As we talk about Marijuana, we must separate out the various chemical substances found therein.   When ingesting the part of a plant (leaves, stalk, seed, and flower buds) you are exposing yourself to all the individual components.  All have different effects on various parts of the body and mind.  I have found this web site to provide a wealth of information

There are over 480 natural components found within the Cannabis sativa plant, of which 66 have been classified as “cannabinoids;” chemicals unique to the plant. The cannabinoids are separated into subclasses. These are as follows:

  • Cannabigerols (CBG);
  • Cannabichromenes (CBC);
  • Cannabidiols (CBD);
  • Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC);
  • Cannabinol (CBN) and cannabinodiol (CBDL);
  • Other cannabinoids (such as cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), cannabitriol (CBT) and other miscellaneous types).

The major differences between the cannabinoids are determined by the extent to which they are psychologically active. Three classes of cannabinoids, the CBG, CBC and CBD are not known to have such an effect. THC, CBN, CBDL and some other cannabinoids on the other hand are known to be psychologically active to varying degrees.

The two main components in the news are THC and CBD.  For the purpose of this forum, we will be focusing on THC since that most impacts the safety of the public due its widespread presence and impairment.

Marijuana, as a whole is currently a Schedule 1 Drug, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.  The lines are starting to get blurred here due to legalization of medical and recreational at the state level; and the allowance clinical trials of CBD, said to have less of the negative impact that occurs in THC.  This is still a highly debatable point and will be proven out with research.

What system does it impact?  Again, pulling from NIDA

THC’s chemical structure is similar to the brain chemical anandamide. Similarity in structure allows the body to recognize THC and to alter normal brain communication.  Endogenous cannabinoids such as anandamide function as neurotransmitters because they send chemical messages between nerve cells throughout the nervous system. They affect brain areas that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, and sensory and time perception. Because of this similarity, THC is able to attach to molecules called cannabinoid receptors on neurons in these brain areas and activate them, disrupting various mental and physical functions and causing the effects described earlier. The neural communication network that uses these cannabinoid neurotransmitters, known as the endocannabinoid system, plays a critical role in the nervous system’s normal functioning, so interfering with it can have profound effects.

Addiction potential – Here we enter into the great debate.  Is it a gateway drug to other drugs?  Is it addicting?  We will cite some statistics and research.

A term used by NIDA is “marijuana use disorder” (MUD –my new Acronym).  The term is used to “define an intermediate step to addiction, as it can take the form of addiction in some cases.

MUD is defined as a dependence in which a person feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. People who use marijuana frequently often report irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks.  This is caused by the brain adapting to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

This is really not that much different than our original definition of addiction.   The outside substance supplements or replaces what your body naturally produces.  According to NIDA, Recent data suggest that 30 percent of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder.  People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults

It is interesting to note that NIDA states, “Estimates of the number of people addicted to marijuana are controversial, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use often use dependence as a proxy for addiction even though it is possible to be dependent without being addicted. Those studies suggest that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it,  rising to about 17 percent in those who start using in their teens.”

It is my belief that as potency increases and use increases, we will see higher levels of both MUD and Addiction

Next time we will tackle the other “A” of impairment.