In November 2018, the government will introduce an update to the UK laws around medical cannabis prescription. The plans to allow specialist doctors to write prescriptions for cannabis projects are eagerly welcomed by campaigners. So with the drug firmly in the public eye, what do you need to know about cannabis?
Recreational cannabis: the basics
The most widely used illegal drug in the UK, you may hear cannabis referred to as weed, dope, grass, pot or marijuana. The effects of the drug will vary from user to user, but most commonly people find that…
- They feel relaxed, content and chilled out
- They get the munchies, or suddenly feel hungry
- They feel as though time is moving more slowly
- Colours may appear brighter and music might sound better
- Some people get giggly or chatty.
More negative effects of cannabis use include:
- Feeling sick or light-headed if you aren’t used to it
- Having difficulty remembering things
- Finding it more difficult to drive safely
- It makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk or sinsemilla
- It can make you sleepy and lethargic.
Those who use cannabis often may begin to feel uninterested and unenthusiastic about the other parts of their life, such as work or hobbies. Using the drug over a long period of time can negatively impact your ability to concentrate or study.
What does cannabis look like?
Most cannabis you see will look like a green-brown, shredded mix of plant matter. However, it can come in a range of different forms.
- For smoking or vaping, weed will come as a flower or bud. This is the shredded plant matter mentioned above.
- Some cannabis users prefer their weed in edibles like chocolates, infused drinks, brownies or cookies.
- For dabbing (heating up on a hot surface), concentrated cannabis can be made into a wax or hash.
- Vapers can also use hash oil cartridges.
A variety of other weed-infused products such as lotions, creams and bath salts are also available.
Can I get addicted to cannabis?
Cannabis is not strictly speaking addictive, though some research has found that around 10% of those who use cannabis regularly will become dependent. Things like using it every day, or starting to smoke it as a teenager, can increase your risk of becoming dependent on cannabis. Just like other recreational drugs like heroin and alcohol, frequent users can develop a higher tolerance to cannabis, meaning they’ll need to use a higher amount to experience the same effects.
If you stop using cannabis, you may experience symptoms like insomnia, irritability, restlessness, mood swings and cravings. Further negative effects may be experienced if you combine your cannabis with tobacco.
Legal highs were banned in the UK some years ago, but synthetic cannabinoids are still in common usage throughout the country. Although it contains some of the compounds found in cannabis, synthetic cannabis (often called Spice or Black Mamba) is not cannabis. Some people buy and use these synthetic drugs under the false impression that they are legal and therefore safe, but this is not the case. They’re incredibly dangerous and can be lethal.
Cannabis vs. marijuana
In most of the world – including the UK – the drug is known by its scientific name, cannabis. However, around a century ago, the term marijuana came into use in the United States. This was a result of anti-immigrant and anti-cannabis advocates who attempted to link recreational use of the drug with Mexican migrant workers.
Mental health and cannabis use
Psychotic illnesses are conditions characterised by delusions (believing things that aren’t true) and hallucinations (seeing, hearing or smelling things that aren’t really there). Your likelihood of developing psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia is increased if you use cannabis regularly. Other contributing factors include:
- Beginning to use cannabis at a young age
- Using cannabis over a long period of time
- Smoking stronger types, such as skunk.
Of course, these potential risk factors are more of an issue if you already have some risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a close relative who has the condition.
Medical cannabis is used to effectively treat some mental illnesses such as anxiety and PTSD. As with any other treatment, this doesn’t always work for every single patient, so it’s important that you talk to your doctor before trying this method. In those who already have schizophrenia, cannabis can increase the risk of a relapse and worsen any existing psychotic symptoms.
Cannabis: the risks
Using cannabis may damage your lungs. Bronchitis, a condition where the lining of the lungs becomes inflamed and irritated, is a common problem for those who smoke cannabis.
It’s not clear whether cannabis smoke will increase your risk of cancer, but like tobacco smoke it does contain a number of carcinogenic chemicals. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), lung cancer and other tobacco-related lung diseases are also an issue if you mix your cannabis with tobacco.
Using cannabis may affect your safety on the road. You’re more likely to get involved in an accident if you drive under the influence of cannabis. It is illegal to drive on illegal drugs, just like it’s illegal to drive when drunk.
One of the main active ingredients in cannabis, and the one you’ll need to pay attention to if you’re interested in medical cannabis, is cannabidiol or CBD. This chemical is the key to the plant’s potential therapeutic and medicinal effects. It’s important to note that CBD is not psychoactive – that is, it won’t get you high. It occurs in relatively high concentrations in most cannabis plants, so you can use the chemical on its own without experiencing any of the drug’s other effects.
Unlike THC (the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol) and other high-inducing compounds in drug forms of cannabis, CBD is legal in most places as it exists in a sort of legal grey-area. Much of the cannabis industry is now focused on producing cannabis strains that are rich in CBD because of its medical uses. You can find CBD in capsules, drops, sprays, concentrates, creams, gummies, vapes and many other forms.
Seizures, inflammation, tumours, pain and mood disorders have all been treated effectively by CBD. For those who use cannabis only recreationally, CBD serves to balance out the drug’s psychoactive compounds like THC, potentially smoothing out and counteracting the negative feelings that might come with a high.
|For more information about cannabis, check out The Essential Guide to Cannabis from Need2Know Books, which gives in-depth information on buying cannabis, growing cannabis and cannabis as a medicine.
Author: Need2Know Books.