What You Need to Know About Marijuana
The most popular drug on the planet, many people think that marijuana is harmless. Additionally, with new legislations passed in several states, the accessibility of the drug for Americans is higher than it has ever been before. This will naturally lead to a greater opportunity for abuse and addiction.
A Few Facts:
- Marijuana is associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia, especially in those with a genetic vulnerability.
- 1 in 5 adults age 18-25 use marijuana on a daily basis.
- Approximately 9% of marijuana users become addicted.
- Marijuana can cause the expression of otherwise latent mental disorders.
- As more states move to legalize marijuana, we will see an increase in both anticipated and unanticipated cannabis-related harms in those who use it
- Some evidence has shown that a person’s risk of a heart attack during the first hour after smoking marijuana increases by 500%.
- Studies have linked early use of marijuana in adolescence to increased cases of testicular cancer.
What is Marijuana?
Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world. It comes from the dried flowers of the Cannabis Sativa plant, but is used in a variety of different ways. Often the center of controversy, marijuana also has medicinal properties, but is even abused in the healthcare system. The drug goes by many street names including:
- Mary Jane
Unlike many other drugs, marijuana can only be consumed two different ways: inhalation and ingestion. People do not inject marijuana, nor do they use it in suppository form.
- Inhalation – Also known as “smoking,” this type of consumption creates an instant high that lasts for about a 2-3 hours. Inhaling marijuana can be done using a glass pipe, bong, papers, or cigar wraps.
- Ingestion: Also known as “edibles,” this type of consumption takes longer to set in, but can last up to six hours. Marijuana is often baked into treats like brownies or cookies, but with the weaker regulations coming to pass, the types of edibles on the market vary greatly.
People who used marijuana recreationally do so for its psychoactive effect a.k.a. the “high” that it produces. When marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, enters the bloodstream, many users report feeling more relaxed, euphoric, and creative. As with all mind-altering recreational drugs, however, those feelings can lead to a deprivation when coming down.
People may feel relaxed, but it’s only because they are not currently dealing with the real-life problems that gave them stress. They may feel euphoric, but when the effects of the drug wear off, they can also suffer a crash that leaves them depressed equally as long. They may feel creative, but the grandiose ideas they had when they were stoned very rarely become reality when their mind clears.
The definition of addiction is continuing to engage in a behavior despite being faced with negative repercussions. That definition can be expanded upon when it comes to marijuana, because some typical addictive behavior of users would include increased and unintentional usage, greater tolerance, failure when attempting to abstain, a significant amount of time spent in its acquisition, and a negative impact upon other life activities and responsibilities. Obviously, when this accepted definition of addiction is used, marijuana should definitely be considered addictive.
Studies have shown that exposure to THC can compound the effect of other drugs taken at a later point. Prior marijuana use alters the brain’s ability to produce dopamine to the point that the new drug has a much greater effect. This effect is particularly strong among adolescents. It is believed that these changes in the brain make a younger individual much more vulnerable to addiction and drug abuse later in life. This phenomenon is called cross-sensitization.
Frighteningly, among those individuals beginning an Outpatient drug rehab program, 61% of individuals who are 15 or younger list marijuana as their primary drug of abuse. Incidentally, the connection between drug use and criminal activity has been well-documented, making marijuana use a gateway into a life of crime as well.
The Role Marijuana Plays in Society
Marijuana plays a complicated role in societies around the world, and in America, the role is changing by the day. With state and federal legislature in opposition, many people are left wondering what is and is not legal, as well as the negative effects of the drug. As more people begin to use the drug, more people become addicted. Statistics show that marijuana users typically call in sick to work on a more frequent basis than non-users.
Marijuana is incredibly popular in California, and recent laws have made the drug legal to use recreationally. That is not to say there aren’t still a lot of issues people can face when it comes to abusing the substance. The following are some statistics about pot use in the state of California:
- California ranks 10th in the country for marijuana use, with 9.8% of people 12 years and older reporting having used the drug in the past month.
- In 2007, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released statistics indicating that 42 % of parolees who had been convicted of marijuana-related offenses were back in custody within two years.
- According to the Attorney General, there were 13,779 felony marijuana arrests in California in 2013.
Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse
Like any and every drug in the world, the symptoms of abuse generally present themselves through behavior first, with the end result of use causing physical damage.
Despite what its proponents might say, there are a number of adverse health effects associated with long-term regular marijuana use. Part of the reason that marijuana is more harmful and addictive than ever – especially for adolescents – is the fact that the strains of marijuana that are cultivated and smoked today are 244% more potent than they were a generation ago. Other hazards include:
When someone is abusing marijuana, there are typical behaviors that may present themselves such as:
- Increased and unintentional usage
- Risky behavior
- Lack of judgment
- Decreased attention span
- Greater tolerance
- Failure when attempting to abstain
- A significant amount of time spent in its acquisition
- A negative impact upon other life activities and responsibilities
Mental / Emotional
Once an individual begins to lose control, marijuana will begin to affect their mental and emotional states. This can be seen with symptoms like:
- Memory problems
- Slowed reactions
- Cognitive impairment (less brain volume in the orbitofrontal cortex)
- Decreased concentration
- Lack of motivation
- Lowered IQs – on average, a minimum of 5 points less
There are many short-term physical effects to marijuana use. Additionally, with chronic use comes long-term physical issues as well (and often depends on the type of consumption). The following are some physical signs of marijuana abuse:
- Increased heart rate ( up to 20-50 more beats per minute)
- Lowered blood pressure
- Temporary sterility in men
- Menstrual cycle disruptions
- Increased appetite / overeating
- Birth defects and low birth rates when smoked during pregnancy
- Orthostatic hypotension (head rush or dizziness when standing up)