Doing hash? Think again

Published: February 17, 2014
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When using marijuana, in any form, a user usually feels high and buzzed. Other effects include psychosis, euphoria, a feeling of relaxation, increased sensuality and triggering of abstract and philosophical thinking. PHOTO: AFP

During the first week of January 2014, I was surprised to read three different news stories about marijuana – Washington became the first American state to legalise sale of marijuana for adult recreational uses, Sahiwal police seized a truck carrying hash worth 650 million rupees and Uruguay is now the first country in the world to legalise marijuana trade. 

Usually, anti-narcotic laws are not strictly enforced in Pakistan when it is comes to hashish (hash) and other drugs of the same family including marijuana (charas), cannabis, weed, garda and bhang. These drugs are widely available in Pakistan and almost anyone who wants them can get them from a local dealer, without much of a hassle.

Marijuana is extracted from the leaves of the plant Cannabis Stavia. The plant is native to Pakistan and grows in wild woods. Charas is a common local word for marijuana. Garda is its most pure form, free of additives; it has a stronger effect. Hash is the concentrated resin of the female plant flowers. Bhang is made by grinding the leaves of the plant and either drinking it with milk or baking them with thin chickpea flour cakes called ‘papard’. There are other preparations of marijuana but these are the most common local products available in Pakistan. The active medical ingredient present in the plant, with its psycho-stimulant properties, is called Tetrahydrocannabinol.

I remember as a medical student I knew many student doctors who smoked weed. Many times I smelled the strong distinctive spicy aroma of burning weed and tobacco in the hallways of the hostels, on athletic fields and on the roof tops of the campus. Most of us were extremely tolerant towards its use. It was considered ‘cool’ to smoke weed and everyone who used it knew all the medical advantages of marijuana. Surprisingly, few of those medical students had ever smoked a regular cigarette. Every summer, when we would travel to the Northern areas in Pakistan for hiking and sightseeing, we would be offered weed by a porter, guide, driver or the clerk behind the desk at an inexpensive motel.

When using marijuana, in any form, a user usually feels high and buzzed. Other effects include psychosis (lack of realisation of reality), euphoria, a feeling of relaxation, increased sensuality and triggering of abstract and philosophical thinking. These effects usually do not last for more than a few hours but the drug can be detected in urine even a month after its use.

Cannabis (marijuana) consumption is a risk factor for development of Schizophrenia. There are reported problems in memory and learning and its use may cause cognitive deficits in heavy and frequent users.  Cannabis intoxication includes impaired muscle coordination, anxiety, poor judgment and social withdrawal along with reddening of eyes and other worrisome symptoms. Discontinuing the prolonged use of cannabis use can result in anger, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, depressed moods, abdominal pains, chills, headaches, etcetera. These are not life threatening events and can, in most cases, be controlled with medication.

For centuries, marijuana has been used in spiritual and mystic experiences as well as medical uses. In medical practice, the use of marijuana includes treating nausea and vomiting due to cancer chemotherapy, pain and muscle spasms. In short, there is a growing movement in the world for legalising marijuana use. Different websites promote marijuana use and provide information about where and how to buy marijuana in almost any big city in the world. I was surprised to see the current prices of marijuana in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, which had been posted a day before my recent online search. The websites also included detailed notes about the quality of the product.

According to the 2013 joint report from the Ministry of Narcotic Control Pakistan and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, marijuana was the country’s most commonly used drug. 6.4 million people or nearly six per cent of the adult population of the country used weed. Prevention is better and easier than treatment when it comes to managing addictions. Pakistan is extremely deficient in trained physicians who can treat addiction and effectively run detoxification or rehabilitation centres.

There is a severe stigma associated with drug use and this prevents people from getting the necessary psychiatric help to get rid of substance addiction. In contrast, it is relatively easy to prevent drug use by educating the public through awareness campaigns, especially young adults. Seminars and awareness camps in different academic campuses could be a good starting point as many students think that using hash is no big deal and not that harmful.

