Cannabis or marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States and is widely used among teenagers and adolescents. Although there may be medicinal benefits for individuals with severe chronic disease, studies have shown that marijuana is a drug of addiction, tolerance and dependence. Cannabis is composed of two main ingredients: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, and cannabidiol, which is commonly known as CBD. THC is known to produce the mind-altering effects associated with “high” whereas CBD is known to produce the proposed medicinal effects associated with marijuana. Marijuana is often smoked however THC and CBD can be orally ingested or absorbed through the skin when these ingredients are infused into butter or oil. Cannabis use disorder has been published in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM5) and is defined by the recent use of cannabis, significantly problematic behavioral or psychological changes, and at least two of the following signs after ingestion: increased appetite, dry mouth, conjunctiva injection and increased heart rate.
Marijuana/cannabis use has been shown to cause acute intoxication as well as long-term side effects. Respiratory disease, developmental delays, mental health effects and psychological dependence are known to be long-term consequences associated with marijuana use. Irritants that are in marijuana smoke which are also contained in tobacco smoke can cause respiratory diseases such as chronic inflammation, asthma, lung infections and chronic cough. Mothers who use marijuana during pregnancy are putting their unborn children at risk of acquiring developmental and behavioral disorders. According to studies, the frontal lobe, which is responsible for executive functioning such as decision-making and learning, is not fully developed until approximately 23 years of age and therefore young children as well as adolescents are at risk for developing problems associated with executive functioning. Long-term marijuana use can decrease an individual’s performance on memory-related tasks and cause a decrease in motivation and interest in everyday activities. Marijuana is also known to intensify symptoms in users with schizophrenia. Similar to most other drugs of abuse, individuals who use marijuana for long periods of time can develop a dependence on it. Signs of dependence in a user include the need to use marijuana to cope with everyday tasks and the experience of cravings and anxiety when marijuana is not available.