Despite claims to the contrary, and despite the biased opinions, fact is marijuana is addictive and it is physically, cognitively, and morally harmful. When these harmful effects are combined and the larger picture is considered, it is clear that any legislation that is favorable to the expanded availability of marijuana only adds lubrication to an already slippery slope.
Let’s take a look at the biggest misconception about marijuana out there –
Addiction is defined as “continuing a behavior despite negative consequences”.
As it applies to marijuana, addictive behavior is demonstrated by increased tolerance, heavier or unintended use, unsuccessful abstaining, neglecting responsibilities in order to find and purchase the drug, and an interference with other important life activities. By this definition, there can be no doubt—marijuana is addictive.
In 2007, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released statistics clearly showing that over 42 percent of parolees who had been convicted of any type of marijuana-related offense were back in prison within two years.
Approximately 6,200 people are sentenced to U.S. federal prison for offenses related to marijuana. The average sentence is 36 months, and over 38 percent receive mandatory five-year or ten-year minimum sentences. Marijuana offenders are the least likely federal drug offenders to receive reductions in sentencing.
There are other repercussions that don’t end with prison. A 2013 report released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, statistics over an eight-year period show that high-school dropouts are almost two times as likely to have used marijuana within the past 30 days than students who were still in school – 27.3% to 15.3%.
A drug conviction can ruin prospects for a good job. So can a positive result on a drug test. Pre-employment urine tests checking for banned substances are showing up as positive are at their highest levels in years, and marijuana is the most commonly-used drug of choice.
“Employers are having some difficulty finding employees who can pass their drug tests,” said Dr. Barry Sample, director at Quest Diagnostics, a company specializing in medical research.
Even if marijuana is legal under Federal or State Law, individual employers still have the power to ban drug use among its employees. Employer’s rights were upheld recently, when an appeals court in Michigan ruled that a Wal-Mart acted within their corporate policies and in compliance with State Law when they fired an employee for using medical marijuana.
Somehow, even with the knowledge of such catastrophic consequences, the use of marijuana in America is increasing. A 2007 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration calculated that 5.8% of those polled admitted to using marijuana within the past 30 days.
That figure went rose to 7.3% in 2012, before the legalization in Washington and Colorado. Alarmingly, the respondents were 12 years old and over.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states has concluded that marijuana is addictive. According to their research, around 9% of users become addicted. Individuals who started smoking marijuana at a young age or who smoke it on a daily basis become addicted at a rate of 17%, or 1 in 6.
As much as 50% of all users admit to doing so daily. Just as importantly, among those entering drug abuse programs, 61% of patients who are 15 years of age or younger list marijuana as their primary drug of abuse.
Think about those statistics.
No truthful person can deny that certain other drugs – cocaine, for example – are addictive. However, only about 15% of those who try cocaine become addicted.
Because the number of marijuana users is so high, the total number of people addicted to marijuana is more than twice that of any other drug.
4.3% of Americans fit the clinical diagnosis of marijuana dependency, compared to 1.8% for cocaine and .7% for heroin. In Europe, 29% of all new patients checking in for treatment programs list marijuana as their primary problem.
When you consider attempts at abstinence, marijuana reaches another benchmark that defines it as an addictive substance.
The typical adult entering a professional treatment facility for cannabis dependency has attempted to quit on six previous occasions. Typically, they have used marijuana daily or near-daily for approximately 10 years, and continue to do so, even when facing serious legal issues, psychological problems, physical impairment or decline, problems at work, or pressure to quit from loved ones.
As is the case with other addictive drugs, people trying to quit marijuana experience measurable withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include irritability, problems sleeping, increased anxiety, a lack of appetite, and a craving for the drug.
Unlike as with other drugs, there is currently no medicine available that can alleviate symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, although research is ongoing.
When you look at it rationally and without bias, marijuana is clearly a substance that can cause a clinical diagnosis of dependency in a significant percentage of users.
Marijuana is a substance that can cause serious problems for its users, including humiliating criminal prosecution, exorbitant fines, jail or prison terms, rejection from loved ones, the loss of a job or problems finding work, and physical and cognitive impairment.
Even with all of those negatives, people who want to stop using marijuana still face both psychological and physiological difficulties.
Rational, unbiased individuals have no choice but to conclude that marijuana is addictive, and that because of that conclusion, measures should be taken to stop the spreading of that addiction, instead of taking steps to encourage it.