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Cannabis Information & Research

What is Cannabis (Marijuana)?

The term cannabis refers to the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. Cannabis can be smoked, vaporized, or ingested. Cannabis contains hundreds of chemicals, including dozens of cannabinoids. The “high” that people experience when using cannabis is caused by the cannabinoid delta- 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The amount of THC in cannabis has increased substantially in recent years.

While many people have brief and mild experiences with cannabis, about one in eleven adults and about one in six teenagers who try cannabis become addicted to it. Young people who use cannabis regularly may have a particularly difficult time cutting back or quitting.

Is Cannabis a Medicine?

Some ingredients in cannabis, when given under close medical supervision, may have beneficial effects for a select number of serious conditions. However, recreational cannabis use in otherwise healthy young people is known to have negative effects.

Cannabis and the Brain

Adolescence is a critical period of brain development that lasts into the mid-20s. Using cannabis can adversely affect learning, memory, coordination, and judgment. Long-term use, particularly during adolescence, is associated with learning and memory problems, as well as negative mental health outcomes.

What Do We Know About Treatment?

Treatment for cannabis use disorder has been shown to help with cutting back or quitting. However, many young people who receive treatment are unsuccessful. Our team showed in a previous study that N-acetylcysteine (NAC), when added to an intensive behavioral treatment, more than doubled the odds of treatment success. NAC is an over-the-counter supplement and antioxidant approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in adults and children for other conditions, but it has not been approved by the FDA for treatment of cannabis use disorder.