Everything you need to know about cannabis

Cannabis is a plant that has uses as a recreational and medicinal drug. Cannabis-based products come from the dried flowering tops, leaves, stems and seeds of the Cannabis sativa (hemp) plant. The legal status of medical and recreational cannabis varies among states


What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant. People use the dried leaves, seed oil, and other parts of the cannabis plant for recreational and medicinal purposes. It can have a pleasurable effect and may soothe the symptoms of various conditions, such as chronic pain

Ways of using it include: 

  • smoking or vaping it
  • brewing it as a tea
  • consuming it in the form of edibles, such as brownies or candies
  • eating it raw
  • applying it as a topical treatment
  • taking it as capsules or supplements

Some of the ingredients in cannabis are psychoactive (mind-altering), but others are not. The potency and balance of the ingredients vary, depending on how the manufacturer grows and processes the plant.

 
What are CBD and THC?

Cannabis contains at least 120Trusted Source active ingredients, or cannabinoids. The most abundant ones are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

Some cannabinoids can have euphoric or psychoactive effects. THC produces both effects.

CBD is present in various forms, including:

  • oils for applying to the skin
  • capsules, to take as a supplement
  • gummy candies

So far, most studies have focused on CBD and THC, but scientists are looking into the effects of other cannabinoids, too.

Effects

There are different ways of using cannabis, and the method can determine the effects of the drug.

Smoking or inhaling: A sense of elation can start within minutes and peak after 10–30 minutes. The feeling will typically wear off after about 2 hours.

Ingesting: If a person consumes products containing cannabis by mouth, they will usually feel the effects within 1 hour, and the sensations will peak after 2.5–3.5 hours. One study suggests that the type of edible affects the time it takes to feel the effect, with hard candies kicking in quicker.

How do cannabinoids work?

The human body naturally produces some cannabinoids through the endocannabinoid system. They act in a similar way to neurotransmitters, sending messages throughout the nervous system.

These neurotransmitters affect brain areas that play a role in memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, sensory and time perception, and pleasure. 

The receptors that respond to these cannabinoids also react to THC and other cannabinoids. In this way, cannabinoids from an outside source can change and disrupt normal brain function.

THC appears to affect areas of the brain that control: 

  • memory and attention
  • balance, posture, and coordination
  • reaction time

Due to these effects, a person should not drive a car, operate heavy machinery, or engage in risky physical activities after using cannabis.

THC stimulates specific cannabinoid receptors that increase the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that relates to feelings of pleasure.

THC can also affect sensory perception. Colors may seem brighter, music more vivid, and emotions more profound. 

What does a person feel?

When people use cannabis, they may notice the following effects:

  • a feeling of elation or euphoria, known as a high
  • relaxation
  • changes in perception, for example, of color, time, and space
  • an increase in appetite
  • feeling more talkative

 


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