Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Acute Effects of Marijuana (Delta 9 THC) - Subjective Effects

US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Table of Contents
I. Marihuana and the Problem of Marihuana
Origins of the Marihuana Problem
The Need for Perspective
Formulating Marihuana Policy
The Report
II. Marihuana Use and Its Effects
The Marihuana User
Profiles of Users
Becoming a Marihuana User
Becoming a Multidrug User
Effects of Marihuana on the User
Effects Related to Pattern Use
Immediate Drug Effects
ShortTerm Effects
Long Term Effects
Very Long Term Effects
III. Social Impact of Marihuana Use
IV. Social Response to Marihuana Use
V. Marihuana and Social Policy
Drugs in a Free Society
A Social Control Policy for Marihuana
Implementing the Discouragement Policy
A Final Comment
Ancillary Recommendations
Legal and Law Enforcement Recommendations
Medical Recommendations
Other Recommendations
Letter of Transmittal
Members and Staff
History of Marihuana Use: Medical and Intoxicant
II. Biological Effects of Marihuana
Botanical and Chemical Considerations
Factors Influencing Psychopharmacological Effect
Acute Effects of Marihuana (Delta 9 THC)
Effects of Short-Term or Subacute Use
Effects of Long-Term Cannabis Use
Investigations of Very Heavy Very Long-Term Cannabis Users
III. Marihuana and Public Safety
Marihuana and Crime
Marihuana and Driving
Marihuana - Public Health and Welfare
Assessment of Perceived Risks
Preventive Public Health Concerns
Marihuana and the Dominant Social Order
The World of Youth
Why Society Feels Threatened
The Changing Social Scene
Problems in Assessing the Effects of Marihuana
Marihuana and Violence
Marihuana and (Non-Violent) Crime
Summary and Conclusions: Marihuana and Crime
Marihuana and Driving
History of Marihuana Legislation
History of Alcohol Prohibition
History of Tobacco Regulation
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The Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Acute Effects of Marihuana

(Delta 9 THC)


Descriptive accounts of marihuana intoxication have been written by noted authors, Beaudelaire (1961), scientists, Moreau (1945), and common users Tart, 1970, 1971; Isbell et al., 1967; Report by Advisory Committee, 1968). Adequate description of the state of mind produced by low doses is difficult because it is not approximated in the usual states of consciousness or by other commonly used drugs. The closest non-drug approximation may be the altered state of consciousness experienced in the hypnotic trance or transcendental meditation or the, transition zone between waking and sleep (Weil, 1971). Due to the highly subjective nature of the experience, there is much individual variation in the effects described.

Tart (1970, 1971) studied the range of potential common effects in an extensive survey of 150 users. Changes noted by these studies at low doses (usually smoked dose about five mg. THC) include euphoria, with restlessness and mild mental confusion. Sensory perception of the external environment. is altered. Users often perceive an overestimation or slowing of elapsed time and expansion of space, enhanced sense of tactile, olfactory, gustatory perceptions and often a feeling of hunger. Visual alterations reported are more vivid imagery and seeing forms and patterns in objects that are usually amorphous. Increased awareness of subtle qualities of sound such as purity, distinctness or rhythm are characteristically perceived by users. A dreamy, relaxed state and disinhibition, with uncontrollable laughter is reported and users often believe that interpersonal relations are altered, and act to potentiate social interaction.

At moderate doses intensifications of changes experienced are reported. Users' reports include disturbed associations, dulling of attention, vivid visual imagery, fixed ideas, rapidly changing positive and negative emotions, fragmentation of thought, flight of ideas, impaired immediate memory, altered sense of identity, increased suggestibility and a feeling of enhanced insight. At higher doses, interpersonal relations are dulled and the user feels less social and more withdrawn.

At larger doses psychotomimetic (hallucinogenic-like) phenomena are experienced in a wavelike fashion. These include distortion of body image, depersonalization, visual illusions and distortions, synesthesia, dream-like fantasies and vivid hallucinations.

Data from Isbell et a]. (1967) and Perez-Reyes et al. (1971) have indicated that the hallucinogenic oral dose is in the range of 0.4 to 0.5 mg./kg Delta 9 THC. Thus, the hallucinogenic dose is 80 times larger than the delivered dose of smoked marihuana producing minimal subjective effects (five micrograms/kg.) or about 11 to 14 times larger than the usual smoked dose.

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