Marijuana is the drug that most people are familiar with when it comes to cannabis, but another, more potent drug comes from the same plant called cannabis. Hashish is more popular in other parts of the world than in the U.S., but it is here too. Use of hashish carries the same dangers as using marijuana, but amplified. It causes adverse health effects and can lead to addiction.
What is Cannabis?
Hashish, or hash for short, is a drug that is made from the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa. Cannabis is a very useful plant, in that the fibers can be made into a material called hemp. Hemp is a natural and durable material and can be used for paper, rope, fabrics, and other items. The seeds of the plant can be eaten and are very nutritious.
On the other hand, cannabis can also be made into illegal drugs. When various parts of the plant, such as the leaves, stems, and flower buds, are dried, they can be smoked. This is called marijuana and it gives the user a high. Hash is made from resins of the plant and gives users a similar high to marijuana.
The substances in cannabis that make it an appealing recreational drug are called cannabinoids. These are chemical compounds that give the user of the drug psychoactive symptoms. There are over 400 such compounds in the cannabis plant, but one of them produces the majority of symptoms. It is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC and the other cannabinoids act on the user by attaching to receptors in the brain and in other locations in the nervous system. This causes a change in mood and thinking, resulting in a relaxed, philosophical, humorous, and hungry state of mind. Some users also experience feelings of anxiety and paranoia.
What is Hash?
While marijuana is simply a collection of dried parts of the cannabis plant that are smoked like a cigarette, hash requires a little more effort to make. Hash comes from a resin that is found in a part of the plant called the trichomes. Trichomes are hair-like glands that can be found all over the cannabis plant. The trichomes that are attached to the buds are most plentiful and contain the most resin. This resin contains higher concentrations of the cannabinoids than any other part of the plant.
The resinous trichomes can be removed from the buds of cannabis plants by a variety of methods. They may be separated from the rest of the plant by the physical action of shaking them through a sieve or by using a tumbler. They can also be removed using chemicals to dissolve the resin. Once the trichomes are separated from the plant, they are pressed together into solid cakes. This is hashish. Users break off small pieces from the cake and smoke it.
Where Does Hash Come From?
Thousands of tons of hash are produced in the world every year. The vast majority of it comes from just a handful of countries: Morocco, Lebanon, Pakistan, Nepal, and Afghanistan. Afghanistan recently began outproducing Morocco, which previously made more hash than any other country. Hash is much more prevalent in other parts of the world than in the U.S., where marijuana is the primary cannabis drug in use. Europeans import much of the hash that is made in Morocco via Spain.
Is Hash Addictive?
There has long been a debate as to how harmful cannabis drugs are to users and whether or not they are addictive. The truth is that any drug can cause addiction, but it is less common with both hash and marijuana than with other illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine. The more frequently someone uses hash, the more likely they are to become addicted. Withdrawal symptoms can begin to develop with long term use and can include irritability, cravings, anxiety, restlessness, and a loss of appetite. The odds of becoming addicted to hash are greater than to marijuana. The concentration of cannabinoids is much higher in hash, which means all the negative consequences are heightened.
What are the Consequences of Using Hash?
If you know someone who is using hash, look out for signs that they are using it frequently and becoming addicted. Also look for signs that they are beginning to use harder drugs. It is not uncommon for someone to transition from casual use of hash to use of more dangerous narcotics. Even if someone only uses hash, there are health consequences:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Irritated and red eyes
- Dry mouth
- Delayed reaction times
- Short-term memory loss
In the long term, smoking hash can cause more serious problems similar to those related to smoking tobacco. Users have an increased risk of heart attack, lung cancer, lung infections, acute chest illnesses, and coughing fits.