Cannabis drugs contain chemicals called cannabinoids that are derived from the hemp plant or Cannabis sativa L. The plant, which grows wild in many tropic and temperate regions of the world, is currently being grown legitimately in the United States for research purposes. Although most cannabis drugs are not accepted for medical use in this country, research has lead to the development of Marinol, which contains synthetic THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), and is being used to control nausea in chemotherapy patients and to increase appetite in AIDS patients.
Cannabis produces feelings of euphoria and relaxed inhibitions, while also impairing coordination and altering perception of time and distance, which can lead to serious driving, occupational and household accidents. Users may experience many problems, even when taking the drugs in low doses, including headaches and dizziness; disturbances in short-term memory and learning; distorted perception of sight, sound, time and touch; trouble with thinking and problem solving; and paranoia and anxiety or panic attacks.
Although physical dependence is rare, psychological addiction is possible among cannabis users. In addition, users often develop tolerance and may exhibit various withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, weight loss and shaky hands, when drug use is discontinued. Drugs that fall in this category include marijuana, hashish and hashish oil.