Cannabis is the more technical name for a very common drug called marijuana. It is grown both indoors and outdoors and is one of the most extensively used drugs in the U.S. and throughout the world. And though there are numerous attempts going on to legalize it-and there are some medicinal uses already permitted-cannabis can be abused just like any other drug. But before we dive into the effects this substance has on the body, let's first define it.

What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant that is most popular for its use as a recreational drug. Two primary types of the plant are used for this purpose including an herbal form typically referred to as marijuana, weed, grass or pot and a resinous form known as hashish or hash. They both contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the chemical that causes the effects synonymous with the drug.

Learn more about this drugs appearance, purity, and types at our basic cannabis information page.

In What Ways is Cannabis Taken Into the Body?

Cannabis can be taken into the body in any number of ways; however, the most common way is through smoking marijuana cigarettes known as joints. However, cannabis can also be smoked through a pipe or water pipe called a bong. Other methods of taking this drug include baking it into baked goods such as marijuana brownies or cookies, or brewing it into a tea.

How Does Cannabis Affect the Body?

Since cannabis acts as a depressant, it causes a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. Your body's reaction time is significantly delayed and your balance is thrown off, as is your coordination. Dry mouth and an increased heart rate are also common effects of cannabis use. In high quantities, cannabis can cause some hallucinations and paranoia.

Prolonged use of the drug can have negative effects on your health including poor lung capacity, susceptibility to colds, emphysema, asthma, bronchitis and even lung cancer. Hormonal problems can also ensue including the delay of puberty and low sperm production in young men and the disruption of menstrual cycles and impaired ovulation in women.

Learn more about the short and long term effects of marijuana and cannabis.

How Does Cannabis Affect the Mind?

Besides the fantasy-like state many users of cannabis describe being in soon after smoking or ingesting the drug, it can also cause short-term memory loss. It has been shown that using the drug over time can reduce your concentration and ability to retain memories as well as learn new information. Other potential problems include impaired judgment, which is an especially big problem when users get behind the wheel of a car. People that use cannabis behave in much the same way and experience the same sort of perception distortions as those under the influence of alcohol.

Still wondering if marijuana is dangerous? Review these questions about cannabis or ask other former marijuana addicts in our marijuana forum.

Thinking about Trying Marijuana?

Cannabis, marijuana, hashish, or whatever slang word it goes by, can pose serious risk factors to your health. And while some people do indulge in this drug on occasion without extremely negative effects, it has been dubbed as the "gateway" drug, meaning if you smoke marijuana, you are much more likely to experiment with other drugs or become addicted to them. So before you decide that cannabis is harmless, consider the fact is that even the "mild intoxication" it produces is enough to result in a DUI, and possession of marijuana resulted in over 900,000 arrests in 2008 alone.

The best way to avoid the health problems marijuana and the various forms of cannabis can lead to, as well as potential addiction issues is to never smoke cannabis to begin with.

Feel Addicted but Ready to Quit Using Marijuana?

It is often said that the most addictive thing about marijuana is that it is so easy for most users to rationalize continued use and to dismiss it as having no serious consequences or effect on their lives. Many ex-users have escaped this thinking and beat their addiction to marijuana with help from a drug rehab facility. Once clean and sober, it's important for the ex-addict to enter some form of ongoing recovery program to adapt to life without the high, and to create a support system for long term sobriety.