A fine line exists between recreational and dangerous, illegal drugs and often, these two terms are interchanged. Most of the time, the line drawn in terms of legality, abuse and risk of use involved ("Recreational drug use", 2006).
History tells us that drug use has been around for quite a long time now. Caffeine, tobacco and alcohol along with natural drug derivatives such as poppy, marijuana and hemp have been consumed by our ancestors since the time their use has been discovered (Burger, 1995; Burger, n.d.). Modern recreational drugs include ecstasy, cocaine and LSD among others.
Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) is one of the most common recreational drugs used in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Marijuana leaves often referred to it's street names "mary jane", "weed", "grass" etc. is usually rolled and smoked in cigarette form (called a "joint" or "nail") or in a pipe (known as a "bong"). The active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) which starts a series of pleasurable reactions in the brain referred to as a "high" (National institute on drug abuse, 2004). Smoking a joint usually has no effect on the first use, but its effects are manifested after the second or third use. It affects short term memory but does not hinder physical coordination and there are no reported case yet of overdose ("Pocket guide to recreational drugs", 1995). From 2000 to 2002 marijuana use rose up to 24% in the U.S. alone and is considered to be the 3rd most abused drug reported in hospital emergency cases (National institute on drug abuse, 2004).
THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) the active ingredient found in marijuana affects the brain differently than other drugs. It increases the secretion rate of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Dopamine in return affects the limbic system, the area of the brain associated with emotion and behaviour control (Young, 1997). THC circulates fast from the lungs to the bloodstream as a joint is smoked (National institute on drug abuse, 2004). As THC passes thru the brain, it connects to specific areas called cannaboid receptors on the neural cells. Not all neural cells have the same amount of cannaboid receptors and often a large amount of these type of receptors are found in brain areas associated with pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement (Herkenham et al, 1990; National institute on drug abuse, 2004).
Effects of marijuana use on the heart
Although none has ever died from marijuana related cardiac failure, persons with arteriosclerosis or propensity to heart failure may develop complications from smoking marijuana. Smoking a joint induces tachycardia (brisk rise in heartbeat) along with increase in heart failure similar to when a person experiences stress. These complications can vary in effect and severity (Young, 1997).
Effects of marijuana use on the lungs
In 1990, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports: "No difference in prevalence of chronic cough, sputum production or wheeze was noted between the marijuana and tobacco smokers (included within their study), nor were additive effects of combined smoking of tobacco and marijuana on the prevalence of acute or chronic