The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that marijuana is the most frequently used drug in the United States. The widespread use of marijuana has become more common due to the recent legalization of the drug in certain states, and has led to a common misconception that the drug is safe to consume.
Foundations for a Drug Free World reports that 94 million individuals in the United States have used marijuana at least once. An estimated 10 million individuals in the United States have used marijuana within the past month. The use of marijuana is especially high among young people in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3,287 teenagers use marijuana for the first time every day.
On average, half of all teenagers will have tried marijuana at least once before graduating from high school. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Colombia University reports that young people who smoke marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than young people who don’t use the drug. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse also reports that a young person is 60 percent more likely to use cocaine if she tried marijuana before the age of 15.
Within the past year, an estimated 2.4 million individuals began using marijuana, and 78 percent of these individuals were between the ages of 12 and 20. Among 17 European countries and all of the North American countries, the World Health Organization has listed the United States as the top country for the prevalence of marijuana use. Marijuana is also a contributing factor to accidents that result in emergency room visits. There were an estimated 374,000 emergency rooms visits in 2008 related to the use of marijuana.
Identifying the Symptoms of Marijuana Use
There are many symptoms of marijuana use, which can be seen physically and through one’s actions. Common signs to look for when identifying symptoms of marijuana use include:
• Impaired coordination
• Bloodshot eyes
• Increased appetite
• Distorted perception
• Mucus-filled cough
• Dry mouth
• Delayed reaction time
• Loss of control
Marijuana smoke produces a distinct odor that isn’t easily masked. When a person smokes marijuana, there will usually be a lingering scent on her clothes or belongings. Marijuana is usually smoked in cigarette form, or through a pipe or bong. A person having paraphernalia in her presence, such as cigarette rolling papers, bongs and pipes, could also be an identifier of marijuana use.
Risks and Side Effects of Using Marijuana
Although there are numerous individuals who feel marijuana is harmless, there are many risks associated with using the drug. The use of marijuana can have a negative impact on intellect. One survey found that 50 percent of students who used marijuana forgot what a conversation was about before it ended. Forty-one percent of students reported having problems remembering what they read if they read when under the influence of marijuana.
When young people use marijuana on a regular basis, they tend to have lower grades and test scores and are less likely to graduate from high school or enroll in college. The use of marijuana can have serious effects on the developing brain of a young person. If a teen uses marijuana on a regular basis, she’ll likely have a lower IQ.
When an expecting mother smokes marijuana, there’s an increased risk that harm could come to the unborn baby. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, exposure to THC (the primary ingredient in marijuana) in early life could have a negative impact on the brain development of an unborn child. There have also been studies suggesting that when a pregnant woman uses marijuana, the baby is more likely to respond differently to stimuli, tremble and show signs of problems with neurological development. Furthermore, a child who was exposed to marijuana while in the womb could have problems in school. According to NIDA, children who are exposed to marijuana prenatally are at an increased risk to have difficulties with memory, problem-solving skills and attentiveness.
Marijuana use can cause negative side effects in the brain. THC passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, where it quickly travels to the brain. It has an impact on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which influence pleasure, thoughts, concentration, sensory perception, time perception and memory.
There are many long-term effects of marijuana use that can have a drastic impact on a person’s life. Foundations for a Drug Free World reports that when a person uses marijuana for an excessive amount of time, she could experience the following side effects:
• Suppressed immune system
• Reduced sexual capacity
• Personality changes
• Mood swings
• Growth disorders
• Increase in abnormally structured cells throughout the body
• Reduction of sex hormones in males
• Destruction of lung fibers
• Lesions in the lungs and brain
The use of marijuana also has a negative impact on a person’s ability to drive a vehicle. When a person uses marijuana, her perception of time and space can become distorted, making her a dangerous driver. There’s an increased risk that when such a person operates a vehicle, she’ll have difficulty driving due to the loss of coordination that occurs with marijuana use. An individual will also have delayed reaction time when driving while under the influence of marijuana, which increases the risk for accidents.
Although there’s a misconception that marijuana isn’t harmful or addictive, it is in fact a highly addictive drug that can cause an array of negative side effects. If you or someone you know uses marijuana, it’s important to find help for such drug use. Addiction specialists can provide help, guidance and support. For more information, contact the hotline at 800-447-9081 today.