Cannabis and cannabinoids use
Not so innocent hemp
Cannabis is the abbreviated name for Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis indica, traditionally identified as Indian hemp, has high content of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound, which produces the ‘high’. While most cannabis is used for fiber (hemp), the psychogenic effects of THC make it a well-known drug of abuse. Other commonly used names for cannabis are marijuana, Mary Jane, hash, hashish, grass, pot and weed. In India it is well known as bhang (dried leaves), charas (resinous extract) or ganja (flowering tops). The euphoric effects of cannabis have been known for thousands of years. Every part of the plant contains psychoactive substances.
Faces of the culprit
Usually the leaves of the plant are cut, dried, and rolled into cigarettes commonly smoked as joints. In parts of India, a special long tube coming from a burning roud chamber (hookah) is commonly used by people sitting in a group and inhaling from the mouth turn by turn; as is a common social ritual. A modification of the pipe is the ‘chillum’ frequently used for smoking ‘charas’. It is also taken orally in India during the festival of colors- ‘holi’, when it is consumed in a local sweet drink known as ‘thandai.’ Effects of oral consumption take longer to appear.
Smoking cannabis displays euphoric effects in minutes, peaking in 30 minutes, but effects may last 10 to 12 hours. Initial relaxation is followed by euphoria and increased appetite. Often it unravels introspection and metacognition, aiding people to believe they have been ‘enlightened’. Cannabis being fat soluble stays in the brain for 6 months after consumption.
Cannabis effects of which are influenced by the dose, potency, smoking technique, previous experience, expectations, the company in which it is consumed; as well as the individual vulnerability to cerebral effects of cannabis. Thus the effect of cannabis use can be highly unpredictable in different people as well as with the same person in different situations.
The euphoria experienced with cannabinoids use can lead to tremendous psychological dependence. Physical effects of cannabis are not very debilitating: mild increase in the pulse rate, redness of the eyes, dryness of the mouth and low blood pressure. Cough, bronchitis, bronchial asthma, bronchiectasis and lung cancer may occur owing to the inhalation of carcinogens along with the smoke. In select cases with innate vulnerability, cannabis can unmask anxiety neuroses and schizophrenia.
Not a blessing
The medicinal effects of cannabinoids have been recognized since the 19th and early 20th century. Recently the primary components have been tried in cancer patients to control the nausea and stimulate appetite. However, cannabis is a drug with tremendous dependence potential and its harmful effects must never be underestimated. We offer medical as well as psychotherapeutic management by following the disease model of addiction. This instills insight that helps fight dependence and promote drug free living. Substance dependence is an illness. People with diabetes, cancer and cardiac conditions do get understanding and sympathy from their loved ones; sadly this is not the case with cannabis. Here the best person who can help oneself is oneself. It makes sense to do it sooner than later.