The health risks and negative impacts of marijuana use

30May 2019
The Guardian
The health risks and negative impacts of marijuana use

Cannabis, also known as marijuana among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes.

The main psychoactive part of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids.[  Cannabis can be used by smoking, vaporizing, within food, or as an extract.

Cannabis has mental and physical effects, such as creating a high  or  stoned  feeling, a general change in perception, heightened mood, and an increase in appetite. Onset of effects is within minutes when smoked, and about 30 to 60 minutes when cooked and eaten. They last for between two and six hours.  Short-term side effects may include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, red eyes, and feelings of paranoia or anxiety. Long-term side effects may include addiction, decreased mental ability in those who started as teenagers, and behavioral problems in children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy. There is a strong relation between cannabis use and the risk of psychosis, though the cause-and-effect is debated.

Cannabis is mostly used for recreation or as a medicinal drug, although it may also be used for spiritual purposes. In 2013, between 128 and 232 million people used cannabis (2.7 pc to 4.9 pc of the global population between the ages of 15 and 65). It is the most commonly used illegal drug both in the world and the United States, though it is also legal in some jurisdictions. The countries with the highest use among adults as of 2018 are Zambia, the United States, Canada, and Nigeria.  In 2016, 51 per cent of people in the United States had used cannabis in their lifetime. The possession, use, and cultivation of cannabis is illegal in most countries of the world.

The UK’s New Frontier Data has ranked Tanzania the fifth in Africa, with 3.6 million of its citizens said to take marijuana.

In EAC, Tanzania leads the two other populous nations Kenya with 3.3 million consumers and ranked sixth in Africa while Uganda with 2.6 million consumers is ranked eighth in Africa.

Top consumers in Africa, according to the report, are Nigeria with 20.8 million users, Ethiopia with 7.1 million people, Egypt 5.9 million people and DR Congo taking the fourth slot with 5 million people.

According to the study, Nigeria has the world’s highest rate of cannabis use, with 19.4 per cent of its population aged 15 and above having consumed it in the past year.

In 2018, Africa recorded a staggering value of up to $37 million worth of marijuana consumed on the continent.

New Frontier Data’s latest analysis reveals a huge demand for marijuana with more than 260 million adults worldwide consuming cannabis at least once per year. The collectively spending is a staggering US$344 billion annually.

Asia is the world’s largest market due to its geographical size with 39 per cent of the global consumers.  There has been a growing trend of countries around the world legalizing the usage of marijuana, especially for medical purposes.

In Africa, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Uganda are among countries that have cleared the medical application of marijuana. Kenya activists have opened a case in the high court to push for its legalisation.