although infrequent use is thought to be safe, regular use, especially in younger people, is potentially very hazardous.

In large quantities, cannabis can make users feel unwell, with symptoms including confusion, mild hallucinations, paranoia, impaired coordination (it is really important not to drive if you have been using), restlessness and low mood.

It is almost impossible to overdose on cannabis – it is possible to become dependent on it though, and struggle to stop using it. This can have a huge impact on your relationships and career.

Other harmful effects include:

  • Respiratory – smoking cannabis carries similar risks to your lungs as cigarette-smoking.

  • Motivation, focus and coordination can be impaired.

  • Cognition – regular cannabis use affects your ability to concentrate, learn, and remember facts.

  • Sexual health – regular use can adversely affect sex drive, sperm count and menstrual cycles.

  • Mental illness – potentially the most serious and harmful effect of cannabis. It is recognised that regular cannabis use, especially when younger than 15 years old, can lead to temporary psychotic illness. There are also fears that it can precipitate the onset of schizophrenia in susceptible individuals.

Support and information is available at Student Health.



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  1. Austine Fred says:

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