Cannabis - Drug Addiction

This is the most popular illegal drug in the UK and is used as a means of relaxation by a great many people. It is usually smoked in the form of ‘joints’ or ‘spliffs’ although it can be added to food or smoked through a special pipe called a ‘bong’.

Cannabis can distort the senses and in some cases cause mild hallucinations which can increase in intensity with larger doses or stronger varieties e.g. ‘skunk’. 

What is ‘cannabis?’ 

Cannabis is a type of plant with distinctive ‘spiky’ shaped leaves and is grown in many parts of the world including the UK. It contains a set of chemicals called cannabinoids which include delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is mainly responsible for the various effects of cannabis upon the brain which includes the ‘high’ experienced from smoking a joint. 

It also contains a fibre called ‘hemp’  which can be used in a variety of products such as clothing, paper, rope, fishing nets, herbal remedies and cooking oil. Hemp seeds are high in protein and extremely nutritious.

Cannabis was originally grown for medical and industrial uses only but has also been adopted for illegal purposes.

But there are people who claim that cannabis has medicinal qualities such as easing nausea and vomiting or reducing pain. A good example of this is sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) who take cannabis to relieve their symptoms.

The jury is still out as to the effectiveness or not of cannabis in this situation.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is a part of the cannabis plant. It is herbal cannabis produced from the leaves of this plant which are chopped up and dried out for people to use. It tends to be less strong than the resin although there are two particularly strong forms of this herbal cannabis called ‘skunk’ and ‘sinsemilla’.

People often assume that cannabis and marijuana are two separate things but they are actually one and the same. Some people talk about cannabis and others mention marijuana but they both come from the same source.

There are three forms of cannabis which are:

  • Resin or ‘hashish/hash’
  • Herbal cannabis or ‘grass/marijuana’
  • Cannabis oil (least common form of cannabis)

The resin or hash is available as small brown or black ‘blocks’ and is obtained by scraping this resin off the dried plant before pressing it into these blocks. It is also available as an oil which is sticky and reddish-brown in colour. 

Herbal cannabis or grass is produced by chopping up dried leaves of the cannabis plant. This is either grown on a large scale to sell to others or at home for personal use. It is less strong than resin apart from the potent skunk and sinsemilla.

Cannabis oil is made from filtering a solvent through cannabis resin.

Skunk and sinsemilla are discussed further on in this section.

What does cannabis look like?

It varies from a grey-green colour to a greenish brown or dark green and may include stems and seeds.

How is cannabis used?

The resin (hash), hash oil and marijuana are usually rolled with tobacco in a cigarette and smoked as a ‘joint’. It can also be smoked via a pipe (‘bong’).

Cannabis can be added to drinks or food in the form of ‘hash cakes’. 

What is its street name?

Cannabis has a variety of street names which include:

  • Pot
  • Weed
  • Hemp
  • Grass
  • Ganja
  • Blow
  • Hash
  • Dope
  • Wacky backy
  • Bob Hope

Who uses cannabis?

Cannabis is used by people from all walks of life, from students through to people in their sixties or older. Some of these older people were around in the 1960’s which was a time of hippie culture, ‘flower power’ and drugs such as cannabis. So it is more than likely that they will still be smoking the occasional ‘joint’ or two.

How much does cannabis cost?

Prices of cannabis vary according to what part of the country you live in. As a rough guide herbal cannabis (grass or marijuana) tends to be more expensive than the resin (hash).

So you could pay anything up to £130 or more for grass compared to £70 or more for an ounce of resin.

What are the effects of cannabis?

For many people, the first time they try cannabis can be a bit of a disappointment in that they don’t feel any effects but this changes after repeated use.

The effects will depend upon factors such as whether you swallow or smoke it; the amount you take; how long you have been taking it and how often; your mood; your age and whether you have consumed alcohol or any other substance.

Cannabis affects people in different ways: some people find that it causes them to become lively, talkative and prone to giggling whereas others find that it does the opposite. They experience feelings of anxiety, paranoia and fear.

Many people find that cannabis heightens their senses so that everything they see, hear, touch or smell becomes that much more intense. Colours appear to be brighter, music much louder and they are in greater tune with their bodies.

Strong forms of cannabis such as skunk can lead to hallucinations, confusion, agitation, panic attacks and paranoia.

An increased appetite or ‘the munchies’  is very common when taking cannabis.

Physical effects include a dry mouth/throat, red eyes, increased heart rate, problems with balance and restlessness.

These effects happen straightaway and may last for several hours or more depending on how much you have taken. The effects last longer if you have inhaled or eaten cannabis (hash cakes) than smoking it.

Is it easy to become addicted to cannabis?

People who use cannabis on a regular basis find that they develop a dependency towards it. You may find that you have cravings for cannabis - whether smoked or inhaled and that you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it.

Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, upset stomach, nausea, mood swings, sweating and disturbed sleep patterns.

What are the risks of cannabis?

If you use only small amounts of cannabis then there are unlikely to be any long term problems but heavy users or people with mental disorders do run the risk of any of the following:

  • Increased risk of schizophrenia
  • Poor memory
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Reduced motivation to work or perform other activities
  • Smoking cannabis increases the risk of cancer
  • Increased risk of respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis
  • Reduces sperm count in men and suppresses ovulation in women
  • Increases heart rate (risk of heart disease) and lowers blood pressure
  • Can be dangerous to the developing foetus during pregnancy
  • Cannabis resin (hash) is often mixed (‘cut’) with other substances which can be harmful

Cannabis is a Class B drug.

It is tempting to think that because cannabis is a naturally occurring substance, e.g. a plant that it is a ‘safe’ drug to take but this is not the case. Large doses can be harmful and this is even more of a problem for anyone with a psychological disorder.

What is ‘skunk?’ 

Skunk is a potent form of herbal cannabis which is produced from specially grown seeds and causes much stronger effects, such as hallucinations which can be too much for some people.

Skunk, along with sinsemilla contains three times the amount of

tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is responsible for the ‘rush’ that you experience from cannabis. However it is just one of 100 forms of cannabis which contain high levels of THC.

Skunk has a noticeably strong smell, can be grown at home and for some people, is safer than LSD or ecstasy. It has the same hallucinogenic effects but users argue that it is natural and therefore safer than these other two.

But it still contains the same long term risks as traditional cannabis.

What is ‘sinsemilla?’ 

This is another equally strong form of herbal cannabis, similar to skunk, and which causes the same effects.

This can be inhaled, swallowed (eaten) or smoked.


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