What You Should Know About Marijuana

LaFayette JSHS: Jamus M.
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Well hello there. Marijuana is one of the most widely abused drugs in the U.S. This does not make it OK. In a 2007 study, up to 32 percent of high school seniors had used marijuana in the previous year. Marijuana can be harmful to the adolescent mind. It can cause panic attacks, anxiety, paranoia, high blood pressure, addiction, even loss of short-term memory. In the U.S., it's almost like marijuana's made to seem OK. Trust me, it isn't. I'm a doctor.
Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs. In 2019, the Monitoring the Future survey found a significant increase in daily marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders since 2018. The study also showed an increase in daily THC vaping. The National Institute on Health (NIH) said, “From 2018 to 2019, the percentage of seniors vaping marijuana in the past month increased from 7.5 percent to 14 percent—the second largest one-year increase in any drug use that has ever been recorded in the 45-year history of the Monitoring the Future survey.” Marijuana is also prevalent in Canada, where it is legal for both recreational and medicinal purposes. In 2019, researchers at the University at Waterloo looked at data from more than 230,000 Canadian high school students in grades 9 to 12 and found that marijuana use has been rising steadily. Lead author Alex Zuckermann said, “The problem was developing while legalization was being discussed, but well before concrete steps to change the law were taken. With medicinal use more widespread and talk of total legalization starting, we saw a shift in public perception starting around 2014. Before that, youth cannabis use was declining. These changing social norms may have contributed to rising youth use.”

Regular use of marijuana can have serious consequences, including loss of short-term memory, distorted perception, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, plus anxiety and panic attacks. Teens who smoke marijuana have a much harder time performing even simple tasks, according to a joint study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Teens who use marijuana regularly not only perform badly at activities that involve certain parts of the brain, but the damage may be long-term. According to a landmark study published in 2012, marijuana use before age 18 was linked to lasting problems with memory and attention, as well as a decrease in intelligence. Studies also show that marijuana is a dangerous, potentially habit-forming drug. Many myths surround this drug. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that recreational use of marijuana is safe.

It is believed that marijuana smoke contains some of the same cancer-causing chemicals as those found in cigarette smoke. According to the National Institutes of Health, studies show that someone who smokes five marijuana cigarettes a week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day. Marijuana can cause problems in your respiratory, immune, and reproductive systems.

Marijuana can also affect regular users psychologically. Users may begin to lose interest in the other aspects of their lives. They stop caring about school and their future. They stop hanging out with friends and often spend their days doing nothing. Perhaps the most dangerous effect of marijuana is that people who experiment with it sometimes go on to use hard drugs. A marijuana user may experiment with a variety of harder drugs and may even become addicted.

Marijuana can lead to dependency and mental illness in teens. A teen who has been depressed at some point in the past year is more than twice as likely to have used marijuana as teens who have not reported being depressed, claims a report by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The report also said that smoking pot increases the risk of mental illness by 40 percent. And teens who smoke pot at least once a month over a yearlong period are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who don’t.

In addition, the average potency of marijuana has risen to ten percent, its highest level in history. A high concentration of THC (the drug's psychoactive ingredient) can have far more serious effects, especially on frequent users, than lower concentrations. Long-term effects include strong feelings of unhappiness, paranoia, and irritability. Plus, the higher potency is leading to an increase in admissions to emergency rooms and drug treatment programs.

You may hear that marijuana is dangerous or that it is harmless; that it can hurt you or help you; that it is addictive or nonaddictive. Only by knowing the facts can you make informed choices about your health and safety.