The National institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) calls marijuana one of the most commonly abused drugs in the US. Just under 1 in 6 people 12 years of age or older report use in the past year. Rates are even greater among young people.

What is Marijuana?

The leaves of the Cannabis sativa, or marijuana, plant are typically inhaled or smoked using a joint (cigarette-like), blunt (marijuana rolled in the tobacco-leaf wrapper from a cigar), pipe or bong/hookah (water pipes). Marijuana smoke has a strong and noticeable odor.

The resin from marijuana flowers, called hashish, can also be taken out and smoked or eaten. The oil-based extract is often used to brew tea or mixed into food products. Concentrated wax, which looks like honey or butter, can also be removed and be either smoked or eaten. These concentrates can be much higher in THC levels.

When smoked, the main active chemical, THC, is quickly passed from the lungs into the bloodstream and throughout the body to the brain and other organs.

Primary Drugs in MarijuanaNames_Marijuana

There are over 100 cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant. Plants are grown to contain different amounts of particular cannabinoids in order to produce desired effects when inhaled or ingested. The part of the brain that has the highest number of cannabinoid receptors controls pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. Below are descriptions of the effects of two of the most common cannabinoids: THC and CBD.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC):

  • Stimulates release of dopamine
  • Euphoric effect
  • Stimulates appetite
  • Reduces nausea
  • Decreases pain and inflammation

Cannabidiol (CBD):

  • Non-intoxicating effects
  • Decreases pain and inflammation

Health Effects of Marijuana Use

Research shows that marijuana use may have a variety of health and social effects on an individual, particularly on heart, respiratory, and mental health. Similar to alcohol, the negative health effects of marijuana increase when used by youth and young adults. For more information, please visit our Health Effects of Marijuana webpage.

(Sources: New England Journal of Medicine 370;23  | nejm.org june 5, 2014; National Institute on Drug Use & Health / NSDUH)

Additional Resources:

Facts on the Emerging Science of Marijuana

Myths and Facts About Marijuana [The Office of National Drug Control Policy]

Marijuana: Information for Teens [National Institute on Drug Abuse]

DrugFacts: Marijuana [National Institute on Drug Abuse]

Marijuana and Reproduction/Pregnancy [University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute]