The Effects Of Marijuana

Submitted By edd625
Words: 1275
Pages: 6

During the past 50 years, our society has developed a collective familiarity with marijuana. Many think of it as a safe and fun rite of passage. When used recreationally and responsibly, it actually can be an excellent alternative to alcohol. Research has shown that 42% of Americans have smoked marijuana at least once (Time). Culturally, we possess an increasingly blasé attitude towards cannabis use. Every year, states adopt new laws legalizing its use to some degree. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used in the United States. After a period of decline in the last decade, its use has generally increased among young people since 2007, corresponding to a diminishing perception of the drug’s risks” (NIDA). Among these unperceived risks is cannabis dependence. Because society largely considers marijuana to be innocuous, most people do not realize that an ever increasing number of users become psychologically dependent on it. “More than 16 million Americans use cannabis on a regular basis, typically beginning in adolescence. Notably, it is estimated that approximately 4% of the population has a diagnosis of either cannabis abuse or dependence” (George). The effects of cannabis dependence are often not obvious to the public, because there are few outward symptoms. To the addict however, dependence can take the form of social isolation, decreased mental and physical health and relationship problems. “In fact, heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction…and less academic and career success compared to their peers who came from similar backgrounds” (NIDA). Many of those who become dependent do so because they are using cannabis to self-medicate pre-existing, often undiagnosed psychological conditions such as depression and other mood disorders. While cannabis can effectively imitate an anti-depressant, frequent users develop a tolerance and need to increase both the quantity used and the frequency of use to maintain a therapeutic level. Eventually, the drug becomes less effective in masking symptoms, and can have an exacerbating effect on the underlying malady. It is fairly common for those seeking help for cannabis dependence to be given a dual diagnosis, such as addiction and depression. Because marijuana is not physically addictive, on its own, it is often not taken as seriously by the medical profession as opiate, cocaine or alcohol addiction are. Therefore, it often is considered to be the symptom of another psychological disorder. In actuality, this is often, but not always, the case. Many people simply become accustomed to the feeling of being high, and the escape it offers from reality. “There are many different drugs which can result in neuroadaptations within the brain resulting in a continued need to take them. These include heroin, amphetamine, cannabis, and hallucinogens such as LSD…such drugs produce pleasurable sensations in those who use them, resulting in further drug-seeking behavior and dependency” (Chemist & Druggist). Withdrawal symptoms can include cravings for cannabis, difficulty sleeping, mood changes, irritability, and appetite reduction leading to weight loss. Chemical dependency is not the only danger associated with the consumption of cannabis.
Marijuana is the second leading cause of impairment related motor vehicle accidents. Overall, it is estimated that driving under the influence of pot, increases the risk of being involved in an auto accident with injury by ten-fold (Manufacturing Close-Up). These statistics make sense, when you consider that studies prove that while under the influence of cannabis, the motor functions required for safe driving become delayed. Perception of time and speed, motor coordination, attentiveness, visual functions, vigilance, and use of acquired knowledge are all known to be negatively affected by the use of marijuana (NCBI). In addition to being injured in an auto accident,