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Cannabis Sativa and Indica Side Effects of Use

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Marijuana is the psychoactive drug derived from this plant, containing the active ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Different strains of cannabis include sativa and indica.

While marijuana remains federally illegal and designated as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), cannabis is a big business in the United States. Many states have legalized its medicinal, and even its recreational, use at the local level.

Strains of Cannabis

Cannabis plants are bred and genetically engineered into different strains. Two of the most talked about strains are cannabis sativa and cannabis indica.

While there are many claims of these two plants being completely different strains of cannabis, with a different look and different effects, most scientists and experts agree that they likely just contain a different chemical makeup.

It is near impossible to know exactly what you are buying or taking and how it might impact you, but there are some things to be aware of. Looking at the chemical composition of cannabis can help you determine its potential effects.

There are some differences between those labeled sativa and those marked indica.

Cannabis Explained

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cannabis ranks as the most used, abused, trafficked, and cultivated illicit drug around the globe. About 2.5 percent of the global population consume cannabis every year.

In the United States, 24 million Americans were current users of marijuana at the time of the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Cannabis is widely used and distributed. It is sold all over the world in a variety of settings and in a range of products.

Marijuana (derived from the cannabis plant’s stems, seeds, and leaves) is a dried form of cannabis that is generally smoked or ingested for a pleasurable high. This is due to the THC, or psychoactive, component of the drug.

Typically, the higher the level of THC, the more potent the strain and the more mind-altering the effects will be.

The Debate Over Sativa & Indica

There are thousands of different strains and types of cannabis on the market. Consumers are often looking for either sativa or indica, depending on what the desired impact is.

Cannabis sativa plants are tall with narrow thin leaves, while the indica strain plants are short with broader leaves. Aside from just looks, these plants are said to have different effects.

Cannabis sativa:

  • Gives you energy.
  • Enhances mood and makes you feel happy.
  • Makes you more social.
  • Lowers inhibitions.

Cannabis indica:

  • Has a sedating effect.
  • Makes you feel more mellow and calm.
  • Helps to relieve stress.
  • Works for pain relief.

Researchers tend to agree that the breakdown of these cannabis strains is not entirely accurate. The main difference between different makeups of cannabis product lies in their chemical makeup.

At a dispensary, the indica versus sativa distinction may tell you what the desired and likely effects of the product will be, but this is not necessarily based on the plant itself. It is more likely due to the level of THC in the plant and other biochemical components.

If a cannabis product tells you it is indica, or indica-like, it is likely intended to be more mellowing and sedating. Something labeled as sativa, or sativa-like, is likely to be more energizing and intoxicating.

Possible Impact of Cannabis Use

The higher the level of THC, the more intoxicating a cannabis product is likely to be and the greater its psychoactive properties. This is true whether or not the product you are ingesting is sativa or indica.

Cannabis use can impair your mental and cognitive functions as well as your motor skills. Possible side effects of use include the following:

  • Lowered inhibitions and likely to engage in more risk-taking behaviors
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Memory issues
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Distorted perception and sense of time
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Sedation and sluggishness
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased motivation
  • Increased sociability

It can also be difficult to know exactly what kind of cannabis you are really taking — what’s in it and how it is going to impact you and your body. Just because the “experts” tell you that this particular strain is going to pump you up instead of making you tired, this doesn’t mean it will happen to you. Cannabis and different cannabis products will interact in each person’s body differently, and it can be hard to predict exactly what will happen.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns that marijuana use can be addictive. Nearly a third of those who use the drug struggle with a marijuana use disorder at some point.

CBD as an Alternative to Cannabis

Cannabis products are often heralded for their potential medicinal properties. They are frequently used to relieve anxiety, reduce pain, boost appetite, and combat nausea.

One of the other components of cannabis is CBD (cannabidiol), which is considered to more medicinal than intoxicating. When CBD amounts are higher than THC amounts, the effects of the drug are likely to be less mind-altering and more pharmacological.

Products that contain CBD as opposed to THC are not as likely to be intoxicating or have as many possible psychoactive side effects. CBD lotions and oils can be used for pain relief, and CBD on its own is not going to get you high.

CBD is often used for medicinal purposes to treat the following issues:

  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Inflammation
  • Migraines
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis

There are far fewer side effects associated with CBD than with cannabis products that contain higher amounts of THC.

Cannabis & Addiction

In 2017, a quarter of a million people in the United States were admitted to public substance abuse treatment facilities citing marijuana as their primary drug of abuse. Marijuana is a form of cannabis.

Cannabis, especially products high in THC, is a mind-altering substance that is considered to be addictive. With regular use, your brain and body can get used to cannabis and become dependent on it. You will need to use more of it to feel the same high (drug tolerance). It can become harder for you to stop using it, even if you want to and try to quit. This is addiction.

Regular and repeated cannabis use can lead to drug dependence, which is a physical reaction. When the drug is no longer active in your bloodstream, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Cannabis withdrawal symptoms can include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Cravings
  • Appetite changes
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep issues
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Thinking, concentration, and memory problems

With chronic use, both cannabis sativa and cannabis indica can lead to drug dependence and addiction.

Self-Assessment: Am I Addicted?

Rehab for Cannabis

Addiction is a behavioral brain disease that changes the way you think, feel, and act. Rehab can help to address the negative changes and teach you how to cope with life without turning to cannabis.

Your brain pathways can be rebuilt through behavioral therapies. In counseling, you can learn how to create and use coping strategies to manage cravings. You’ll learn how to build a positive support network that can help you to stay sober for the long term.

Though cannabis is often viewed through a benign lens, it can lead to serious problems if you are struggling with ongoing abuse and addiction. Reach out for help today.

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