Marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug in the US. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), over 3,000 teens try marijuana for the first time every single day. In fact, almost 80 percent of the 2.4 million new marijuana users in 2014 were between the ages of 12 and 20. The NIH also reports that over 100 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana at least once. Roughly 400,000 people visit a hospital emergency room every year due to marijuana addiction or abuse.
Physical Side Effects of Marijuana Addiction
The US Department of Health cites insomnia, dry mouth, red eyes and loss of coordination as common short-term side effects. This effect happens because THC, an active ingredient in Cannabis sativa, affects almost every organ in the body. THC specifically interferes with the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. Marijuana smokers are at high risk for developing lung-related health problems common to cigarette smokers. Most people do not know that marijuana decreases testosterone levels in males while increases it in females, which leads to irregular cycles. Marijuana abuse is one of the leading causes of low sperm count and male infertility. Pregnant women who often smoke marijuana are at high risk of having a premature birth with an underweight baby.
What Are the Mental and Emotional Side Effects?
Chronic marijuana abuse leads to cognitive difficulties, distorted perceptions and memory/learning problems. Marijuana increases the likelihood of having emotional outbursts and chronic problems with:
Cravings, obsessiveness and severe withdrawal syndrome are quite common. While marijuana can produce feelings of intense relaxation and euphoria, it can also create severe psychotic episodes, involving paranoia, irrational panic, and depersonalization. Chronic marijuana abuse increases the likelihood of temporary side effects becoming permanent and causing a marijuana addiction to develop.
What are the Social Side Effects?
Marijuana is directly linked to serious social problems. This link is because marijuana negatively affects perception, memory, and judgment. Other effects include:
Poor work/educational performance
Lower life satisfaction
Poor decision making
NIH studies have found that teen marijuana users are less likely to finish high school or enroll in college. Adults who heavily use marijuana have higher absenteeism rates and are more liable to be involved in a workplace accident.
Why Is Marijuana So Addictive?
The NIH estimates that approximately 10 percent of occasional users, 20 percent of teen users and up to 50 percent of daily users will form an addiction. Addiction is defined as the condition of being unable to stop using a drug despite the negative, harmful effects. Pro-marijuana users often claim that recreational marijuana use is safe, non-addictive and harmless. However, the average THC content is gradually rising. That is, the goal of many drug manufacturers is to increase the levels of THC with a short growing time. The University of Mississippi’s Potency Monitoring Project (UMPMC) found that the average power of all marijuana in the United States increases up to 10 percent every year. In fact, some marijuana samples were between 20 to 30 percent higher than normal. Marijuana potency is becoming stronger while the average user’s age is dropping lower.
Is Marijuana Dangerous?
One of the biggest problems with understanding marijuana is the lack of formal research. This lack of the investigation is because marijuana is illegal and therefore, universities and medical research facilities are unable to study the effects of marijuana legally. However, available marijuana research clearly shows that chronic marijuana abuse is dangerous for both public health and safety.
Another problem with marijuana is use through edibles is that the “high” is delayed. First-time users (young or inexperienced) will continue to consume the edible and suddenly experience a very intense, toxic rush. As a result, there have been multiple deaths across the United States. Even worse, children have died as a result of mistakenly consuming the tasty snacks, such as cookies or brownies.
Finally, synthetic marijuana, such as Spice or K2, is becoming more and more popular. These strains contain extremely dangerous chemicals that cause severe health problems, hallucinations, and suicidal behaviors. Most poison control centers consider synthetic marijuana a poison.
Treatment is Available
Because there currently are no specific medications available for marijuana addiction treatment, inpatient treatment is recommended. This treatment is a safe and effective way to treat any drug addiction successfully. Inpatients will have solid support, learn helpful tools and engage in clinical therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). If you or someone you know is addicted to marijuana, encourage them to seek professional inpatient treatment.