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Marijuana Marijuana
Much has been said about marijuana after it picked up popularity during the early seventies–the ‘Hippie’ era dubbed it the ‘Peace Weed’, thereby implying that this particular drug is perfectly safe to use. The hippies and their ‘Flower Power’ culture have died a quiet death, but marijuana remains popular nevertheless. In fact, it has evolved into something of a religion again–this time for the Carribean Rastafarians, with their reggae music and dreadlocks. And this time around, serious efforts towards actually legalising the use of marijuana.

A ‘Rose’ By Any Other Name
There has never been any dearth of slang–names for this deceptively ‘Mild’ drug, which is often claimed to be safer than alcohol and actually of authentic use in medicine. Grass, weed, reefer, Mary Jane and pot are some of the most commonly used ones; in India, it is more often than not called ‘Ganja’ or ‘Bhang’.

Marijuana comes in a variety of forms, but is ultimately sourced from the Cannabis sativa hemp–plant. A stronger form, extracted from this plant as a far more potent variation, is ‘Hashish’–a fragrant black substance many times more powerful than the plant itself. An even stronger version, ‘Hash’ oil, is derived from it. Naturally, this is a far more intoxicating substance that costs its user a pretty penny.

Basically, marijuana is a green or brownish plant that is sun dried on reaching final maturity. The dried leaves contain seeds and stems that are removed before use. The active ingredient in the Cannabis sativa plant is d–9–tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The drug’s level of effect on its user depends on the amount of THC contained in it. Marijuana is often carefully cultivated to enhance the level of this chemical in it.

Marijuana is commonly ridden of the seeds and stems it contains, mixed with a certain amount of regular tobacco, and smoked in empty cigarette–hulls, pipe– like contraptions called ‘Chillums’ and in bongs or ‘Hukkas’. It is also pounded into dust and included into cannabis cookies or ‘Bhang’ and ingested orally.

This is where the unpredictability of marijuana makes itself felt. It is a mild hallucinogen that can produce either euphoria or panic–attacks. A lot depends on what the venue and circumstances prevalent there during its use are. Many users say that it helps them to find new and unsuspected dimensions to music while completely messing up the ability to concentrate on the simplest written words. It is also claimed to enhance the enjoyment of sex and inducing fits of inexplicable hilarity. The most common effects perceived are sudden hunger for sweets and an extremely frightening feeling of paranoia, which causes the user to suddenly feel that everyone around him is keeping him under close scrutiny. Eyes become reddened and the mouth may dry up of saliva. The much–touted feelings of peace, serenity and goodwill are almost never experienced. Strong association occurs with what the user really expects, his previous experiences with the drug, and whether or not it is consumed in combination with other drugs such as alcohol.

Much Has Been Said About Marijuana Often Becoming The Launching–Pad For Other Drugs
And with good and valid reasons. Teenagers who experiment with the use of marijuana usually do so under peer–pressure to be ‘Hip’, ‘Cool’ and ‘With it’. They may continue using it even if their first experiences with it have been frightening or loathsome because of such pressure by friends. Many teenagers do not succumb to the curiosity for extended use, and decline any offers of it firmly. These are the smart ones, who know what they want out of life and generally have a clear idea of how to get there. Unfortunately, this is not the case for some of the more misguided ones. They may want to ‘graduate’ from marijuana to harder drugs like alcohol, tranquilizers or brown sugar. This marks the beginning of an inexorable downward slide into serious addiction– problems when they unwary user finds himself in the midst of dark and destructive drug–culture.

Marijuana has been emphatically classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under U.S. law since 1970, but its basic ingredient –THC–has sometimes found legitimate use in the treatment of afflictions like glaucoma, and sometimes to boost the appetite of AIDS patients–even for suppressing the nausea associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients. But certainly not in its smokeable form, but carefully graded and dosed pills.

Complications Caused by Marijuana Use
The use of marijuana in any form can be extremely harmful. Mukta Puntambekar, Clinical Psychologist at the Muktangan De–addiction Center in Pune, is very emphatic on this point. “Marijuana is an insidious and deceptive drug. Its extended use can cause a permanent mental affliction often referred to as ‘Cannabis Psychosis’–an erosion of mental faculties that can either appear in steady gradations or all at once. The end result is something very much akin to mental retardation, and there is very little that can be done about it.” she says. “Besides that, it also contains all the cancer–causing chemicals found in tobacco. Smoking marijuana also severely affects the lungs and airways, causing coughing and wheezing. Pneumonia is another enhanced risk in users, and the body’s immune–system is also significantly compromised.”

Dr. Anil Awachat, Director of this treatment center and well known social activist, adds further dimensions to the problem of marijuana use in India. “This drug is unfortunately consumed in many uninformed back– waters of this country as part of religious ceremonies. The shift in perception that it causes is taken to be ‘Expanded consciousness’. Hindus and Muslims alike attribute holy connotations to its use”. he says.

“At Muktangan, we come across very few addicts who have not experimented with marijuana and hashish before progressing to drugs like brown sugar, opiate–based medications and so on. I urge the young generation of today to stay away from it. Even limited use can lead to seriously impeded memory and concentration– problems. Do yourselves a favor–JUST SAY NO!!”