Hi Everyone, I hope your all doing well. I am doing good. I wanted to post about this subject as a part of my series on addiction. I would have to say from a personal stand point I do think Marijuana is the least harmful of all the drugs out there and I do think it should be legal. Alcohol is legal and I definitely think it causes far more damage to a person and society as a whole. But I have to wonder about daily, heavy, long term use of this drug, because through the years I have seen some changes in people I know who fit the heavy use category change for the worse, they seem to have to have it everyday. I have seen the changes in their mental health as well, deep denial, distorted reality, lack of comprehension, to name a few. On the other hand I have seen recreational users who show none of those effects. Then there are people who need it for medical purposes, so which is the lesser of the two evils? Read the article if you have a concern for yourself, or anyone you care about and then decide whether or not you agree with it.
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Is There a Link Between Marijuana Use and Mental Illness?
Research in the past decade has focused on whether marijuana use actually causes other mental illnesses. The strongest evidence to date suggests a link between cannabis use and psychosis (Hall and Degenhardt 2009). For example, a series of large prospective studies that followed a group of people over time showed a relationship between marijuana use and later development of psychosis. Marijuana use also worsens the course of illness in patients with schizophrenia and can produce a brief psychotic reaction in some users that fades as the drug wears off. The amount of drug used, the age at first use, and genetic vulnerability can all influence this relationship. One example is a study (illustrated) that found an increased risk of psychosis among adults who had used marijuana in adolescence and who also carried a specific variant of the gene for catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) (Caspi et al. 2005), an enzyme that degrades neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine.
In addition to the observed links between marijuana use and schizophrenia, other less consistent associations have been reported between marijuana use and depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts among adolescents, and personality disturbances. One of the most frequently cited, albeit still controversial, is an amotivational syndrome, defined as a diminished or absent drive to engage in typically rewarding activities. Because of the role of the endocannabinoid system in regulating mood, these associations make a certain amount of sense; however, more research is needed to confirm and better understand these linkages.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction; that is, people have difficulty controlling their drug use and cannot stop even though it interferes with many aspects of their lives. It is estimated that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it. The number goes up to about 1 in 6 in those who start using young (in their teens) and to 25-50 percent among daily users. Moreover, a study of over 300 fraternal and identical twin pairs found that the twin who had used marijuana before the age of 17 had elevated rates of other drug use and drug problems later on, compared with their twin who did not use before age 17.
According to the 2008 NSDUH, marijuana accounted for 4.2 million of the estimated 7 million Americans dependent on or abusing illicit drugs. In 2008, approximately 15 percent of people entering drug abuse treatment programs reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse; 61 percent of persons under 15 reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, as did 56 percent of those 15 to 19 years old.
Marijuana addiction is also linked to a withdrawal syndrome similar to that of nicotine withdrawal, which can make it hard to quit. People trying to quit report irritability, sleeping difficulties, craving, and anxiety. They also show increased aggression on psychological tests, peaking approximately 1 week after they last used the drug.
How Does Marijuana Use Affect School, Work, and Social Life?
Research has shown that marijuana's negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off (Schweinsburg et al. 2008). Consequently, someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time. Not surprisingly, evidence suggests that, compared with their nonsmoking peers, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school (Fergusson and Boden 2008). A meta-analysis of 48 relevant studies—one of the most thorough performed to date—found cannabis use to be associated consistently with reduced educational attainment (e.g., grades and chances of graduating) (Macleod et al. 2004). However, a causal relationship is not yet proven between cannabis use by young people and psychosocial harm.
That said, marijuana users themselves report poor outcomes on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement measures. One study compared current and former long-term heavy users of marijuana with a control group who reported smoking cannabis at least once in their lives but not more than 50 times. Despite similar education and income backgrounds, significant differences were found in educational attainment: fewer of the heavy users of cannabis completed college, and more had yearly household incomes of less than $30,000. When asked how marijuana affected their cognitive abilities, career achievements, social lives, and physical and mental health, the majority of heavy cannabis users reported the drug's negative effects on all of these measures. In addition, several studies have linked workers' marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers' compensation claims, and job turnover. For example, a study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and a 75-percent increase in absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.
Does Marijuana Use Affect Driving?
Because marijuana impairs judgment and motor coordination and slows reaction time, an intoxicated person has an increased chance of being involved in and being responsible for an accident (O'Malley and Johnston 2007; Richer and Bergeron 2009). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths. A recent survey found that 6.8 percent of drivers, mostly under 35, who were involved in accidents tested positive for THC; alcohol levels above the legal limit were found in 21 percent of such drivers.
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