Are There Consequences to Marijuana Use?

Marijuana is perhaps one of the least addictive of the commonly used drugs. Some people become dependent on it, but some actually do become addicted. It is most dangerous to adolescents, or when used with other substances. Despite marijuana becoming legal in many states, less is known about the consequences of its use.

Medical Marijuana

Much has been researched and is continually being researched about the medical benefits of using marijuana. Typically, it is Cannabidiol or CBD oil that is used for medical purposes. It is derived from the hemp plant and does not produce a “high” like marijuana, because it does not contain THC. Nor is it addictive. While there is still much to learn about the efficacy of its use, certain aspects of its safety have been established. Because it is not regulated by the FDA, though, there are still risks in using it. Many people with serious medical conditions like seizures, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain have found relief using CBD oil.

Addicted to Marijuana

Marijuana, from the cannabis plant, is different. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in ten people who use marijuana will become addicted. That number increases in relation to adolescents who use marijuana. One in six teens will become addicted because their brains are still forming, which makes them more susceptible. Addiction is indicated when the use of marijuana interferes with many aspects of our lives and we are unable to stop using it.

The actual stats for addiction vs. dependency vary from study to study as some institutions use addiction and dependency interchangeably. However, addiction has far more severe behavioral consequences and requires medical intervention, while dependency can be broken without the help of treatment, even if it is still very difficult.

Dependent on Marijuana

Dependency on marijuana is more common, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA.) It is estimated that about 30 percent of adults who use marijuana become dependent on it. Dependency is different than addiction in that a person suffers withdrawal symptoms for approximately one to two weeks after stopping marijuana use. They may also experience mood changes, irritability, sleep difficulties, cravings or changes in appetites, amongst other physical experiences during the first two weeks.

During dependency, the brain actually adapts to the higher amounts of marijuana by reducing its own production of endocannabinoid neurotransmitters, as well as its sensitivity to them. This is why withdrawal occurs, and why there are so many side effects when we try to stop using it.

Consequences for Adolescents

The fact that addiction to marijuana occurs at a higher rate for adolescents vs. adults is one indicator that the consequences are also higher. Because our brains are not fully developed until we are around 25 years of age, marijuana can cause lasting harm to the developing brain. This can be seen in a loss of thinking and problem-solving skills decreased memory and learning, our coordination becoming impaired, as well as the ability to maintain attention. According to the CDC, these are permanent side effects and cannot be reversed. This means that the consequences of using marijuana as an adolescent are much greater.

Consequences of Higher Potency

There is another concern within the medical community about marijuana use, and research is only in the beginning stages to determine how severe the consequences are. This concern is about the potency of the THC levels within the marijuana that is being used today. According to NIDA, in the early 1990s, the THC levels in confiscated marijuana averaged about 3.8 percent. The potency of THC measured in 2014 was 12.2 percent. That increase is three times more potency within less than 15 years. While they are still unsure exactly what all of the consequences are of this increased potency, we need to be aware that there could also be increased ramifications for our personal health, including the propensity for dependency or addiction.

Consequences of Too Much Marijuana

Overdosing on marijuana is unlikely to prove fatal, according to the CDC. However, the side effects can be greatly increased when using too much. These side effects include anxiety, paranoia, panic, hallucinations, increased blood pressure or heart rate, and severe nausea or vomiting. The side effects of mixing marijuana with alcohol or other drugs can also be dangerous. This includes using marijuana with prescription drugs.

The trouble with marijuana is that its popularity has grown much faster than the research has. Because it is plant-based and unregulated by the government, it is impossible to know exactly what we are ingesting when we use it. What is the potency of the THC? What are the interactions with our bodies or prescription medications? No one knows, exactly. We don’t even know a lot about medical marijuana, other than it seems to be non-addictive. But we do know that marijuana is damaging to adolescents. We know we can become dependent and even addicted. And we know that if we have become addicted, we need to seek help. If you or someone you love needs help, please call us today at (805) 719-7954 to speak to one of our admissions experts.

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