Misconceptions Concerning Marijuana Use
Marijuana is one of the most used and abused drugs in the world. At least seven million people have admitted to marijuana use weekly or on a regular basis in the United States alone. Estimates go as high as 300 million users, when all users throughout the world are considered.
Marijuana Use Affects Behavior, Memory and Perception
Many people are under a misconception that marijuana is somehow safer than other drugs or alcohol. There is an ongoing debate about whether it is addictive or whether it should be classified as a gateway drug. As with any other drug, a person’s memory, behavior, and perception are altered during use. Some of the most common effects of marijuana use include:
- Short term memory impairment
- Impaired motor skills
- Impaired judgement
- Slower reaction times to danger or to obstacles in the road
- Peripheral vision is affected adversely
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
There are also cardiovascular physical effects of marijuana use that include rapid heartbeat, feelings of panic or phobia like reactions and heightened blood pressure. As far as the neurobiology effects of marijuana, studies have shown that marijuana stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain that are stimulated by other drugs like alcohol, cocaine and heroin.
Long-Term And Chronic Affects From Marijuana Use
Some studies have concluded that using marijuana use on a daily basis exposes one to a risk of lung cancer equal to that experienced by a person who smokes five times the number of cigarettes. The carcinogenic ingredient of marijuana is the chemical called benzopyrene.
In fact, it’s been determined that one marijuana cigarette has almost 50 percent more benzopyrene than a regular tobacco cigarette. Benzopyrene has the effect on a person’s body of suppressing growth of cells. This genetic effect can cause a person to be more susceptible to the development of and growth of cancer in the body. Damaging these genes the way benzopyrene does is the main thing that leaves a person open to higher cancer risk.
Those who smoke marijuana also experience higher rates of chronic bronchial and lung inflammation, chronic bronchitis and injury to their airways. The effects are very similar to the effects experienced by cigarette smokers. Just like cigarette smokers, marijuana users are also more susceptible to respiratory infections.
Can Also Affect the Immune System and Endocrine Systems
Hormonal effects are also important to consider, since the endocrine system is affected by marijuana use. In males, puberty can happen later than normal when marijuana is used heavily. In young women, constant marijuana use can hinder the body from producing and releasing eggs normally, affecting fertility. Since females are sometimes not included in studies of the adverse effects of marijuana use, knowledge of its full effects on women is more limited than the knowledge of the effects on males.
Dr. Guy Cabral, a Professor from the Medical College of Virginia, spoke at a national (NIDA) conference on marijuana research and prevention of marijuana use. He said in his speech that the immune systems of heavy users of marijuana are compromised and that heavy use of marijuana puts the immune system in a weaker state. This leaves a person more open to harmful infections, viruses, fungi and bacteria. It may also cause a decrease in anti-tumor activity of cells of the body, leaving a person more open to the chances of developing tumors.
Marijuana Is Believed to be Psychologically Addictive
While marijuana does cause some symptoms of physical addiction, the most troubling effects are those of psychological addiction. There are short-term psychological effects from marijuana use that include things like a heightened euphoric feeling, random or a magical type of thinking, a sense of time that becomes distorted and losing some of one’s short-term memory. Normally these effects wear off over time, but in heavy marijuana users the effects can last longer, impairing the user’s ability to handle life’s stresses.
Researchers concerned with the levels of marijuana use have also pondered whether the use of marijuana eventually leads to the use of other drugs. Users who wish to continue their altered state of feeling euphoric may turn to other ways to continue that feeling, including trying other, more highly addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.
Chemicals in marijuana, especially the main chemical responsible for the euphoric feeling, known as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), normally is broken down over time by the body. About half of it is out of the body within 24 hours. The rest, however, along with trace metabolites, can be detected through tests for as long as 45 to 60 days. Tests used to find traces of marijuana include blood tests, urine and saliva tests.
Treatment Is Most Effective in an Inpatient Facility
Treatment for marijuana use is best when it takes place in an inpatient treatment center. It is best for users to be out of the surroundings they were accustomed to when they were using marijuana. They need to learn different ways of coping with life’s challenges and need to learn that going back to the use of marijuana is not an option.
There may not be a lot of physical withdrawal symptoms from marijuana, but there are some, including:
- Feelings of depression
- Lessened appetite
- Increased feelings of anxiety
- An increase in aggressive tendencies
The more harmful and serious effects of withdrawing from marijuana seem to be more psychological than physical. For that reason, stopping the use of marijuana can be very challenging. Professionals trained in helping users to become free from their marijuana addiction, whether the withdrawal symptoms they experience are physical or psychological, can be very helpful to clients who want to become free from the urges to use marijuana.
Long term recovery from an addiction or dependence on marijuana takes time and patience. Professional inpatient treatment has the benefits of teaching clients new ways to cope with struggles in life. Clients can also interact with others who are going through the same challenges to end their dependence on marijuana.