Hassan Majeed (MD)

Hassan Majeed MD

The author is working as a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, NY. He is a marathon runner and his interests include art, culture, travel, gender, human rights, mental health, and education. He tweets @HassanMajeedMD (twitter.com/HassanMajeedMD)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • BilluStoner

    I am too stoned to read this article…Recommend

  • SheikhYerbouti

    ‘… a feeling of relaxation, increased sensuality and triggering of abstract and philosophical thinking.’ Everything THEY don’t want you to experience. Recommend

  • justanotherstoner

    Beware of ‘psycho-stimulants’ that cause relaxation and philosophical thinking. On a less sarcastic note, it has very little empirical data showing the true harmful effects of marijuana on an individual. Furthermore I would expect more detail (in terms of possible effects) as the potential effects stated could probably be evident with excessive consumption of something like soft drinks. ‘etcetera’Recommend

  • MK

    Then, Dr. Majeed, why is your country of residence legalizing the consumption of marijuana – for both medicinal AND recreational use (Colorado)?

    Recommend

  • Dante

    Marijuana is also linked to causing strokes. Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com Anoop

    The risk of eating high cholesterol food and/or non-vegetarian food is much higher than smoking weed.

    How many people die of heart diseases linked to high cholestrol and how many people have died smoking weed?

    If Weed is harmful, non-vegetarian diet is much more harmful.Recommend

  • fahad

    Dude

    We can follow the footsteps of others and start legalizing it , it is most readily available in Pakistan , can you not see the benefits it has , with the current state of frustration and anxiety in our people it would be a welcome product,

    Just think of all the Tax money the government can make from this and then legalizing its trade to other countries which would have legalized its use , just think of the business potential in a plant that is everywhere present in our country !

    So the article should be how we can earn from this plant without doing much ! Recommend

  • Necromancer

    Misleading title it should be ……..Doing Hash? Please continue doing so…………. weed is the best form of natural drug provided by mother nature……..If weed was legal we could have avoided half of all the wars……….Imagine Hitler if he would have been high he won’t have the time to destroy the worldRecommend

  • Nobody

    Legalize it, regulate it, tax it and smoke it. World would be a happier place. Recommend

  • Ammar

    Marijuana is not addictive. Seriously, what have you been smoking doc?Recommend

  • MegaMan

    HOW CAN YOU BAN A PART OF NATURE?Recommend

  • Anonymous

    In what universe is marijuana addictive? Recommend

  • Hassan Majeed

    As a author of the blog I appreciate your comments.

    I tried to educate about marijuana and talked about harmful effects and the uses of the drug. I am not trying to build any opinion. I believe any one who is mature enough should make their own decision including about use of marijuana.

    Dear Anonymous and Ammar, you have all the write to differ about marijuana being non-addictive substance. I am quoting from Diagnostics and Statistical Manual
    (DSM-5) that Cannabis use cause both tolerance and withdrawal effects. It is listed under chapter of’ ”Substance-related and Addictive Disorder.’

    Dear MK, You are right that in certain states in USA its medical and recreational use is legalized and now President Obama allowed banks to do transactions with these pot-shops as well. Once again, I am not trying to say it is good or bad. I am just putting the fact about the drug and people should decide what they want to do in their lives. I am a psychiatrist and educator not a law or opinion maker.

    Once again, thank you all. Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Nobody: Legalize it, regulate it, tax it and smoke it. World would be a happier place.

    People need to learn to be happy without using weed, smoking and alcohol. Problem is for most people once they start using these things, they need them more and more, and for some people it can create a feeling that they may not be able to survive without them. After some time it can lead to use of stronger drugs. Weed does not do much for many people who use stronger drugs. Micheal Jackson needed very strong drug injections (like fentanyl) even to relax enough to go to sleep. he probably started his drug habit with smoking or weed.

    Do you think drugs like Cocaine and LSD should be legalized to because they can make people lot more happier? Do you think THC (active ingredient of weed) should be available as over the counter drug?

    These drugs can be CNS depressants or stimulants. Drugs can’t make any one happy. Drugs can help people less inhibited, relaxed, excited depending on how mind perceives these effects. Recommend

  • Arslan

    Eating biryani everyday would be MUCH more harmful to you than smoking weed. Should we criminalize biryani too? High fat food kills MILLIONS of people, weed has yet to kill one. Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    You had me at Doing Hash? Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Ammar: A big factor in addiction is personality and mental state of the person using a psychotropic substance to feel good/relaxed/lower inhibition etc. Some people drink alcohol occasionally others become alcoholics and need alcohol all the time.Recommend

  • gingo

    LSD is much better though i’ve not been able to take a ‘trip’ latelyRecommend

  • Nobody

    @Vikram:
    You took my comment a bit too seriously.

