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Marijuana use in Abkhazia

By Dr. Ramaz MItaishvili
Of Illegal drugs, marijuana is the most frequently used drug in the Abkhazia (breakaway province of Georgia).
*****Hashish is a concentrated form of compressed marijuana resins. Marijuana - often called pot, grass, reefer, weed, herb, mary jane, or mj  (Street name in Abkhazia- “Shmal’”, “Dury” )- is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of Cannabis sativa, the hemp plant. Most users smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints, among other names; some use pipes or water pipes called bongs. Marijuana cigars called blunts have also become popular. To make blunts, users slice open cigars and replace the tobacco with marijuana, often combined with another drug, such as crack cocaine. Marijuana also is used to brew tea and is sometimes mixed into foods.
The major active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes the mind-altering effects of marijuana intoxication. The amount of THC (which is also the psychoactive ingredient in hashish) determines the potency and, therefore, the effects of marijuana. Between 1980 and 1997, the amount of THC in marijuana available in the United States rose dramatically.
Marijuana is the Nation's most commonly used illicit drug. Almost every young man in Abkhazia age 10 and over have tried marijuana at least once.
Marijuana use is widespread among adolescents and young adults. The percentage of middle-school students who reported using marijuana in Abkhazia increased throughout the early 1990s. In the past few years, according to the Monitoring the Future Study, an annual survey of drug use among the Nation's middle- and high-school students, illicit drug use by 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders has leveled off. Still, in 2001, 20 percent of 8th-graders reported that they had tried marijuana, and 9 percent were current users (defined as having used the drug in the 30 days preceding the survey). Among 10th-graders, 40 percent had tried marijuana sometime in their lives, and almost 20 percent were current users. As would be expected, rates of use among 12th-graders were higher still: Nearly half had tried marijuana at some time, and 22 percent were current users. In Abkhazia situation much, much worse, because the Psou River gap between Georgia and Russia is ruled by drug lord bandit groups. Yet local separatist government claims sovereignty, not by the presence of police and villages and central plazas, but simply by lines on a paper map, that are meaningless to rural farmers on the ground, when a raping, torturing, kidnapping murdering bunch of Apsua bandits  come calling at all farms. Today Abkhazia (break away province of Georgia) is ungoverned area and violence and bandits rein supreme.

Physical Effects
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary active compound found in marijuana. Physiologic eefects of THC include orthostatic hypotension and tachycardia.
Psychological effects
THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to organs throughout the body, including the brain. In the brain, THC connects to specific sites called cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells and thereby influences the activity of those cells. Some brain areas have many cannabinoid receptors; others have few or none. Many cannabinoid receptors are found in the parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.  Psychological effects of THC include euphoria, relaxation, and sleepiness; these begin soon after smoking marijuana and continue for a few hours. In low doses, marijuana impairs memory and complex motor activity, alerts sensory and tome perception, causes conjuctival reddening, and may increase appetite and sexual desire, but not ability. With high doses, marijuana may cause delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety, and decrease sexual functioning. Chronic users experience lung problems associated with smoking and a decrease in motivation (“the amotivational syndrome”) characterized by lack of desire to work and increased apathy.

What treatments are available
for marijuana abusers?
Treatment programs directed at marijuana abuse are rare, partly because many who use marijuana do so in combination with other drugs, such as cocaine and alcohol. However, with more people seeking help to control marijuana abuse, research has focused on ways to overcome problems with abuse of this drug.
One study of adult marijuana users found comparable benefits from a 14-session cognitive-behavioral group treatment and a 2-session individual treatment that included motivational interviewing and advice on ways to reduce marijuana use. Participants were mostly men in their early thirties who had smoked marijuana daily for over 10 years. By increasing patients' awareness of what triggers their marijuana use, both treatments sought to help them devise avoidance strategies. Use, dependence symptoms, and psychosocial problems decreased for at least 1 year after both treatments. About 30 percent of users were abstinent during the last 3-month follow-up period. Another study suggests that giving patients vouchers for abstaining from marijuana can improve outcomes. Vouchers can be redeemed for such goods as movie passes, sports equipment, or vocational training.
No medications are now available to treat marijuana abuse. However, recent discoveries about the workings of THC receptors have raised the possibility that scientists may eventually develop a medication that will block THC's intoxicating effects. Such a medication might be used to prevent relapse to marijuana abuse by reducing or eliminating its appeal.
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