Currently, marijuana is the most commonly used "illicit" drug in the United States. Contrary to popular belief marijuana can lead to addiction. Marijuana is not physically addictive; however, it is psychologically addictive which may lead to compulsive drug seeking and abuse despite known harmful effects on functioning (school, social, family, work, recreation, etc.)
According to state regulations, “use, possession, manufacturing, distribution, or sale of marijuana, heroin, narcotics, or any other controlled substance is prohibited by law.”
There is both short and long term health effects associated with heavy marijuana use such as:
Side Effects include:
- Learning and memory impairment
- Coordination/balance/motor impairment
- Attention and judgment impairment
- Breathing problems (chronic cough, bronchitis, and emphysema)
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure while high increases risk of heart attack
- Increased risk of head, neck, and lung cancer
- Paranoia (anxiety/fear/distrust/panic)
- Psychosis (hallucinations/delusions/depersonalization)
Marijuana Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is marijuana addictive?
Yes, marijuana can be addictive. Overstimulation of the endocannabinoid system by marijuana use can cause changes in the brain that lead to addiction. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health marijuana accounted for 4.2 million of the estimated 6.9 million Americans dependent on or abusing illicit drugs.
How does marijuana effect the brain?
THC is able to alter the functioning of the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex, brain areas that enable a person to form new memories and shift their attentional focus. As a result, using marijuana causes impaired thinking and interferes with a user’s ability to learn and to perform complicated tasks.
Does marijuana use affect driving?
Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in accidents, including fatal ones. THC also disrupts functioning of the cerebellum and basal ganglia, brain areas that regulate balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time. Accident-involved drivers with THC in their blood, particularly higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the accident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol.
What are marijuana’s effects on general physical health?
Marijuana smoke, is an irritant to the throat. It also contains toxic gases and particles that can damage the lungs. Smoking marijuana may also reduce the respiratory system’s immune response, increasing the likelihood of the user acquiring respiratory infections. A study found that frequent marijuana smokers used more sick days than other people, often because of respiratory illnesses.
How does marijuana use affect school and social life?
Research has shown that marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off. Evidence suggests that students who smoke marijuana have poorer educational outcomes than their nonsmoking peers. They also had a much higher chance of later developing dependence, using other drugs, and attempting suicide.
Is there a link between marijuana use and mental illness?
Several studies have linked marijuana use to increased risk for mental illnesses, including psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, and anxiety. Marijuana has also been associated with amotivational syndrome, defined as a diminished or absent drive to engage in typically rewarding activities.
Marijuana is the most widely abused illicit drug in America. Even though some states have legalized marijuana, it does not mean that it is without risks. In the state of Florida, marijuana contributed to 1, 092 deaths in 2014, based upon the 2014 Medical Examiners Commission Drug Report. You must decide for yourself whether or not using marijuana is worth the possible health and social risks.
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Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.