Hashish is the Arabic word for the resin or thick oily material derived from Cannabis sativa, the hemp plant. The word came into English at the end of the sixteenth century. The hemp resin is usually dried and formed into a wafer or brick. It can also be used to make hashish oil. Other preparations use the resin as well as the flowering tops of the hemp plant. These are called charas in India, esvar in Turkey, anascha in areas of the former Soviet Union, and kif in Morocco and parts of the Middle East.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the major active chemical in products of the hemp plant, including marijuana and hashish. THC is the substance that affects the brain and causes changes in behavior and feelings. Hashish is the strongest of all substances made from cannabis. Hashish can be smoked and is also often taken by mouth. One of the ways in which hashish is prepared is to boil cannabis leaves in water to which butter has been added. The THC binds with the butter, which can then be used for making various cookies and sweets. People eat these to experience the psychoactive effects of the drug.
Hashish was introduced to the West in the mid-nineteenth century by a French psychiatrist who experimented with the drug as a way to understand mental illnesses. His circle of friends also tried hashish, among them the famed writers Alexander Dumas and Charles Baudelaire. This group named themselves the Club of Hashish- Eaters. Their detailed descriptions of the drug effects helped the drug gain popularity. Most of their accounts dwelled on beautiful hallucinations and a sense they had of being all-powerful. The doses they took must have been large, since the effects they described are more characteristic of stronger hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD than of marijuana.
Hashish was introduced into England at about the same time by an Irish physician who had become familiar with it while in India. The material was soon hailed as a wonder drug and was used for all sorts of complaints: pain, muscle spasms, convulsions, migraine headaches, and swollen tonsils. Since most of the preparations were weak and the doses used were small, any beneficial effects were probably due to a placebo effect. In other words, users expected the drug to cure their ailments, and this positive thinking—not any substance from the drug itself—led the user to feel better.
Most hashish users say that the drug produces a feeling of euphoria, or intense well-being, and uncontrollable laughter. The user also has altered perceptions of space, time, vision, and hearing.
hash·ish / ˈhaˌshēsh/ • n. an extract of the cannabis plant, containing concentrations of the psychoactive resins.