60seconds Sam: The Cannabis Factsheet
But how much do you actually know about it? Do you know what it does to the brain? Why do some people end up hooked? Well, as part of BBC Three's Dangerous Pleasures Season, we're taking a unique look at exactly how cannabis affects the body. With a little help from the latest CGI, How Drugs Work: Cannabis follows its journey through the body from the very moment it's smoked or eaten.
So, how much do we know about cannabis? What exactly is it?
The drug's produced from parts of the cannabis plant, which is grown all over the world. It comes in two main forms:
- Hash is a solid lump made from the resin of the plant.
- Grass is the dried leaves and flowering parts of the plant.
What are the risks?
Getting stoned isn't necessarily the harmless pastime that some people think it is. Cannabis can lead to paranoia and anxiety, and experts reckon using skunk is riskier because it has higher levels of tetrahydrocannabino (THC).
- THC can lower blood pressure, making the heart beat faster and increasing the risk of a heart attack.
- Anyone with a history of mental illness is at a greater risk of developing a serious psychotic condition, like schizophrenia.
- Heavy use can lead to dependence on the drug, which makes quitting harder - sleep problems, mood swings and loss of appetite are just some of the withdrawal symptoms.
What are some of the effects?
The main active ingredient is tetrahydrocannabino (THC). It goes straight to the brain, resulting in a so-called 'buzz':
- Many users say it helps them chill out, leaving them happy and relaxed.
- Some of those questioned in How Drugs Work: Cannabis claimed it heightened their senses.
- The drug is also thought to have medical benefits, mainly pain relief . Some scientists also say it can help relieve nausea in cancer patients who are having chemotherapy.
What about the law?
It's illegal to have or sell the drug in Britain. Two years ago, cannabis was upgraded from Class C to Class B. Ministers said they had to make the change because of worries about its impact on mental health. It means getting caught with cannabis carries some serious penalties, including unlimited fines:
- Possession - up to a maximum of five years in prison.
- Supply - if you sell it, or even give it away to your mates, you face up to 14 years in prison.
There's more information on cannabis, as well as help and advice, on the following websites: How Drugs Work series: