Marijuana

In this section: What is it? | What should I know? | What is the impact in our region? | More information

What is it?

Image of marijuana and a jointMarijuana or "cannabis" refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other related compounds, called cannabinoids.

Marijuana is used in a variety of different ways:

Another method of use is smoking or eating different forms of THC-rich resins, called extracts -- these products can deliver extremely large amounts of THC to users and their effects can be powerful and unpredictable.

Cannabinoids also come in synthetic forms, including two prescription medications for pain (nabilone and dronabinol), and illicit synthetics sold in headshops or on the Internet under names like Spice or K2. Spice, K2, and other illicit synthetics mimic the effects of marijuana, but are significantly more potent and can be dangerous.

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What should I know?

Image of marijuana and a jointAs multiple states in the U.S. wrestle with the details of setting up a supply, distribution, and sales system for legal marijuana in the wake of voter-approved initiatives, it's important to know what the potential risks of using marijuana are.

Marijuana can be harmful to both your body and brain, and also contributes to risky behaviors and adverse physical and social consequences.

Short-term effects include:

Marijuana also affects brain development, making it particularly dangerous for youths to use it. When marijuana users begin as teenagers, the drug may reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions, and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas responsible for these functions. These effects may last a long time or even be permanent.

Health effects of longer-term use include:
Call WA Recovery Help Line 1-866-789-1511Cannabis Use Disorder

In addition to the effects above, regular use of marijuana can lead to cannabis use disorder, a substance use disorder (SUD) defined by the DSM-5 as the recurrent use of of a substance that causes significant impairments, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.

Recent data suggest that 30% of heavy marijuana users may have some degree of cannabis use disorder, and people who being using marijuana before the age of 18 are 4-7 times more likely to develop CUD than other adults. In Washington state, 7,427 people who were admitted to treatment in 2013 reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse.

Symptoms of cannabis use disorder include:

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What is the impact on our region?

Infographic with marijuana statsIn 2012, Washington legalized marijuana for medical and non-medical, or "recreational," use. Despite the fact it has been legalized, however, the drug still remains a threat to consumers of all ages.

Youth impact

According to the Washington Healthy Youth Survey, while there has been no significant change in lifetime use of marijuana for youth in Washington State, students in all grades increasingly perceive marijuana use as "not harmful," including when used "regularly" (defined as "once or twice a week"). This change may result in increased use of marijuana over time.

How often are youth using marijuana? In 2016, 45% of 12th graders reported having used marijuana at least once, 26% reported having used it at least once in the past month, and 11% reported having used it on 10 or more days in the past month.

While substance use disorder treatment admissions have been declining overall for marijuana, 71% of all statewide treatment admissions for youth during the first quarter of 2016 were for marijuana.

Risky driving incidents are also a concern for youth:

Adult impact
Other impacts

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For more information

Elearning Modules about Marijuana
Find science-based answers to all your questions about marijuana in this free 5-part e-learning series from ADAI/UW

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