What is Dagga (Marijuana/Cannabis)?

Dagga is the South African term for Marijuana or Cannabis. It is made from the leaves of the Cannabis hemp plant. The leaves (and sometimes the seeds, flowers and stems) are dried and rolled up in a type of cigarette called a joint.

It belongs to the depressant category of drugs, as it slows down communication between the brain and body.

In addition to being called dagga, marijuana, and cannabis, it’s also known as grass, pot, weed, dope, reefer, and ganja.

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Cannabis plants are easily recognised by their seven leaflets gathered in star-like shape on a stem. They are usually a rich green. It’s these leaves that are dried to make marijuana, which looks like dried grass. The result is smoked in a joint or in a bong, and is sometimes baked in cakes.

Cannabis may take two other forms:

  • Hashish – blocks of dried cannabis resin, which can be smoked or eaten.
  • Hash oil – the oil extracted from hashish, which can be smoked, eaten, and vaporized.

Hashish and hash oil pack a stronger punch than the dried marijuana leaves.



Dagga is favoured for the feeling of relaxation that follows any kind of consumption. The feeling doesn’t last that long (two to three hours) and the intensity varies according to the person, the atmosphere, the size of the dose, and the blend.

Not all of the side-effects are pleasant, however, especially when it’s consumed in high doses.

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Pleasant side-effects include:

  • Feeling of supreme relaxation.
  • Different way of thinking about the world – feeling of enlightenment.
  • Altered sensory perceptions.
  • Excitement for life – life is good.
  • Hallucinations – which not everyone enjoys.
  • The munchies.


Unpleasant side-effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Red eyes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • The munchies


Long-term side-effects

Not everyone believes that dagga has long-term side-effects. People who regularly use dagga certainly don’t think that it does them any harm. Studies have shown, however, that long-term use does it leave its mark on body and mind.

For example:

  • Increased risk of respiratory diseases and lung cancer; essentially, similar effects as smoking regular cigarettes.
  • Deteriorating memory and cognitive functions.
  • Lethargy.
  • Impaired hormone production.
  • Increased risk for mental disorders, such as psychosis and schizophrenia.


Dagga addiction

Some people (regular users again) argue that dagga is not as addictive as other drugs and that use does not lead to physical or psychological dependence.

However, studies have shown that this is incorrect and that dagga is indeed addictive and can produce physical and psychological dependence. People also show an increased tolerance to the drug, which means that have consume more of it to get the same results.



Dagga withdrawal is perhaps the least testing of all the drugs. Ex-users have about a week of discomfort with symptoms that include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhoea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety


Dagga use may not be considered as serious as other drug addictions, like heroin, but the effects are still serious enough that some people require help getting through withdrawal and rehabilitation.

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