    But since you asked….no, I don’t think legalizing cocaine or LSD would be the same as legalizing marijuana. I have yet to hear of or meet a fully functioning cocaine addict. The couple of addicts I’ve met or have heard of among former fellow uni students were more or less train wrecks. I HAVE on the other hand met many many people from all walks of life who smoke weed quite often and are perfectly fine. Go to any college campus here and you’ll fine potheads a plenty, but they are functioning as any other non smoker. The long term affects are evident as they are in cigarette smoking, but dependence is where these drugs differentiate. Recommend

  • powvow

    “According to the 2013 joint report from the Ministry of Narcotic Control Pakistan and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, marijuana was the country’s most commonly used drug. 6.4 million people or nearly six per cent of the adult population of the country used weed”

    Well that’s because your country mindlessly banned alcohol for being unIslamic, without paying heed to the possible after effects. I’m not saying alcohol is ok, but under restrictions and with limited rations, it can be controlled, definitely better than marijuana.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/ow.radio Omar

    2013 joint report (!)

    ha ha!Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Nobody: I HAVE on the other hand met many many people from all walks of life who smoke weed quite often and are perfectly fine.

    They look fine, but need weed to feel good. I wish researchers will find ways that can help us get a “natural high” without weed, smoking, too much alcohol etc

    Me now thinks even low doses of LSD and Cocaine in tablet form may be useful in treating depression.

    I would like to know what people feel after smoking “weed”.Recommend

  • Vikram

    Author: “Cannabis (marijuana) consumption is a risk factor for development of Schizophrenia.”

    I wonder how a scientist came to that conclusion. Some one mentioned 6.4 million people or nearly six per cent of the adult population used weed in Pakistan. How many of these people have become Schizophrenic? Recommend

  • Wadeira ka beta

    Start playing sports people, try squash.. the adrenaline rush from a sport beats any drug. Recommend

  • Not listening

    Let’s ban guns first.
    I’m not giving this up in a county so chaotic. Thank you but it’s largely keeping us from shooting each other. Recommend

  • Hassan Majeed

    Vikram, you made a very good point. Right on. It is a medically controversial issue.

    Marijuana use causes psychosis ( major symptoms of schizophrenia) in people with genetic loading of psychosis and other risk factors. The association between cannabis use and earlier onset of psychosis is robust. I am pasting the link to the meta analysis showing effect of marijuana use and early psychotic sxs. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22716150 . 32 months difference is huge in life and it can lead to change in functional outcome. With out getting too clinical, you question is valid and there is a evidence to support that cannabis use can unmask psychosis disorder in select patient population. Recommend

  • give-me-some

    even though same family but charas or hashish is not the same as marijuana – charas is made from wild bhang plant mixed with other nasty ingredients while marijuana is a pet plant grown mainly in Mexico ,western United States and Europe and the buds are smoked for a high that is far superior in quality than Hashish.Recommend

  • mast malang

    marijuana causes two bad things- one is loss of memory and i cant remember the second one.!!.Recommend

  • s

    I know the second one its mast malangni..Recommend

  • MK

    To the author, thanks for replying. The title is a little misleading though, and hence all the comments about legalization. Is this your area of study? Maybe we should link up and exchange thoughts. I’m a banker based in NY. Recommend

  • ymeen

    lol i like youRecommend

  • BuzzLightyear

    Same here. I was going to comment the same thing. lolRecommend

  • mary jane my gf

    What is with you people leave the poor plant alone its the best thing any one can have in this chaotic worldRecommend

  • ProudCharsiEngineer

    Dear author,

    I am an Electrical Engineer(B.E), Diploma holder in Psychology and i study religions and Science. I myself smoke Garda twice per week.
    i would like to share a little story with you: yesterday i asked 7th and 8th grader to explain what is Water cycle, they both failed and gave me an excuse that they have studied but forgotten, Do i have to label them as weed smokers?? no!
    Memory loss thing is a problem with every one whether it be marijuana users or not.
    I guess you have a little hatred for weed smokers deep inside :)
    Chill out and smoke some pure hash. your copy cut research won’t work to stop this natural plant from growing. Think again you are against nature. Cannabis plant is one in all miraculous plant. Its oil is used for cancer patients and those who have PTSD and other psychological issue.
    Since your pseudo-doctors give alopethics on prescription and you are representing corporate giant pharmaceuticals. i can show you million cases of alopethic harms. they are useless for psychological mental issues.Recommend

