Let’s talk! About the real issues of marijuana use*
In discussing the medical merits or legal ramifications of marijuana, one must also consider the real life implications of this drug on the young adult population.
According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, the percentage of adolescents who perceived great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice a week decreased from 54.6 to 44.8 percent, and the rate of past month marijuana use among adolescents increased from 6.7 to 7.9 percent.
The medical issue: The medical merits of THC, the main ingredient in marijuana, have been identified and THC is available in pill-form as Marinol and Cesamet. However, according to proponents of legalizing medical marijuana, the medical merits of THC are best experienced by smoking it — absent FDA approval or review. “As a society we are authorizing prescription medicines through the ballot box,” observes William H. Foster, president and CEO of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.
The legal issue: Although several states recently legalized marijuana use, still the legal merits of marijuana cannot be supported. For one, the Controlled Substances Act considers marijuana as a schedule I narcotic (along with heroin). Second, taxing and collecting revenue does not resolve the economic issue. According to Joseph Califano Jr., CASA founder and chairman, for approximately every $1 of tax revenue, there could be as much as $7 incurred in medical costs. Califano also points out that the legalization of marijuana means easier availability to children and a factor in contributing to teens’ softening attitude about drugs — specifically marijuana (National Institute of Drug Abuse).
The real issue: Today’s marijuana is not the pot of the 1970s. Its THC potency, the amount of psychoactive ingredient found in the drug, has more than doubled since 1983. This decade has brought a 175% jump in pot potency. According to a 2008 analysis from the University of Mississippi’s Potency Monitoring Project, the drug’s potent effects have severe consequences. Its growing potency not only affects the risk of addiction and increase experimentation to harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin, but also the “risk of psychological, cognitive and respiratory problems.”
Another very important statistic reported in the study must be taken very seriously as well — marijuana abuse increases the risk of developing mental disorders 40 percent. This is another serious side effect that rarely gets mentioned.
Finally, heavy marijuana use is associated with cognitive decline in about 5% of teens, according to a new study, which suggests that the heaviest users could lose 8 IQ points.
The report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that teens who started smoking marijuana before age 18 and were diagnosed as being addicted to cannabis by age 38, experienced an IQ drop in early adulthood.
Dr. Marino E. Carbonell is a licensed psychotherapist and certified addiction professional. He is APA Board Certified and a National Certified Counselor. Dr. Carbonell serves on the board of Informed Families. For additional information please visit www.marinocarbonell.com
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