Is Marijuana Dangerous and Addictive?
The state of Colorado made history in 2012 when voters approved a ballot initiative that legalized the recreational use and sale of cannabis — the plant from which marijuana is derived. Today, a total of 18 states — plus the District of Columbia and Guam — have passed similar measures that decriminalize recreational activities related to cannabis. Opponents of the change in law have argued that a legislative green light could supply a false sense of security that recreational marijuana use is not harmful. Meanwhile, advocates point to the ample benefits of medical marijuana as reasons to believe.
The reality is that the dangers surrounding recreational marijuana use aren’t quite as clear-cut as one might be led to believe by the passing of a law or controlled use for medical purposes. If you’ve been wondering if marijuana is dangerous and addictive, you’ve come to the right place. Read on as we explore the topic further.
Short-Term Effects of Using Marijuana
The reason why most people use marijuana is that it generates a euphoric high, a sensation caused by a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When someone smokes marijuana, THC travels through the lungs, into the bloodstream, and ultimately to the brain. There, it connects with receptors in the brain that impact, among other things, your mood and how you feel.
It’s important to point out that marijuana consumption doesn’t just take place through smoking. Cookies, gummies, and brownies are popular forms of edibles or food items that contain marijuana or THC baked directly into the product. Since they aren’t smoked, edibles reach the bloodstream by way of the digestive system before eventually reaching those brain receptors. This slight detour can cause a delay in the time it takes for someone to feel high.
Though not every high is the same, it’s not uncommon for someone to experience altered senses, changes in mood, impaired memory, or problems thinking and problem-solving when using marijuana.
Long-Term Effects of Using Marijuana
The high obtained through marijuana may feel blissful at the moment, but it is a temporary sensation. And it’s that quest for the next high that often leads to continued marijuana use — which studies show can have significant effects on the body.
One study found that people who began regularly smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and continued into adulthood lost an average of 8 IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38. Interestingly, it was also reported that any mental ability study participants lost during that extended period of marijuana use did not return in full when the person quit marijuana. It also bears mentioning that people who started smoking marijuana as adults failed to show similar IQ declines. The user’s mental health stability is also a prevailing concern, as long-term marijuana consumption has been linked to temporary hallucinations and paranoia and heightened symptoms for patients battling schizophrenia.
But the brain isn’t the only part of the body to be severely impacted by continued marijuana use. Marijuana smokers will often experience the same types of lung problems as tobacco smokers, including irritated lungs, daily cough and phlegm, increased occurrences of lung illness, and a higher risk of lung infections. Additionally, marijuana use raises the heart rate for up to three hours after smoking and can lead to a condition called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, which causes regular cycles of nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.
In addition to the risk of bodily harm associated with marijuana use, there are also a host of behavioral choices people on marijuana may make that can have disastrous outcomes. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), research shows that marijuana users are “more likely to have relationship problems, worse educational outcomes, lower career achievement, and reduced life satisfaction.”
Is Marijuana Addictive?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that marijuana use has reached record highs in recent years, but what you may not know is that the amount of THC found in marijuana has also steadily risen. SAMHSA reports that the THC concentration in today’s marijuana is three times as potent as it was 25 years ago. As we talked about earlier, THC is the chemical compound that causes a euphoric high when it reaches the brain — and the higher the THC amount, the more intense the sensation.
Though it’s not as addictive as other substances like cocaine and heroin, marijuana is a drug that someone can develop a dependency on — a condition known as marijuana use disorder. People with a marijuana use disorder will continue to use the drug, even if it spurs health or social problems in their lives.
On its official website, the National Institute on Drug Abuse writes that 30% of marijuana users may have “some degree” of marijuana use disorder. Additionally, those who begin using marijuana prior to the age of 18 are as much as seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.
There are instances where a marijuana use disorder progresses into a full-blown addiction. In this case, the user may not be able to function or proceed through their daily life without using marijuana. For many with a marijuana use disorder or an addiction, feelings of withdrawal will occur when they aren’t able to access the drug. This can include irritability, changes in mood or appetite, difficulty sleeping, and cravings for marijuana.
Midwest Recovery Centers Treats Marijuana Addiction
If you or someone you love is battling what you believe to be a marijuana use disorder or addiction, Midwest Recovery Centers can help. We treat marijuana addiction in the same way we treat other drug addictions, including the use of counseling and education, individual and/or group therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, family counseling, and 12-step group programs.
We strive to work with the user on breaking the firm grip dependency has on their life, guiding them toward a future filled with healthy choices, positive relationships, and the skills needed to avoid continued marijuana use.
Ready to start the process toward recovery? We’re here when you need us.
Reviewed and Assessed by
Taylor Brown, B.A.Com., MAADC II
Tim Coleman, M. of Ed.