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Marijuana Legalization – Why “Legal” Doesn’t Mean “Safe” or “OK”

marijuana legalizeNew marijuana laws and changes in cultural opinion are affecting people’s attitudes towards its use. Not only are people beginning to think that marijuana—or pot, grass or weed—is not that bad for you, there’s a growing belief that because it’s used for medical purposes, it’s good for you.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What’s so harmful about marijuana?

Marijuana is the most commonly used and abused illicit drug in the United States. You may know that the main mind-altering chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly called THC. The level of THC content in today’s marijuana has been increasing dramatically, making the drug increasingly potent and more addictive.

And while there’s a widespread myth that marijuana is harmless, in 2010 there were more than 572,000 marijuana-involved admissions to hospital emergency rooms. Even more troubling, in the same timeframe, an estimated 11,406 emergency room visits resulted from people smoking a synthetic cannabinoid product, commonly referred to as Spice or K2.

How does marijuana affect the user’s body?

When someone smokes marijuana, THC is absorbed by the lungs and into the bloodstream, which carries the THC to the brain and all other organs throughout the body.

  • The areas of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrating, sensory and time perception and coordinated movement are affected.
  • The lungs are deeply affected because marijuana smoke contains 50-70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. It is also inhaled more deeply and held in the lungs longer than tobacco smoke. Regular marijuana smokers often experience daily coughs, more frequent acute chest illness, and a heightened risk of lung infections.
  • Long-term effects include an adverse impact on learning and memory and poorer cognitive abilities than non-users, including math and verbal skills.

Is it true that marijuana is not addictive?

Marijuana is addictive.  Did you know that every year more teenagers enter treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than all other illicit drugs combined? And long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction for about 9 percent of users. For those who start young that chance increases to about 17 percent and for daily users it’s 25-50 percent.

And users trying to quit do report withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving.

If you’d like to know more about how marijuana can affect your life, how to talk to your teens about drugs, or if you’re concerned about a loved one’s drug use, don’t hesitate to call Horizon Health Services. Our mission is to help individuals with substance abuse issues understand the choices they are making and improve their quality of life.