The ongoing debate about the dangers, benefits, and repercussions of using marijuana has resulted in the spread of misinformation. Many believe that the substance does not impose any risk on their health and on the contrary, enables them to live better.
The opponents to this idea claim that marijuana is a type of narcotic, regardless of its legal status in some states.
Both sides of the debate have valid arguments. Medical marijuana is highly effective in alleviating pain and enabling people with chronic illnesses to cope with their daily struggles. Recreational marijuana, though, especially when smoked or vaped increases one’s odds of developing a dependency. It is also often reported as a gateway drug that could easily lead to addiction to other substances, too.
Fast Marijuana Facts
- Could be smoked (dried) or ingested (“edibles”)
- Legal in some states, but illegal in others
- Popular street names: weed, pot, ganja, reefer, Mary Jane, grass, and dope
- More than 20 % of rehab patients declared marijuana as their top drug of choice
- Increase in marijuana consumption in the last decade: over 3 million newly reported users
Side Effects & Abuse
Due to its psychoactive ingredient THC, marijuana is known for altering the user’s perception. The effects vary depending on one’s overall physical and mental state, how the drug is consumed, and whether it gets mixed with other substances. Smoking marijuana has shorter-lived speedier results compared to oral intake.
Some of the commonly reported marijuana use effects include:
- “Munchies”, due to a boost in appetite
- Overall improved mood and sensations of happiness
- Lowered stress levels and decrease in anxiety
- Mild to moderate hallucinations
While the side effects of marijuana may appear harmless at first, the drug could still impose high risks on the user, especially when combined with other substances. Marijuana overdoses have never been reported, yet it is the second-highest emergency room drug, following cocaine.
What Is THC and Why It Matters?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active chemical in marijuana that alters the brain’s normal functioning. It is the culprit of the feeling of ‘high’ that most recreational users seek. What they often are unaware of is that for the past few decades its content has been drastically increased.
Compared to the 1960s, THC’s concentration has grown to upward of 300 percent. This adversely impacts marijuana tolerance and abuse. It magnifies the chances of developing a stronger dependency on the drug while building up a higher tolerance.
Just like any other narcotic, marijuana comes with its arsenal of substance abusers. Marijuana addiction is as real as any other type of illness. It can be medically diagnosed, and the patient suffers from a set of side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and other long-term life damage.
What happens to one’s brain when using marijuana is sufficient to prove its addictive nature. The brain’s cannabinoid receptors get triggered by a special neurotransmitter (Anandamide) when the substance enters the body. THC then blocks the Anandamide receptors and tricks the mind to believe that it can no longer naturally produce it. This affects the user in a way that he needs a constant supply of THC to numb the withdrawal symptoms from the artificially created loss of Anandamide. Once someone has reached the point at which they cannot live without the substance, marijuana addiction is evident.
· Marijuana as a Gateway Drug
The dangers of marijuana consumption are closely related to its purpose as a gateway drug. The group at the highest risk are teenagers or young adolescents. They often perceive the substance as fun, innocent, and casual. However, in most cases, it encourages them to try harder drugs later in life and increases their chance of developing an addiction.
Getting Help & Treatment
If you notice that someone is using marijuana, you should approach them about it. Being kind, compassionate, and non-judgmental is quintessential to initiating a conversation. People who abuse drugs are often defensive and fear what others may think of them. Therefore, they prefer to remain silent until they hit rock bottom, and intervention is necessary.
Receiving timely help could prevent someone’s marijuana addiction from spiraling into a more severe one. Treatment options vary based on the patient’s condition, lifestyle, and personal preferences. Choosing the right rehab is vital to the addict’s successful recovery.
If you are unsure of where to begin, a simple Google search for your local area could point you in the right direction, e.g. “Best marijuana rehab in Brentwood, TN”. Always make sure to consult with a medical professional before making any final decisions regarding your health.