Title: Drugwise: Growing Up Straight in a Chemical Culture
Author: Jim Parker
Publisher: Do It Now Foundation
Publication Date: September 2003
Catalog Number: 212


Just about everyone knows something about marijuana, if only that it comes
from the
hemp plant and that it grows just about everywhere,
except the White House and the bottom of the

That’s also about all
that everyone can agree on.

Because marijuana has been a
for controversy for years,
line in
the sand
between cultures and classes and

So what kind of a drug
is marijuana? It’s a
complicated one, at least.

Although it has a lot of simple-sounding one-syllable nicknames–pot, grass, and weed, among
others–marijuana isn’t a simple drug.

In fact, it isn’t even a single
molecule, like most other drugs, but a mix of 420
different chemicals. And some of them (called
cannabinoids) don’t exist anywhere else except inside the marijuana plant.

The cannabinoid that produces
most of pot’s effects is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or
THC. It triggers a range of effects, from giddiness and euphoria to
impairment of short-term
memory. Adverse
effects include
anxiety and paranoia.

Since THC is so complex,
the body isn’t able to
it quickly. Instead, it breaks it down in
so that some breakdown products remain in the body for
days after use.

Experts aren’t sure whether
that means pot keeps producing changes in the body after the
high wears off, but
on memory and performance
may outlast pot’s main drug effects.

Another potential trouble spot
is the
lungs. Since pot contains many of the same
cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco (and since pot smokers hold
marijuana smoke in their lungs for a longer time), marijuana
may be as harmful to the lungs as

It might also affect the way
we think and feel in other ways.

Some researchers think that pot
reduces the drive for
to set and meet personal goals. Others aren’t
since goals change as our lives change. They argue that marijuana
use is more likely a
reflection, rather than a cause,
of shifting personal priorities.

But regardless of whether pot
causes (or only
reflects) these kinds of changes, heavy smokers
can seem almost like
spectators in their own lives, watching opportunities
go by like a
and Butt-head
marathon on

This may be pot’s most serious
potential effect of all. Because if you’re already
high, you don’t have to do anything to feel good, which
seem cool, while you’re high. But when you
come down, you come back to the same problems
before, only more so, because you haven’t been
doing anything to make things better.

That’s why marijuana can be a
trap–a soft, fuzzy,
funny kind of trap–to people who use it all
the time. And even though it’s soft and fuzzy and
usually feels good, it’s still a trap if you can’t get out.

And too many heavy pot users forget
how to get out.

Want to jump ahead (or go back)
to a particular drug or drug category? Click in the table below
to go there, or use the links, below right, to continue with
the main text.

Alcohol Downers Speed
Cocaine Marijuana Hallucinogens
Inhalants Narcotics Other Do It Now Info

Continue with Chapter 3: Narcotics
Continue with Chapter 4: Locks &

Go to Table of Contents


This is one in a series
of publications on drugs, behavior, and health published by Do
It Now Foundation. Check us out online at www.doitnow.org


And if you want to get your personal point across to us, click here or on the button at bottom.
And if you’d like to contact us for any other reason,
you’ll find our mailing address, phone, and fax numbers there, too.