Marijuana is generally thought to be a harmless drug without any significant side effects. A recent study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that there are more than 19 million marijuana users in America and recent legislation has begun to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use. With the drug’s growing mainstream acceptance, it’s important to get a complete understanding of marijuana’s possible risks before beginning or continuing use.
Traumatic effects of marijuana
While marijuana is typically associated with a mellow and euphoric high, some users have an extremely unpleasant reaction to the drug. Negative effects are more common when large doses are taken. Due to a delayed onset when consuming edible marijuana, many users find it easy to accidentally take more than they intended to, or discover all too late that the drug was stronger than anticipated. An unexpected strong marijuana high can cause feelings of fear, anxiety, panic and paranoia. The most extreme cases can even cause hallucinations, delusions and acute psychosis. These traumatic effects can last several hours.
Health risks of marijuana
Prolonged marijuana use can have long-term and potentially permanent adverse effects on the human brain, particularly when use begins in adolescence. Marijuana impairs parts of the brain that manage memory, learning and impulse control, causing issues with short-term memory, judgment and perception. A 2012 study found that persistent use of marijuana during adolescence is linked with an eight-point drop in IQ points by mid-adulthood compared to adults who did not use the drug. Even more worrisome is the fact that quitting marijuana in adulthood did not restore the IQ points. In effect, using marijuana in adolescence can cause permanent damage to a person’s mental faculties.
Marijuana use also poses risks to a user’s physical well-being. Aside from causing permanent smoke damage to one’s lungs, the drug inhibits reflexes and judgment, putting drugged drivers at twice as much of a risk of getting into an accident. Mixing alcohol with marijuana is especially dangerous, making drivers even more likely to get into a collision than those with only one of the substances in their system. All told, there are about 456,000 hospital visits each year in which marijuana is found in the patient’s system.
In spite of popular perception, marijuana is addictive. By over stimulating the endocannabinoid system in the human brain, marijuana use can change the brain’s functions to produce chemical dependence and addiction. Approximately 9 percent of marijuana users are addicted to the drug. Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, difficulty sleeping, restlessness and cravings. With the vast increase in marijuana potency over the last decade, addiction is a higher concern than ever.
If you or someone you know has developed a marijuana addiction, it may be more serious than you realize. The Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline can answer any questions you have and connect you with a treatment plan that fits your needs. Call us today at 866-576-4147.