Though Legal in Some States, Marijuana Is Still a Harmful Drug
Marijuana is now legal in four states – Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska – and additional states have passed laws that enable people to use marijuana for medical purposes. Although the recent changes in the legality of marijuana has made some people believe the drug is safe to use, the fact is marijuana is still a drug that can pose harm to people.
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, which means the drug doesn’t have a high risk for abuse. However, research has concluded that an estimated 9 percent of marijuana users show signs of addiction to the drug. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, which could warrant why so many people think the drug is harmless. When people are properly informed about the harm marijuana causes (which has been scientifically proven) and related drug abuse facts, their opinions on the drug will likely change.
The Impact of Marijuana Use on the Mind and Body
The harmful ingredient in marijuana is known as THC, which enters the bloodstream and has a negative impact on brain cells quickly after it’s ingested. The THC found in marijuana affects the receptors in the brain that influence concentration, perception of time, coordination, pleasure and memory.
Marijuana users can experience a paranoid feeling, which can cause panic attacks in those who smoke the drug. Individuals who smoke marijuana also pose an increased risk for developing mental health problems, which can include depression, anxiety and personality disorders. This risk can increase in adolescents who use marijuana, and such individuals also have more suicidal thoughts than those who abstain from the drug.
As soon as users inhale marijuana, they experience an increased heart rate. Most people are under the assumption that the drug calms the body; however, this isn’t true, as marijuana can raise the heart rate by 20 to 100 percent in users immediately after they’ve consumed the drug. A study conducted found that individuals who smoked marijuana had an increased risk of having a heart attack within an hour after smoking the drug.
There’s also a misconception that marijuana isn’t as harmful as tobacco, but this is also untrue. A study conducted in 2011 showed that smoking marijuana can cause as much harm to the respiratory system as smoking cigarettes. Marijuana users are more susceptible to chronic coughs, increased production of mucus and sputum, and inflammation of the airways. Furthermore, marijuana smoke has more carcinogens than smoke from tobacco products. It has been reported that marijuana has 75 percent more benzanthracene and 50 percent more benzopyrene than cigarettes, which are harmful carcinogens. The damage marijuana causes to the lungs and respiratory system is destructive and sometimes irreversible.
Pregnant women who use marijuana also pose an increased risk for their unborn children. Women who are pregnant and consume marijuana have a higher chance of giving birth to babies who are underweight. Babies born to mothers who use marijuana while pregnant also have an increased risk for developing neurobehavioral issues, which can result in attention and problem-solving disorders.
Marijuana: Drug Abuse Facts and Statistics
Internationally, it was reported that more than 158.8 million individuals throughout the world have tried marijuana at least once, which is almost 4 percent of the entire population. Ninety-four million individuals in the United States have tried marijuana at least once in their lives. In 2007, more than 2.1 million individuals in the United States used marijuana for the first time. A study also reported that in 2000, marijuana users spent an estimated $10.5 billion on the drug. Here are additional drug abuse facts concerning marijuana use in the United States:
• In 2009, there were over 376,000 visits to emergency rooms caused by marijuana use.
• Sixty-two percent of adults who used marijuana before the age of 15 went on to use cocaine; 9 percent of these individuals went on to try heroin and 54 percent abused prescription drugs at some point.
• The potency of marijuana has increased dramatically. In the 1980s, the average THC concentration in marijuana was 4 percent. In 2012, the average THC concentration in marijuana was almost 15 percent.
• The United States Drug Enforcement Administration reported that a large number of individuals arrested for criminal activity tested positive for marijuana.
• One survey reported that 33 percent of reckless drivers, out of 150, tested positive for marijuana.
• Individuals who smoke up to three marijuana cigarettes daily have the same risk for developing cancer as individuals who smoke five times the amount of tobacco cigarettes.
The drug abuse facts involving adolescents and youth who abuse marijuana is overwhelming. Marijuana is the most illicit drug teenagers are likely to abuse in the United States. It was reported in 2007 that almost 7 percent of 12- to 17-year-old children used marijuana. In 2012, a study called Monitoring the Future reported that 45.3 percent of high school seniors used marijuana at least once, and 22.9 percent of these high school seniors used the drug at least once in the past 30 days. A study in New Zealand reported that individuals who smoked marijuana on a regular basis during the teen years up through age 38 lost eight IQ points.
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