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Depressants: Cannabis

Dr. Mariam Doreen Joseph, Australia

Posted: Friday, June 16, 2000 04:39 PM CST

(Marijuana, Dope, Grass, Blow, Wacky Backy, MaryJane Hemp, Ganja, Weed, Puff, Gear, Hash /Hashish)

The various forms of cannabis mostly come from the plants Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, which grow throughout the world. Cannabis is a depressant drug, not a stimulant as many people think.

The chemical in Cannabis which makes the user "high" is THC. THC affects the mood ans perception of the user. THC is found in different concentrations all over the plant, for example the flowers have more THC than the stems or leaves.

Forms of Cannabis

  1. Marijuana (cocaine Hydrochloride) It is made from the dried leaves and flowers of the plant. There are slang words that is used by users to refer to Marijuana, such as Dope, Pot, Grass, Weed, Tea, yarnie and MaryJane. Cannabis is most commonly smoked. Usually by mixing it with tobacco and rolling it up with cigarette papers into a cannabis cigarette (often called a 'spliff', 'joint', 'reefer', or 'jay'). However, it can also be smoked with or without tobacco in various forms of pipes and smoking devices (such as 'bongs' or 'water pipes'). Nowadays the smoking of Cannabis through pipes (often using water to cool the smoke) has become more prevalent due to its greater efficiency. Sometimes it is mixed with food such as cakes cookies and eaten.
  2. Hashish It is made from the plant's resin. It is dried and pressed into small blocks and sold in solid pieces of different colours. It can be mixed with tobacco or food. It is more potent than Marijuana.
  3. Hashish oil It is a concentrated liquid extract from the plant. It is usually smoked. It is the most potent types of Cannabis.

Strains known as 'Northern lights', 'Super skunk' and 'Sensi (sensemilla)' have a far higher content of the chemical in them which causes the drugs intoxicating effect (the chemical is called THC or tetrahydrocannabinol).


The earliest record of cannabis use is from a compendium of medicines which was compiled for the Chinese emperor Shen Nung in about 2727 BC. Although it grows in many parts of the world and so has a long history of use in many cultures, especially in Asian and African where the plant thrives in the warm climate. Since then the cannabis plant has been used for everything from making rope and cloth to its many medicinal purposes. Queen Victoria used to take cannabis in a tincture form (dissolved in alcohol) to alleviate her period pains. Cannabis has been used medically world-wide for centuries, and legally in this country up until 1928, although many people in the UK use it illegally as an effective reliever of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, hypoglycaemia and, in certain instances, as a medication for the terminally ill. The use of cannabis for its psychoactive (intoxicating) effect has always been a political issue. In Britain cannabis was first used by young West Indian immigrants and by people who went to fashionable Soho jazz clubs during the 50s onwards. The 60s hippy culture predictably reached Britain and with it came the availablility of cannabis to a wide range of young people. The use of the drug declined slightly during the 70s but with the dance scene kicking off in the 80s with acid house, ravers, party goers and clubbers found it the perfect drug to bring them down and chill out with after a hard nights dancing.


The effect of cannabis on the body varies from person to person and it depends on the amount of the drug is taken, the way is taken, bodt's size and weight, previous usage of the drug, taking it with other drugs, person's mood and type of the drug.

Immediate effects of a single low dose

The effect can last from few minutes to few hours.

  • loss of inhibition
  • loss of concentration
  • increased appetite
  • extreme feeling of well-being
  • reddened eyes
  • a tendency to talk and laugh more than usual
  • impaired balance and co-ordination
  • tunnel awareness - where a person focuses thir awareness on one thing and ignores all others.
  • Higher doses can cause confusion, restlessness, detachment from reality, feeling of excitement, hallucinations, non-logical thinking, impaired driving skills for at least 12 hours after smoking, impairements in operating other machines and anxiety.

Long term effects are; bronchitis, lung cancer, respiratory diseases, depression, decreased concentration, memory or learning ability, psychological and sexual problems. Death has been reported.

Because Cannabis is an illegal drug, it can cause long term legal and social problems - for instance in work, relationships and financial.

References CEIDA - health service/ NSW, Australia. Drugs information on web sites.

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