Marijuana—also known as pot, weed, herb and grass—is the most used illegal drug in America, despite its wide range of negative side effects on both the body and brain. Roughly 1 in 10 marijuana users go on to become addicted to the drug. Statistics reveal that of the individuals who started using marijuana prior to age 18, 1 in 6 develop an addiction.
With so many cons against the use of marijuana, why do so many people use it, taking the risk of becoming addicted to this substance? Smoking or ingesting marijuana can provide a euphoric feeling, along with a sense of relaxation, to users. This is a result of a chemical commonly known as THC.
THC is the primary mind-altering or psychoactive in marijuana. It is mainly responsible for the intoxicating effect that users seek. TCH, properly termed delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is contained in the resin of marijuana buds and leaves, although the plant itself has over 100 elements that are similar to THC.
The effect marijuana has on an individual varies, and is influenced by how long the drug is used, how potent the marijuana is, genetic makeup and gender.
Some states have legalized the use of medical marijuana as the plant contains chemicals thought to mediate the symptoms of certain health problems. At this time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved nor recognized marijuana as a medicine, and while research indicates that it may mediate certain symptoms, there is not a large enough body of data to demonstrate that marijuana cures or treats the underlying medical conditions.
What is known are the damaging health effects that can occur with marijuana use. When marijuana is smoked, it can harm your lungs as well as heart and blood vessels. Marijuana smoke contains many of the same carcinogens, toxins and irritants as tobacco smoke. As a result, marijuana smokers run the risk of developing bronchitis.
If you think that ingesting marijuana is somehow safer than smoking it, that’s not the case. Smoking marijuana produces a quicker response in the body, and as a result people who consume marijuana may use more in order to produce a faster high. This can lead to extremely high amounts of the drug in the system that in rare cases can produce psychotic reactions such as hallucinations or delusions.
People who become addicted to marijuana can be at increased risk of developing other negative conditions such as problems with learning, attention and memory, effects that can carry over for several days or more after the last use.
Other overuse symptoms can include anxiety, extreme confusion, panic and paranoia. Increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as delusions and/or hallucinations are other signs. Any of these reactions can lead to unintended injury to the user or others, such as car crashes, poisoning, or falls.
For example, studies show that marijuana use affects coordination and reaction time, and researchers have demonstrated a direct link between levels of THC in the blood and impaired driving ability.
Marijuana is the number one illicit drug found most often in the blood of drivers involved in auto accidents, including fatal crashes.
It’s important to note that combining marijuana and alcohol increases the risk of impairment versus using one or the other drug alone. And, using tobacco and marijuana in combination increases exposure to dangerous chemicals, putting the cardiovascular system and lungs at greater risk.
Given these facts, it shouldn’t be surprising that mixing marijuana with prescription drugs is not a wise idea, as the combination can result in a myriad of unintended consequences.
What is the takeaway from the data gathered about marijuana use to date? The fact is that marijuana while may be legal in some areas, this doesn’t mean that it is safe.
Studies show that marijuana use has been associated with serious medical and psychological disorders including schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, although researchers don’t know if marijuana is a direct contributor to these conditions.
In addition, marijuana use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding may result in harm to the baby, as is the case with other harmful substances such as alcohol or tobacco. Data shows that it is possible to pass chemicals contained in marijuana to a baby via breast milk, and because THC is stored in body fat your baby can still be exposed to dangerous chemicals even if you’re not actively using marijuana.
It’s also possible to expose others to harmful chemicals in marijuana via secondhand smoke.
Smoking marijuana exposes users to some of the same cancer-causing substances as those found in tobacco, and which are linked to chronic conditions such as cancer as well as lung and heart disease.
Is it possible to become addicted to marijuana? It is absolutely possible to become addicted to marijuana just as it is the case with alcohol and other drugs. Marijuana use disorder is the term used for marijuana addiction and data indicates that one third of users may experience some degree of this condition.
Marijuana use disorder is connected to dependence, the state in which people experience symptoms of withdrawal when not using the drug. Dependence occurs after the brain adjusts to being exposed to large amounts of a drug, thereby its sensitivity to the substance.
What are the signs of marijuana addiction? Several factors can point to substance addiction, including attempting but being unable to stop using marijuana. Forfeiting significant activities with friends and family so that you can use marijuana is another signal of possible addiction.
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