  • WeedLover

    It doesn’t make anyone schizophrenic, it just triggers it if you have it.
    Recommend

  • pringlesbbq

    i was gonna higlight the same thing but another omar has already done soRecommend

  • AbstractHijabi

    Totally agree. Did you know that when Colorado, USA legalized marijuana they had something like a >50% reduction in homicides? Marijuana indeed keeps us from killing each other.Recommend

  • AbstractHijabi

    Hitler WAS high…on amphetamines. Bet you didn’t know that one. Explains a lot, don’t it?Recommend

  • Zuljin

    You clearly have not done drugs properly :pRecommend

  • Ahmad Achakzai

    hash has no side effects .Recommend

  • Ahmad Achakzai

    i am proud of your sloganRecommend

  • beastador

    Nope.Recommend

  • Tariq

    Pharmaceuticals manufactoring dozens of painkillers don’t want to use a natural pain killer. Continuous use of panadol causes liver faiure, augmentin can lead to ulcer and so on and so forth. Write about that docRecommend

  • sheran khan

    What a lame article.people are depressed,worried and feared.elites are drinking vine made from the blood or poors and this man trying to teach us that marijuana is harmfull and should be banned??what a dual standard.go and ban open gun firing first,go and ban hate speach,go and ban religious dictatorship.then provide us some better recreational alternatives like better parks.provide us jobs people are suiciding. clean streets.provoke the law.once it will be done.then i will think about marijuana and my healthRecommend

  • bilal kazmi

    Well, It is a curse for our nation….When talking about scientific facts, no one really talks about Islam..It is considered Haraam.And about being natural,then don’t forget that sharaab is also natural…It is intoxicating thus it is Haraam…That’s all…
    Recommend

  • Bhaijan

    People really need to stop being narrow minded in pakistan. First of all hash ain’t for everyone some may have positive affects some may have negative affects.I suffer from depression and taking antidepressants didn’t really work out and I lost all hope and was going slowly sucidal but then I started thinking about my family and how they would it would destroy their lives. Then I could not find a way out and I was stuck in the middle of these decisions and I did everything literally like pray and go out and etc. But then I researched and found hashish as an alternative to my medications and I took the name of God and got some hashish and smoked it and after a week of light regular smoking. It changed my life and made me who I was meant to be and I started making friends and I was gaining a lot of confidence and my social skills and depression started vanishing. I am not a heavy smoker just one joint a day keeps the problems away. Seriously stop calling it bad even cigarettes are addictive harmful. Even alcohol is addictive and harmful and no drug or herb can provide the benefits of this so called bad drug.now I agree that it has its own bad sides but none of them are really bad if you control your consumption. Peace guys and love cannabis not hate it. 😊☺Recommend

  • shameer

    how is sharaab natural. it is made by yeast reacting with fruits for years while weed is a natural plant that grows without any help from us.Recommend

  • Zeeshan Khan

    Hash is the only thing that makes life worth living.Recommend

  • Zeeshan Khan

    All these puppets in the hands of corporate pharmaceutical companies, ban the weapons and Pain killers first then ban hash, painkillers cause more deaths and side effects than weed ever does and weed is totally safe to use if you don’t mix it with tobacco.Recommend

  • Omar K Cheema

    LSD and Cocaine are hard drugs with potential for physical addiction. These are REAL drugs. LSD and Cocaine are not legal anywhere in any form , for any type of use. But Marijuana is. In fact half the states in the United States, most of Europe and Israel have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. You are comparing hard drugs with physically addictive (cocaine) and mentally scarring (LSD) properties to a drug that is considered medicine in half the civilized world.

    Marijuana should not be in the same category as Cocaine , Methamphetamine and Alcohol, those drugs ruin lives and kill people, marijuana does not.Recommend

  • John Woods

    great article. Thanks YouRecommend

  • Hamza Tahir

    Really Bro! But i was high when i read it and it literally blew my mind…Now when my mind got blown i started reading the comments and i was like…wwusshh.i should comment too even this article is written way back in the stone ages…but then i am too high for this!Recommend

  • Sleepy Cat

    Turkish saying ” ottur günahı yoktur” Translation – “It’s grass, it is no sin”Recommend

  • Sleepy Cat

    Only positives, happy hungry and sleepy. Necessity’s in life.Recommend

  • Jessica

    Inaccurate facts!!!!Recommend