While those in favor of legalization often argue that marijuana is not addictive, there is no evidence to support this claim. As recreational use of marijuana becomes legalized across the United States, many still worry about its possible consequences. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the United States, and with its changing legal status, these numbers will surely rise. It is true that many people can use marijuana without developing a dependency or addiction, but it is a false narrative to say that it cannot lead to it. In fact, those with genetic predispositions, mental health disorders, or high levels of stress may find themselves more likely to become dependent on marijuana than most.
Increased Potency May mean Increased Dependency
Side effects of marijuana can vary greatly, especially with the evolving methods of consumption. The potency of the drug, concentration of THC, method of consumption, and other factors can affect the side effects it produces. Smoking marijuana tends to produce the quickest effects, with users experiencing symptoms within minutes of use, while ingesting it can take 30 minutes to an hour before side effects manifest. Ingesting marijuana can be particularly dangerous because it may lead to large amounts of THC consumption. Users who are unaware of the time it takes to produce effects through consumption can put themselves in dangerous situations.
What Are the Different Forms of Marijuana?
Marijuana Addiction is made up of the leaves, flowers, and extracts of various hemp plants. Known by a large variety of names including dope, grass, Mary Jane, pot, and weed, the drug is most commonly rolled and smoked in what is called a joint. While this is the most common form of use, methods of marijuana consumption have expanded. It can be consumed in edibles or infused in teas, and is sometimes extracted into a highly-concentrated substance called “wax” or into “dabs” or cannabis oil, which is then smoked. Although all of these options are available, marijuana is most frequently found in its leafy form, resembling tobacco and carrying a distinct smell.
Marijuana is Not Necessarily Safe for Consumption
The rising potency of marijuana has largely contributed to increasing numbers of dependent users. Those who begin using marijuana earlier in life are also at a higher risk of developing dependencies. With access to marijuana increasing due to legalization, many are concerned about the potential for abuse. While laws will make it illegal for those under the age of 21 to purchase marijuana, this cannot prevent marijuana from falling into the wrong hands. The introduction of edibles can also make it particularly dangerous to households with young children. Due to the fact that they are designed to be treats, they can be appealing to children who may not know the difference. Emergency rooms have already experienced an increase of children who have unknowingly ingested marijuana edibles that were in their home.
While marijuana may not necessarily be addictive, it can lead to dependencies that may interfere with everyday life. For some, treatment options may be required to manage cravings and cease use. Marijuana can produce varying effects on users and will not affect everyone in the same manner. Sweeping generalizations about the addictiveness of marijuana can be dangerous, because they can lead some to falsely believe that it is safe for consumption.
Can Marijuana Cause Health Problems?
While those in favor of legalization cite marijuana’s ability to treat pain and various health conditions, it can produce numerous adverse effects that may have long-term consequences. Long-term effects of marijuana use may include:
- Respiratory problems: If a person chooses to smoke marijuana, they may experience many of the same irritating, lung-damaging side effects that tobacco users face. Smoking can lead to the development of chronic cough and a higher risk of lung infection.
- Cardiovascular problems: Marijuana can increase heart rate for several hours. This can increase a person’s risk for heart attack or stroke. This is especially true for older users who may have pre-existing heart conditions.
- Mental health problems: Marijuana is known to impact a person’s memory and cognitive functioning. It may decrease motivation or interest in activities a person previously enjoyed. Due to its ability to cause paranoia and other mind-altering effects, it can exacerbate symptoms of pre-existing mental health conditions as well.
- Dependency: Over time, a person may begin to build tolerances to the effects of marijuana. This requires a person to use larger quantities in order to achieve the same effects. This pattern of use can lead to dependency. Users may experience cravings or withdrawal symptoms without marijuana, and may depend on it to manage everyday responsibilities or decrease stress.
Side Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana is popular due to its desirable effects. Users look to achieve a sense of euphoria that can have a relaxing effect on the mind and body. Many who consume marijuana experience a wide range of side effects that include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite
- Altered sense of time
- Slowed reflexes
- Impaired motor function
- Increased heart rate
- Cognitive impairments