No, it is not Bob Marley’s birthday! Neither is it a California penal code for possession of weed, or the number of chemical compounds found in a cannabis plant.
What 420 is, whether expressed in the form 4:20 (as a time of day), 4/20 (as a calendar date), or just the unadorned numeral (pronounced "four-twenty"), is a universal, unofficial symbol for the use and appreciation of marijuana. In fact, 4/20 (April 20) has come to be known in certain circles as "Marijuana Appreciation Day”.
Notwithstanding the many and various urban legends that have grown up around the meaning of "420" and its connection with marijuana, the true story behind that connection is surprisingly prosaic.
In the early 1970s a small group of hippie stoners at San Rafael High School in northern California used to meet at a designated location every day to smoke weed at 4:20 p.m. They did this so regularly that among members of the group the expression "420" became a general euphemism for "time to light up."
The catchphrase spread beyond their immediate circle, beyond the high school they attended, and ultimately beyond California, so that within a decade or two pot smokers were using it across the country and indeed the world over. ." (From David Emery a freelance writer and an avid chronicler of urban legends and popular culture, April 2011)
To be Blunt….
Although marijuana may be legalized in some places and decriminalized in others like alcohol and other drugs, research indicates that marijuana can have negative effects on the brain in areas that have a direct impact on academic, social, physical and psychological success. Marijuana is also addictive for some users. The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. The latest treatment data indicate that marijuana accounted for 17 percent of admissions (322,000) to treatment facilities in the United States, second only to opiates among illicit substances.
How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?
Scientists have learned a great deal about how THC acts in the brain to produce its many effects. THC acts upon specific sites in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors, kicking off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the "high" that users experience when they smoke marijuana. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrating, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.(NIDA, 2010)
Marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory. Research has shown that, in chronic users, marijuana's adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off. The presence of MJ in the brain has also been shown to affect the brains ability to retain new information. In other words, if you get “high” on Saturday night and go to class on Monday, your ability to retain new information is impaired (even if you are not “high”). Someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all of the time.
Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction, that is, compulsive drug seeking and abuse despite the known harmful effects upon functioning in the context of family, school, work, and recreational activities. Estimates from research suggest that about 9 percent of users become addicted to marijuana; this number increases among those who start young (to about 17 percent) and among daily users (25-50 percent).
Some people report withdrawal symptoms including: irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which can make it difficult to remain abstinent.
Marijuana and Mental Health
A number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.
Effects on Health
Numerous studies have shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs. In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. Marijuana increases heart rate by 20-100 percent shortly after smoking; this effect can last up to 3 hours.
Scientists have confirmed that the cannabis plant contains active ingredients with therapeutic potential for relieving pain, controlling nausea, stimulating appetite, and decreasing ocular pressure.
Help and information at SHU
If you are concerned about your or someone else’s use of marijuana or other substances, you can contact Janice Kessler, the Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention and Prevention Specialist. Janice is located in the Counseling Center and can be reached at 203-371-7955. All appointments are free and confidential.