WHAT IS CANNABIS
Cannabis is a generic term used to denote the several psychoactive preparations of the plant Cannabis sativa. The major psychoactive constituent in cannabis is 9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Compounds which are structurally similar to THC are referred to as cannabinoids. The Mexican term ‘marijuana’ is frequently used in referring to cannabis leaves or other crude plant material in many countries. The unpollinated female plants are called hashish. Cannabis oil (hashish oil) is a concentrate of cannabinoids obtained by solvent extraction of the crude plant material or of the resin.
Cannabis is by far the most widely cultivated, trafficked and abused illicit drug. Half of all drug seizures worldwide are cannabis seizures. The geographical spread of those seizures is also global, covering practically every country of the world. About 147 million people, 2.5% of the world population, consume cannabis compared with 0.2% consuming cocaine and 0.2% consuming opiates. In the present decade, cannabis abuse has grown more rapidly than cocaine and opiate abuse.
The most rapid growth in cannabis abuse has been in developed countries in USA, Western Europe and Australia. Cannabis has become more closely linked to youth culture and the age of initiation is usually lower than for other drugs. Cannabis appears to be price-inelastic in the short term, but fairly elastic over the longer term. Though the number of cannabis consumers is greater than opiate and cocaine consumers, the lower prices of cannabis mean that, in economic terms, the cannabis market is much smaller than the opiate or cocaine market.
Acute health effects of cannabis use
The acute effects of cannabis use has been recognized for many years, and recent studies have confirmed and extended earlier findings. These may be summarized as follows:
- Cannabis impairs cognitive development (capabilities of learning). Free recall of previously learned items is often impaired when cannabi is used both during learning and recall periods.
- Cannabis impairs psychomotor performance in a wide variety of tasks, such as motor coordination, divided attention, and operative tasks of many types; human performance on complex machinery can be impaired for as long as 24 hours after smoking as little as 20 mg of THC in cannabis; there is an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents among persons who drive when intoxicated by cannabis.