When is the last time that you heard about someone who is high on marijuana assaulting someone unprovoked? Or totaling their car? Or overdosing? Or choosing to check into a drug rehab center? Chances are your answer is never. Most people who smoke marijuana don’t end up doing the bad things that people who abuse alcohol and other drugs do. Not to mention the fact that marijuana use in some form has been legalized in twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia.
California, Massachusetts, and Nevada recently joined seven other states and D.C. in adopting expansive laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The laws that passed allow adults age 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. Other states have passed laws that allow for marijuana use for medical reasons. The scope of the legalization is varied, but there is a definitely a pattern of acceptance of marijuana use.
Doesn’t the fact that over half of the states in the U.S. allow for marijuana use prove that marijuana must not be that bad for you? Well, in a word, no. Much like alcohol and tobacco products are legal but can be dangerous, marijuana use does come with significant risks.
Risks Associated with Marijuana Use
While smoking marijuana may not be as dangerous as some other drugs and it may be legal in your state, it does have some serious negative ramifications, the biggest of which is addiction.
Marijuana use can negatively affect your health and your life in the short-term and long into the future, and it’s more than just the obvious – munchies and being apathetic. In fact, research shows that getting high affects your academic life and career. After a review of 48 different studies, the National Institute on Drug Abuse1 found that marijuana use is associated with reduced educational attainment (reduced chances of graduating). Another study found that workers who had a positive drug test for marijuana had 55% more accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% more absences than other drug-free employees.
While the high from marijuana doesn’t last all that long, the effects on memory can last days or weeks, even when you stop smoking. So the impairment you suffer while using can continue to have adverse effects on your life in the short-term.
Long-term effects are more serious. Cognitively, marijuana can affect your intellect – especially if you start using it when you’re a teen. It affects brain development, thus the memory, learning, and thinking issues that may seem short-term, can last for a long period of time or even be permanent because it hampers the brain from building the necessary connections for those functions. In other words, if you’re brain isn’t fully developed (and it isn’t until you’re in your mid-twenties) when you start using marijuana, and you continue to use, by the time you quit when you are an adult, it may be too late. According to a study3 performed in New Zealand, long-time marijuana users who began using in adolescence suffered a 6 to 8 point loss of IQ.
Read this article if you want to learn more about the problems associated with marijuana and teens.
Those statistics are especially unnerving when you consider that marijuana use on college campuses, where most users are under 25 years of age, is more rampant now that it ever has been before. Additionally, as many as 90 percent of marijuana users on campus participate in other dangerous behavior including binge drinking, smoking cigarettes, and risky sexual behavior.
Aside from the cognitive effects, smoking marijuana regularly can have long lasting health complications, including physical and mental issues. Any type of smoking leads to breathing problems, and marijuana is no different. A daily cough, excess phlegm, more frequent lung illness, and a higher risk of lung infections are just some of the problems you may experience. It can also cause heart problems because marijuana increases your heart-rate for up to 3 hours after smoking.
Using marijuana can also lead to mental illness in some long-term smokers. It can cause:
Worsening symptoms of other mental illnesses, like schizophrenia
Depression and anxiety
Suicidal thoughts – especially in younger users
Is Marijuana Addictive?
While there is debate about whether or not marijuana is addictive, the truth is that any drug use can lead to addiction, because the risk of addiction is different for each person. There is a genetic component that may predispose you to becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol, so using any substance, marijuana included, can be a dangerous thing to do. But it’s not only those who are predisposed who are at risk, there are many people who do not have the family history of addiction and yet they still became addicted.
Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
The good news is: if you are currently using or addicted to marijuana, and you want to stop, there is help available to get you clean. Despite the legalization and decreased stigma of marijuana use, more and more people are seeking treatment for marijuana addiction, so you are not alone.
Treatment for marijuana abuse and addiction is similar to treatments used for alcoholism and other drug addictions. Currently, there are no medications that are specifically designed for medication-assisted treatment of marijuana dependence, but professional detox facilities provide a supportive and safe place for addicts to get the drug out of their bodies. If detox from marijuana causes severe anxiety or panic attacks, medical staff may administer sedatives to relieve the withdrawal symptoms and make the patient more comfortable.
After being detoxed, patients have both inpatient and outpatient drug rehab facilities available to begin their recovery. Like addiction treatments for other drugs, therapy, addiction education, learning coping skills, 12-step meetings, and relapse prevention are typically included in marijuana dependence treatment.
If you or a loved one is addicted to marijuana, you can recover. Don’t think that because there are fewer risks or because it is becoming increasingly legalized that its use cannot be a dangerous problem. Contact us for help beginning your recovery now, you’ll be glad you did.
1 National Institute On Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/
2 Study: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/how-does-marijuana-use-affect-school-work-social-life
3 Study: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/how-does-marijuana-use-affect-your-brain-body
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