Many people make the mistake of assuming that marijuana isn’t as dangerous as other drugs. Of course, we’ve learned in recent years that this drug has the potential for medical use. This realization has led to the legalization of marijuana in some states — a path that most other states are expected to follow in the near future. Additionally, there is concern that the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use is promoting a false concept of safety.
It is a common worry that people will get the idea that there is no harm in using marijuana if doctors trust it enough to prescribe it to sick patients. Obviously, a concern develops from there that this will increase the abuse of marijuana. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most frequently used illegal drug in the nation.
While the medical benefits of the drug are undeniable for seriously — and often terminally — ill patients, like those suffering from AIDS and cancer, the risk of medicinal marijuana growing into a problem still exists.
This kind of concern is heightened when it comes to our nation’s children. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. reported on a survey of American high school students — taken in 2013 — that produced some alarming results, with 65 percent of students who had used marijuana at least once claiming legalization would make it more probable that they would use it again. Of teens who had not ever used marijuana, only 16 percent said legalization would increase their likelihood of using the drug.
Although 22 US states and the District of Columbia have approved marijuana for medicinal use, it is still illegal to possess without a prescription in those states. Sixteen states have already decriminalized the possession of certain limited amounts of marijuana too. More recently, Colorado and Washington have become the first states to legalize the retail sale and recreational use of marijuana. Proponents of marijuana legalization tout that legalization has only helped society.
While some reports claim that revenue has increased and crime rates have done the opposite in legalized territories, others question these claims, and for good reason. Just five months after recreational legalization came to Colorado, The New York Times reported that the practice of marijuana use in Colorado hasn’t come without risks; it cited increases in marijuana-related hospital visits, complaints of people getting behind the wheel while high, and even the death of one woman at the hands of her husband just hours after his marijuana purchase.
Marijuana goes by many names, such as:
- Mary Jane
When marijuana is concentrated into black oil, it is known as hashish — or hash, for short. Regardless of what you call it, it comes from the cannabis sativa plant. It is derived from the plant’s stems, roots, seeds or dried leaves. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, is the primary chemical within this plant that causes the effects of marijuana on the mind. Regulation of the plant has proved to be difficult over the years because it is easily homegrown.
What Are the Risks and Effects of Marijuana Use?
Per the NIDA, once marijuana is inhaled, it passes from the lungs into the blood rather quickly. From there, it progresses to the body’s organs, including the brain. This is the fastest method of ingestion in terms of how quickly one will feel the effects of THC. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World cites several short-term effects of marijuana use, such as:
- Slowed reaction time
- A physical and emotional low following the immediate high
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Distortion of the senses
The long-term effects of continued marijuana use, as outlined by WebMD, can also be hurtful. In fact, marijuana smokers reportedly inhale almost three times the amount of tar that tobacco users do. The NIDA’s list of long-term side effects includes:
- Lowered immunity against illness
- Growth disorders
- Decrease of male sex hormones
- Rapid decomposition of lung fibers and neurological lesions which would be lasting
- Increase of abnormal cells
- Decreased sexual capabilities
- Loss of interest in goals
- Decreased ability to comprehend new information and form memories
- Mood liability and changes in one’s personality
The National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre highlights the growing debate over whether or not marijuana use can lead to or, at very least, trigger underlying mental health disorders. Research has pointed both ways, but there is some evidence to suggest there may be a link between prolonged marijuana use and the development of depression and anxiety-related disorders, as well as more severe disorders like schizophrenia.
Even mild or infrequent use of marijuana can lead to health problems. Not only are you rendering yourself to a state of less control and intoxication, but marijuana use can also cause lasting effects on your mind and body. There is a heightened concern over marijuana being a gateway drug as well. A Yale University study points out the possibility that marijuana may ease some drug users into a life of harder drugs.
How Is It Used?
Marijuana can be consumed in a variety of ways, but the most common method of ingestion is smoking it through a pipe. There are, however, other avenues of ingestion, such as baking the dried product into foods; brownies are a common favorite among marijuana users. Some users even brew it into tea.
When in smoking form, marijuana may be referred to as a joint — which is dried leaves rolled into cigarette papers, or a blunt — a hollowed out cigar butt filled with the drug. Pipes and bongs filter marijuana through water but should not be confused with vaporizers, which actually heat the drug until it nearly reaches the point of combustion. At that point, the effects of marijuana can be inhaled through water vapor. Some prefer this method as a way of avoiding smoking and some of the side effects of such an activity.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
The debate over whether or not marijuana is addictive is ongoing. The majority of those against marijuana use seem to align their views with the idea that is it, while those in support of legalization and marijuana use take every chance they have to shoot down alleged myths. The proof is in the pudding on this topic.
There is no doubt that people abuse marijuana. Nothing is exempt from abuse, but is the drug itself addictive? Research says yes. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine establishes that there is potential for marijuana to be an addictive substance. In addition, the study points out that marijuana cannot be ruled out as a gateway drug, noting that there does seem to be a link between marijuana use and the increased susceptibility to other drug use. Whether or not this link proves cause and effect is yet to be seen.
Treatment for Abuse and Addiction
According to MedicineNet, withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from marijuana are quite similar to those faced when withdrawing from other illicit drugs. They include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Drug craving
In some instances, medication is given during withdrawal to deal with side effects such as depression; however, marijuana addiction can often be managed on an outpatient basis if desired. Following withdrawal, a thorough evaluation is performed in order to render a diagnosis of substance addiction. To qualify for marijuana dependence, the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute attests that the person must present, at minimum, three of the following symptoms during a one-year period of time:
- An increasing tolerance to the drug – the person must increase the dosage of marijuana over time to continue to achieve the high state they desire
- Withdrawal symptoms such as those listed above
- The use of more marijuana than they had planned to use
- An ongoing desire to stop using marijuana or scale back on their usage, accompanied by a persistent failure to do so
- Marijuana use begins taking up a lot of time
- Bypassing interaction with others and participation in activities once enjoyed to take the opportunity to use marijuana instead
- Continuing to use marijuana even after the realization that it is having a negative impact on one’s health and life
Part of marijuana addiction is being tied to the process of smoking. Process addictions are often interlaced with drug and alcohol habits. For this reason, behavioral therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are often helpful in treating marijuana dependency.
Families of marijuana addicts often classify their drug use as more of a choice they make than a growing dependency on a chemical effect. The care provided to you and your loved ones at Skywood Recovery will help to unify your family as support system for you, bringing everyone closer to recovery and to one another. Our trained and courteous staff members are here every hour of every day to assist you. There’s no time like the present to take back control of your life. Call us today to speak with an admissions coordinator about your options.