Most people don’t think of marijuana as a dangerous drug. Its effects are minor compared to cocaine or heroin. However, research shows that regular marijuana use can lead to a dependence, and perhaps eventually lead to the use of stronger, more dangerous drugs. Although marijuana alone does not usually require a withdrawal process, such as a medical detox, it can create other harmful effects in one’s life with regular use of the drug over time.
For instance, an article published in Medical News Today provided a summary of the research done on marijuana since 1983. According to the article, the following has been discovered about the long-term effects of the drug:
-Regular cannabis users can develop a dependence syndrome, the risks of which are around 1 in 10 of all cannabis users and 1 in 6 among those who start in adolescence.
-Regular cannabis users double their risks of experiencing psychotic symptoms and disorders, especially if they have a personal or family history of psychotic disorders, and if they start using cannabis in their mid-teens.
-Regular adolescent cannabis users have lower educational attainment than non-using peers but we don’t know whether the link is causal.
-Regular cannabis users are more likely to use other illicit drugs, but we don’t know whether the link is causal.
-Regular cannabis use that begins in adolescence and continues throughout young adulthood appears to produce intellectual impairment, but the mechanism and reversibility of the impairment is unclear.
-Regular cannabis smokers have a higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
-Cannabis smoking by middle aged adults probably increases the risk of myocardial infarction.
Yet, despite these consequences of regular marijuana use, more and more states are legalizing the drug and sending the message that marijuana is safe to use. Yet, studies are finding that the harm marijuana use brings is not only harm to the body, but harm to an individual’s life overall.
For instance, a 2010 article in the Los Angeles Times pointed out that 9% of people who use the drug develop a marijuana addiction. This is compared to 15% of people who become addicted to cocaine and alcohol. And research indicates that the earlier a person begins to use the drug, the more likely he or she will become dependent on it. Also, dependency will develop within two years for 17% of those who began smoking marijuana at ages 14 or 15.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)’s June 2013 report of drug use in Los Angeles County, marijuana use ranked higher than alcohol as the reason for treatment admission. Marijuana ranked number one as the reason for admission to a sober living treatment center at 27% of admissions. Plus, marijuana admissions showed an increase over the 2011 report at 25%. Plus, of drug seizures across Los Angeles County, 35% of those were marijuana, among various illicit drugs.
Although marijuana is seen as harmless, it’s being considered to be categorized as a Schedule I drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). It’s true that some men and women who have used the drug for many years never experience any serious consequences. Yet, marijuana has been associated with crime, drinking, and addictions to other substances. The DEA also lists marijuana as the fourth most abused drug in the United States behind opiates, nicotine, and alcohol. The main ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is often smoked or ingested by eating foods that have marijuana mixed into it. It distributes itself to all organs of the body and is mostly metabolized by the liver. Marijuana stays in the physical system for up to 56 hours.
Edible forms of marijuana make 40% of marijuana sales in the state of California. and are typically the form for first-time users of the drug use. Because of recent deaths due to the edible forms of marijuana, the state is now examining its laws around the use of the drug. They are not going to retract legalizing marijuana but officials want to be more cautious about how users are taking the drug, how often, and its effects on users.
Although marijuana carries a reputation for being harmless, there are many consequences to using the drug regularly and in fact a marijuana addiction can develop over time.
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