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Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - Table of Contents

The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana - A Signal of Misunderstanding.

Chapter II

marihuana use and its effects

Subjective Effects

A description of an individual's feelings and state of consciousness as affected by low doses of marihuana is difficult; the condition is not similar to usual waking states and is the result of a highly individual experience. Perhaps the closest analogies are the experience of day dreaming or the moments just prior to falling asleep. The effect is not constant and a cyclical waxing and waning of the intensity of the intoxication occurs periodically.

At low, usual "social" doses, the intoxicated individual may experience an increased sense of well-being; initial restlessness and hilarity followed by a dreamy, carefree state of relaxation; alteration of sensory perceptions including expansion of space and time; and a more vivid sense of touch, sight, smell, taste, and sound; a feeling of hunger, especially a craving for sweets; and subtle changes in thought formation and expression. To an unknowing observer, an individual in this state of consciousness would not appear noticeably different from his normal state.

At higher, moderate doses, these same reactions are intensified but the changes in the individual would still be scarcely noticeable to an observer. The individual may experience rapidly changing emotions, changing sensory imagery, dulling of attention, more altered thought formation and expression such as fragmented thought, flight of ideas, impaired immediate memory, disturbed associations, altered sense of self-identity and, to some, a perceived feeling of enhanced insight.

At very high doses, psychotomimetic phenomena may be experienced. These, include distortions of body image, loss of personal identity, sensory and mental illusions, fantasies and hallucinations.

Nearly all persons who continue to use marihuana describe these usual effects in largely pleasurable terms. However, others might call some of these same effects unpleasant or undesirable.

As discussed earlier, a wide range of extra-drug factors also influences marihuana's effects. The more the individual uses marihuana and the longer he has been using it, the more likely the experiences will be predominantly pleasurable, and the less likely the effects will be unpleasant. An increasing sensitization to those effects viewed as pleasant occurs as the user has more experience with the drug.

Persons subject to unpleasant reactions may eliminate themselves from the using group although the occasional experience of an unpleasant effect does not always discourage use.

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