The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but there are more than sixty related chemicals in marijuana, which are called cannabinoids. Cannabis also contains other unrelated compounds that have similar psychoactive effects. The psychoactive effects vary but may include fight or flight, sensory distortion, confusion or hallucinatory. Marijuana is also a depressant, when the THC binds with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This process slows down regular nerve transmission, interfering with normal function. The cannabinoid receptors are located in the areas of the brain involved in muscle control, sexual functioning, vision and hearing, reasoning, hormone release, and memory.
THC suppresses neurons in the information system of the hippocampus, which is a component of the brains limbic system. The limbic is crucial for learning, memory and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivations. Our learning behaviors depend on the hippocampus. Short term memory is required to perform one and two step tasks. A study using The Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, done by Dr. Harrison Pope, Jr. of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, found that while the residual cognitive impairments detected in the study were not severe, they could be significant in the day-to-day life of chronic users Dr. Pope says.
They showed diminished ability to pay attention and decreased mental flexibility was exhibited in these tests. It is proven to reduce short-term memory, mind-body coordination and the ability to think and learn quickly. Marijuana also has adverse effects on those who have a predisposition to a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, use of drugs such as cannabis may trigger the first episode in what can be a lifelong, disabling condition.
There is increasing evidence that use of marijuana precedes and causes higher rates of psychotic illness. Short-term effects include a temporary increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to parts of the brain. Marijuana is also being studied by organizations such as the Physicians Association for AIDS and the National Lymphoma Association, their findings they have prompted them along with others to fight for legalization of marijuana in order to treat terminally ill patients.
In aids patients they have found marijuana stimulates their appetite so they can fight off dangerous emaciation, cancer patients find it aids in nausea from chemotherapy, blindness in glaucoma patients and although marijuana can be addictive for some, the potential for forming an addiction to marijuana is lower than some prescription drugs and other abused drugs. Whereas marijuana results in an altered state of consciousness, the depressant drugs have been described as producing altered states of unconsciousness (Sugerman and Tarter), allowing for relaxation without awareness.
The Physical benefits of marijuana are far-reaching, widespread, and long-term. Because of the way marijuana impacts the Autonomic Nervous System which expands the breath and relaxes the body, its potential for health and healing could be enormous. Marijuana, by its effect on the ANS, enhances both sides of the brain. Through increased Sympathetic action, left brain perception is heightened, while, at the same time, right brain reception is enhanced. When we balance the Autonomic Nervous System, there is an effect on the mind that is both energizing and relaxing simultaneously. In other words, we can think more clearly and more efficiently.