Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Marihuana Use and Its Effects - Body Function

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 National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Marihuana - A Signal of Misunderstanding.

Chapter II

marihuana use and its effects

Body Function

A large amount of research has been performed in man and animals regarding the immediate effect of marihuana on bodily processes. No conclusive evidence exists of any physical damage, disturbances of bodily processes or proven human fatalities attributable solely to even very high doses of marihuana. Recently, animal studies demonstrated a relatively large margin of safety between the psychoactive dose and the physical and behavioral toxic and lethal dose. Such studies seemed to indicate that safe human study could be undertaken over a wide dose range.

Low to moderate doses of the drug produce minimal measurable transient changes in body functions. Generally, pulse rate increases, recumbent blood pressure increases slightly, and upright blood pressure decreases. The eyes redden, tear secretion is decreased, the pupils become slightly smaller, the fluid pressure within the eye lessens and one study reports that the eyeball rapidly oscillates (nystagmus).

A minimal decrement in maximum muscle strength, the presence of a fine hand tremor, and a decrease in hand and body steadiness have also been noted. Decreased sensitivity to pain and overestimation of elapsed time may occur.

The effects of marihuana on brain waves are still unclear and inconsistent. Generally, the intoxication produces minimal, transient changes of rapid onset and short duration. Sleep time appears to increase, as does dreaming.

Investigation of the effects of marihuana on a wide variety of other bodily function indices has revealed few consistently observed changes.

These few consistently observed transient effects on bodily function seem to suggest that marihuana is a rather unexciting compound of negligible immediate toxicity at the doses usually consumed in this country. The substance is predominantly a psychoactive drug. The feelings and state of consciousness described by the intoxicated seem to be far more interesting than the objective state noted by an observer.

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