Hashish is a product extracted from the trichomes (fine hair-like outgrowths) of the cannabis plant as well as from the flowers and fragments of leaves and stems. Hashish contains essentially the same active ingredients found in marijuana, including THC; however, the concentration of these chemicals is much higher in hashish than it is in marijuana — the average proportion of THC in marijuana in the US is around 5%, whereas the THC in hash ranges from 5-15%. Hash oil is produced by solvent extraction of hashish and/or marijuana and typically has even higher levels of THC.
Hashish is typically sold in blocks of solid resinous preparations, but the appearance can vary and may range from a paste-like substance to yellow or brownish or even black blocks. Hash oil is often a golden syrupy-like substance. Hash is typically smoked or eaten, with much quicker effects occurring when smoked.
THC acts by binding to neurons in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. This action results in physical, emotional, and cognitive effects that will be detailed below.
There have been numerous investigations of the medicinal effects of cannabis products and the substances that occur in them, particularly a substance known as cannabidiol. Several states in the United States have legalized marijuana — the most common form of cannabis being used today— for medicinal purposes, and some states have legalized it for personal use. However, it should be noted that the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers cannabis a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it is considered to have no medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.
Hashish is typically smoked in pipes or water pipes (often referred to as bongs). There are some cases reported where individuals use vaporizers that collect THC from the hashish and store the vapor, allowing the person to inhale the vapor and not the smoke. Users can also add hashish to food or brew it in a tea.
The potent concentration of THC present in hashish presents a number of problems for individuals who use these products. Research has suggested that there has been a dramatic increase in emergency room visits due to cannabis intoxication in states (such as Colorado) that have legalized cannabis use, and where the potency of cannabis products is quite high.
ER visits as a result of cannabis abuse in Colorado increased 57% between the years 2011 to 2013. Individuals who use hashish with very high levels of THC, such as hash oil, expose themselves to severe effects and the potential for developing an addiction.
Signs and Symptoms of Hash Abuse
Hash use and abuse can cause a number of signs and symptoms that may include:
- Feelings of intense well-being.
- Increased relaxation.
- Sore throat.
- Tachycardia (rapid heart rate).
- Hypertension (elevated blood pressure).
- Impaired coordination.
- Lack of motivation.
- Impaired ability to pay attention.
- Delusional thoughts.
Effects of (Substance) Abuse
Using hash over an extended period of time may produce a range of negative effects, including:
- Immune system suppression.
- Respiratory health issues similar to those that occur from smoking tobacco.
- Sexual dysfunction in males as a result of decreased production of sexual hormones.
- Potential issues with development in children who are prenatally exposed to THC.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular issues.
- Changes in the brain that lead to issues with sustained attention and concentration, learning and memory, and problem-solving.
- The potential to develop mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
Other negative consequences associated with hashish addiction include:
- Professional issues/job loss.
- Financial issues.
- Legal issues associated with illicit drug use.
- Strained relationships with spouses, children, and other loved ones.
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed habits or personal responsibilities.
Reliable statistics specifically concerning hashish usage in the United States are not readily available. There are a number of statistics regarding the overall use of cannabis products, however:
- According to a 2013 Gallup poll, more than 1/3 of Americans report having tried marijuana.
- The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that there are more than 22 million current marijuana users in the US.
- For young people between the ages of 18 years old and 25 years old, marijuana was the most common drug of abuse, according to the NSDUH.
- Cannabis is second only to alcohol as the most frequently detected substance in the bodies of drivers who are involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Teen Hashish Abuse
The use of cannabis products in individuals under the age of 18 is often portrayed in a romantic vein in the media, especially in film. The media and many advocacy groups for the legalization of marijuana in the United States may often exaggerate the medicinal benefits of cannabis products such as marijuana and hashish, and downplay their potential for abuse, physical dependence, and the development of substance use disorders. The social and political climate regarding cannabis products is slowly changing from one of prohibition to one of acceptance.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports that there are several risk factors associated with developing a cannabis use disorder. Several of these are directly related to age, peer pressure and hashish usage:
- The age at which an individual begins using cannabis products appears to influence the susceptibility of the development of an addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states drug abuse at a young age is an important predictor of the eventual development of a substance use disorder.
- Adolescents are known to be susceptible to peer pressure, an important factor in drug use.
- The potency of cannabis is a factor in the development of addiction. Individuals who regularly use high-potency cannabis products such as hashish and hash oil will be more likely to become addicted.
- The American Psychiatric Association reports that nearly 60% of adolescents diagnosed with cannabis use disorders also have issues with ADHD or conduct disorders, and nearly one-third have significant issues with depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD.
Programs focused on education, especially those that explicitly lay out the facts regarding hashish and other cannabis products, can help prevent teens from choosing to use hash.
Resources, Articles, and More Information
For more information, please check out the following pages:
- Effects of Hashish Use
- How to Help a Hash Addict
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- Russo, E. B. (2013). Cannabis and cannabinoids: pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutic potential. New York: Routledge.
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (N.D). Drug scheduling.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Drug facts: marijuana.
- Rocky Mountain HIDTA. (2015). The legalization of marijuana in Colorado: The impact (Volume 3). Denver, CO: Author.
- Monte, A. A., Zane, R. D., & Heard, K. J. (2015). The implications of marijuana legalization in Colorado. JAMA, 313(3), 241-242.
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders – fifth edition. Washington, DC: Author.
- Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50)
- Ries, R. K., Fiellin, D. A., Miller, S. C., & Saitz, R. (2014). The ASAM principles of addiction medicine. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.