Providing straightforward information pertaining to drugs, drug use & drug policy. The Grey Pages promotes drug-related literacy and advocates a system of viable and tolerant drug policies. This is my personal collection of commentaries, essays, tid-bits, and other such writings on everything ranging from drug use, drug policy and drug-myths, to drug-science, addiction, human behavior, and the workings of the human brain. I started this blog with a particular focus on opioids, and over the past year have found my interest gravitate toward the intriguing, ever-changing world of designer intoxicants (i.e. "research chemicals" or "designer drugs").

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cannabis Vault

Also known as marijuana, pot, ganja or bud:

Cannabis refers to a family of flowering plants consisting of three putative varieties; these are cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis has been historically used for  its psychoactive and therapeutic effects. The cannabis plant contains over 400 cannabinoid compounds, many of which contribute to these effects, however its major psychoactive constituent - or at least that which has been the most researched - is delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol (or "THC"). Cannabinoids such as THC exert their effects by acting centrally at cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

Cannabis sativa and to a lesser extent, cannabis indica, account for most of these preparations. The two are distinguished by their physical characteristics and specific cannabinoid content. Sativa tends to be cultivated for its flower buds, while indica is often cultivated for the production of hashish - a compressed preparation of flower matter consisting of small resinous outgrowths called trichomes containing the highest cannabinoid concentrations in the plant.

Cannabis Preparations & Use:

In drug culture (including the therapeutic setting), the terms cannabis or marijuana typically refer to the preparation of the flower bud of the cannabis plant intended for psychoactive or therapeutic use. Marijuana is by far the most widely used illicit psychoactive in the world. Cannabis preparations have many names, the more common of which include the aforementioned marijuana, bud, ganja, pot or green. Due to the lipophilicity of its active cannabinoids, pot is most often smoked, as a rolled cigarrete or with a small pipe. It is also often eaten, either in its crude form or as an ingredient in food preparations.

Cannabis products are also smoked or eaten in the form of the aforementioned resinous product, hashish - often known as hash in the US. "Kief" is also commonly available; it is a sifted plant-powder rich in resin glands (trichomes), or essentially, an unpressed, powder form of hash. Hash and kief can both be incorporated into foods.

Cannabinoid Content:

The two major active cannabinoids in pot will vary in their relative concentrations. Recent research has examined their comparative properties to discover a stark contrast in their effects. The two compounds, when taken separately in pure form, produce very distinct effects, while when taken together as they occur in the cannabis plant, the result is different than with either compound alone.  The proportion of the two compounds produced in the resins of each individual plant is a major determinant of potency and effect quality.

THC properties: anxiety or panic, paranoia, body dysmorphism, social introversion, depression, temporary psychotomimesis (a psychotic like state). 

CBD properties: anxiolysis, anti-psychosis, giggling, lightened mood, body relaxation or buzz.

THC (along with most other related cannabinoids) is a highly lipophilic compound, meaning it is highly soluble in fatty tissue (lipids) - being that the cerebral cortex is the most lipid-rich structure of the body, smoked cannabinoids are rapidly and thoroughly absorbed by the brain.

Note: Due to its psychotomimetic properties, THC users with a history of psychotic illness or a predisposition for schizophrenia may be at a higher risk for developing or precipitating clinical psychosis.

Effects of Cannabis: When smoked, its major effects last only 30-45 minutes, while minor effects may linger for 3-4 hours. When taken orally, its effects can last several hours.

Positive or negative change in mood

Urge to laugh, uncontrollable giggling

Physical or psychological relaxation

Analgesia and anti-emesis

Increased appetite - inhibition of messages from the stomach which indicate one is "full"

Verbal retardation (slow speaking)

Slow driving and reduced focus

Increased sense of taste, smell or sound

Changes in self perception (positive or negative)

Body buzz

Altered perception of time

Sleepiness or sedation

Visual distortion

Impaired linear memory and thought processing

Increased appreciation for music, deeper connection to music

Increased satisfaction with tedious, mundane or boring tasks

Increased capacity for creative or abstract thought, with an accompanying impairment of intellectual capacity (although temporary)

Anxiety, fear, paranoia, panic or panic attacks

Precipitation or worsening of existing psychotic conditions

Red eyes, dry mouth, increased heart rate, headache

Dependence or habituation: Psychological dependence has been reported with marijuana, though there is no reason to believe that marijuana is any more addictive than eating chocolate or jogging, making this a moot point. Regular use of marijuana can lead to a very mild physical dependence - as some minor withdrawal symptoms have been documented. To what extent these symptoms are psychosomatic is not known.


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