MARIJUANA

A drug, medically termed cannabis indica, derived from the hemp plant and taken primarily in cigarette form to obtain pleasurable effects.In Eastern countries preparations of marijuana, also known as hashish, bhang, and charas, are chewed, smoked, or drunk. There has recently been a sharp increase in the number of young people in the United States and other Western countries who are smoking “reefers,” or “pot,” as they call it. An estimated 25 to 40 per cent of college students experiment with the drug, but the majority try it on no more than one to four occasions. Inhalation of marijuana produces a state of euphoria and exhilaration, during which the smoker talks volubly and feels increasingly self-confident. This state is usually followed by pleasurable relaxation and sensations of drifting or floating on a cloud.Psychological tests have demonstrated that in spite of feelings of greater capability and efficiency, practically all abilities—motor, intellectual, and perceptual—are actually diminished. This combination of increased confidence with reduced competence is a dangerous one, and often leads to reckless driving, impulsive antisocial acts, and sexual misbehavior. Marijuana smoking is reputed to increase sexual adequacy, but this is based more on psychological than on physiological effects, since the smoker simply feels more self-assured and less inhibited.In contrast to the opium addict, the marijuana user does not become physically dependent on the drug, nor does he acquire an increased tolerance which would lead to more and more smoking to get the same effect. Moreover, the habit can be given up without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. For these reasons the drug cannot be said to produce a true addiction, although it is sometimes described as addictive. The term habituation is more accurate.Marijuana does not appear to lead to physical deterioration. Nevertheless many users react in unpredictable ways. It sometimes produces pathological intoxication and the disturbed behavior that goes with it; and it may even precipitate an acute psychotic reaction in predisposed individuals. Louria (1967) quotes a study in which “one subject smoked one cigarette and became restless, agitated, dizzy, fearful of his surroundings, afraid of death, and had three short attacks of unconsciousness.” He comments, “That is not my definition of an entirely safe drug.”The social and personal effects of prolonged use may be highly injurious. It may lead to psychological dependence, retreat from normal activities, escape from reality, and association with undesirable persons who serve as smoking companions or suppliers. But probably the greatest single danger lies in the fact that marijuana smoking lowers the barrier to the use of drugs in general, and the smoker may be led to seek even greater “kicks” by trying morphine or heroin: “It does often start an individual in the morass of drug use; whether he moves on or stops depends upon him and his environment” (Louria).Illustrative Case: marijuana intoxicationA classic example is that of a twenty-five- year-old single young man brought to one of us by his father. The father reported that the patient imagined people were trying to kill him, that he could see his girl friend with her throat cut, and could smell gas coming from his mattress. He also felt that he had been castrated. The patient stated that he was being tricked, that automobiles on the street jumped at him, and that somebody was giving him electric shocks as he walked down the street. Background revealed that the patient was a temperamental, unstable, fearful, and imaginative child who made few friends and had a poor school record. At the age of thirteen his right testicle was accidentally injured. Shortly after this he began to drink whisky and beer and to run around with the wrong class of youngsters, apparently attempting to compensate for his feelings of inferiority exaggerated by the above injury. During this time he would frequently get into fights and was usually beaten, further adding to his sense of inferiority. He began to take marijuana following a series of family quarrels over his behavior. At the time of admission to the hospital the patient was extremely apprehensive, hallucinating,and fearful. He was lewd and confused. Spontaneous activity was almost entirely in reaction to his hallucinations. On withdrawal treatment in the hospital, his symptoms very rapidly cleared up, and within a week of admission he was entirely free of the psychiatric symptoms. Attempts to go further into the psychogenic background were resisted by the patient and his father, and he was removed from the hospital nineteen days after admission. This case is a rather typical example of marijuana intoxication, illustrating the instability present in most of these individuals and the fact that patients use marijuana to obtain a lift and bolster their ego. (Ewalt, Strecker, and Ebaugh, 1957)

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "MARIJUANA," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/marijuana/ (accessed September 21, 2019).
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