In light of the rapidly changing picture on the legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, physicians often find themselves facing patients with countless inquiries on the use of marijuana – its potential beneficial and adverse effects on health is always offered on the table. From what has been gathered, the popular notion can be surmised in a single notion – it’s merely a harmless pleasure. From this, people believe that marijuana access should not be regulated, much less considered illicit.
Presently, marijuana is the most regularly used illegal drugs in the United States, with studies showing that 12% of the population, 12 years or older, has reported to be using the drug daily. This data on marijuana use is mostly attributed to the young people. This is likely due to its nature of administration, which can be either ingested as food or inhaled like cigarettes. The greenish-gray leaves and flowers are shredded, which is then used. Its marijuana’s negative effects, however, along with its regular use is of particular concern, especially during adolescence. The leading reason is that marijuana use in this specific age group is often linked to an increased probability of detrimental consequences. Although there are plenty of studies that show its destructive effects, others continue to highlight its benefits – this makes the question of marijuana’s harmfulness remain to be at the center of intense debate. In this part-by-part essay, we shall examine the negative effects of marijuana heavily backed up by science, where we specifically evaluate those with areas with strong evidence. Much of its destructive components shall be discussed later on in separate essays, but to begin, we look at the leading negative effect of marijuana: its addictiveness.
Despite existing polemical dialogue regarding the extent of marijuana addictiveness, the evidence gathered is resounding. It clearly dictates that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction. To put into numbers, roughly 9% of those who tamper with marijuana end up becoming addicted, all according to the criteria for dependence as shown in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These numbers, unfortunately, do not stop rising – it goes up to about 1 in 6 in those people who begin using marijuana as teenagers and around 25% among those who inhale marijuana daily. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted in 2012, 2.7 million people are qualified on the DSM-IV criteria dependence on marijuana. Along with this, there is the ever elusive and problematic marijuana withdrawal syndrome, with symptoms that manifest such as dysphoria, anxiety irritability, sleeping challenges, to name a few. All of these make marijuana termination nearly impossible, as users often suffer from relapse. The use of marijuana by the youth is particularly problematic, as they have an increased vulnerability to the long-term adverse effects of marijuana. To give you a glimpse of the further essays, studies show that marijuana use can affect the brain development. This is due to the fact that marijuana is related to our brain functions, which includes the endocannabinoid system – this undergoes an active development during adolescence, and with marijuana use, developments could be compromised. In other words, regular and early use of marijuana increases the risk of the probability of marijuana addiction, giving way to further addiction to other illegal drugs. Furthermore, studies reveal that those who begin marijuana use in their youth are 4 times more likely to show symptoms of marijuana dependence just 2 years after use, as opposed to those who begin smoking marijuana in adulthood.
To reiterate, marijuana, like other drugs linked to abuse, can result in the destructive state of addiction. However, it is important to note that the effects of marijuana, like that of any drug, on an individual’s health is not only determined by its pharmacologic components but by factors like social acceptability and availability as well. With this in mind, however, the legal drugs (tobacco and alcohol) can offer a sobering outlook; if we look into the greatest burden borne out of drugs, which is addiction, we can then see that its dangers do not pose much of a threat to its legality – it’s widespread exposure. Smoking and alcohol continue to cause suffering to the public, despite measures taken to warn the public. Simply put, if a policy shifts to the legalization of marijuana, then we can hypothesize that its use will increase further. From there, its negative effects will only continue on.