Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world today. Used for fun and getting away from problems in life, it is getting more and more popular among today’s millennials. What most people do not know is that for every action comes an equal or opposite reaction. Much too often people view marijuana as a harmless drug, however there are long term consequences that are often overlooked.
Marijuana can be ingested in many different ways such as smoking from hand pipes, water pipes, hookahs, and vaporizers. This is more harmful to the lungs than consuming it orally in ways such as edibles, tinctures, or ingestible oils. Smoking marijuana is a more commonly used method than consuming the product orally. It intoxicates the user more acutely. The effect will be much more potent and will last for a shorter amount of time. On the other hand if consumed orally, the marijuana will take longer to absorb and be less potent but the effects will last for a longer time. Oral consumption does not carry some of the negative consequences on the lungs as smoking marijuana does.
To understand what this drug does to a consumer, it is necessary to look at how and why it affects a brain. Marijuana has a chemical compound called tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol mimics substances called endocannabinoids that human bodies produce. In the brain endocannabinoids control the production of neurotransmitters. Throughout the rest of the body endocannabinoids work by relaxing muscles, reducing inflammation, protecting damaged tissue, and regulating appetite and metabolism. Because endocannabinoids are so crucial to the human body, the brain has receptors ready for them. When consumed, the marijuana triggers the endocannabinoids into producing more than needed, leading to memory issues, augmented levels of pain, and alterations to emotion, pleasure, and movement control.
Substantial evidence from animal research and a growing number of studies in humans are leading to a conclusion that the exposure to marijuana during development can cause permanent changes in the brain. Rats exposed to tetrahydrocannabinol during adolescence show evident problems with specific learning and memory tasks later in life. When two adult rats were put together in a cage the one who consumed tetrahydrocannabinol as an adolescent was less hesitant to try another type of drug were when given the opportunity. As for humans, their brains are usually not fully developed until the age of 25. When a teenager is exposed to drugs such as marijuana it interferes with the developing connections between brain regions and producing cells that process information. Researchers at Duke University conducted a study of more than 1000 people from the time they were born till 38 years old. Their results were not surprising, people who began smoking marijuana more than once a week before the age of 25 displayed more severely impaired intelligence, slower reaction times, shorter attention spans, and poorer listening skills than those who began using marijuana after the age of 25.
A longitudinal study in New Zealand found that persistent marijuana users starting in their adolescence associated with an average loss of 6 to 8 IQ points. Even users who quit in their adulthood after using marijuana heavily as an adolescent could not recover the IQ points that had been lost. On the other hand people who began using marijuana heavily over the age of 25 did not lose IQ points. The areas affected were verbal ability and general knowledge from preteen years. This further proves that marijuana has a much more substantial effect on an adolescent’s growing brain.
People who consume marijuana on a regular basis have increased chances of having mental health disorders later in life than those who don’t. While the causal link is not firmly established, depression, anxiety, psychosis and substance abuse disorder are among the most common effects observed in long-term users. Recent research has found that people who use marijuana and carry a specific variant of the AKT1 gene are at an increased risk of developing psychosis. The AKT1 gene codes for an enzyme that affects dopamine signaling in the striatum, which is an area of the brain that becomes flooded with dopamine when certain stimuli are present. One study has found that people with this gene had a 7 times more likely chance of developing psychosis when smoking, than those who infrequently smoked. Marijuana use has also been shown to worsen the course of illness for someone who suffers from schizophrenia. Also, it is known to produce an acute psychotic reaction in non-schizophrenic people who consume marijuana, although this usually goes away as the drug wears off.
Marijuana smoke contains a number of harmful chemicals that lead up to damage of the bronchial passages and the lungs. Regular smokers are more likely to have persistent coughs, trouble breathing, and produce excess mucus from their throats. The Journal of Internal medicine has stated that smoking marijuana “has some significant similarities to that of tobacco smoking.”
Consuming marijuana can increase the heart rate by almost 50 bpm, which can last for over three hours. This overworks the heart and can eventually lead to heart attacks. Research from the Journal of the American stated that regular marijuana use can not only lead to a higher risk of a heart attack, but cause issues such as heart rhythm disorders and strokes, even in younger people who are not at risk for heart disease.
One of the most concerning risks of long-term effects of marijuana consumption comes from pregnant women. When a woman is pregnant and is using marijuana, she puts the child at risk for long lasting harm to the memory. On top of potential harm during pregnancy, cannabis can be transmitted through breast milk and be passed to the infant during breastfeeding. Research has been spotty on how much cannabis affects unborn and nursing babies, but mothers to be are still advised to stay away from any foreign substances.
There is a risk of addiction to consistent marijuana users, but the risk highly increases when the consumer is an adolescent. 30% of adults who use marijuana regularly are addicted, but in adolescents the likelihood of addiction is 4 to 7 of that. Marijuana use disorder becomes an addiction when a person still feels the need to use the drug even though it interferes with certain aspects of their life. Withdrawals also pose a real problem and lead to health issues such as loss of appetite, depression, insomnia, and anxiety.
There is always an alternative solution to a problem rather than handing your life over to drugs. Marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in 10 different states leading to much more substance abuse within the country. It is evident that adolescents who consume this drug are at a much higher risk of mental disorders, memory loss, poorer education, and medical issues.
Educating the general population about the dangers of marijuana and its long term effects would be the most plausible solution to this issue. Although students are usually educated about its potential harm through school it should be more of a focus in middle schools. When a child is getting at the age where they want to try different things, it is the best time to tell them what kinds of harm certain drugs can do. Another place to educate people would be through social medias. Rather than advertising clothing and gadgets, more focus should be put into educating the general population about the dangers of substances they put into their bodies.
Marijuana is often times looked upon as a harmless drug, but new studies are coming up with results that prove it creates both mental and physical issues in the long run. Although adolescents seem to be much more affected by this substance than people over the age of 25 years old, it is still harmful to anyone who abuses it. It leads to potential health problems and risks later on in life, which needs to be spoken out about to more people.
“Are There Long-Term Effects From Prolonged Marijuana Use?” Axis Recovery, Axis
Residential Treatment, axisresidentialtreatment.com/marijuana-addiction/long-term-effects/. Accessed 16 Feb. 2019.
This website showed how marijuana affects relationships and jobs. It provided information about how marijuana can cause lower income and less happiness in relationships. This website was reliable and was biased against smoking weed. It helped provide the needed information for my arguments.
Lautieri, Amanda. “Dangers of Marijuana: Long-Term Effects on the Brain and
Body.” American Addiction Centers, americanaddictioncenters.org/marijuana-rehab/long-term-effects. Accessed 16 Feb. 2019.
In this website I gained knowledge on how marijuana affects the human body both physically and mentally. It helped provide information about heart issues and the danger of smoking substances while being pregnant. This website was against marijuana and was made for people trying to quit smoking.
“Is Marijuana Addictive?” National Institute of Drug Abuse, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive. Accessed 16
This website explained how marijuana can make someone addicted. I gained my information on the statistics of how many people are addicted and the causes. I also learned about the rising potency in THC in the last few decades. This article was neutral about the subject of smoking weed. This website helped me a lot to shape my argument and this was a very reliable website.
“Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders?” National
Institute on Drug Abuse, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/there-link-between-marijuana-use-psychiatric-disorders. Accessed
16 Feb. 2019.
I learned about how psychiatric disorders develop in adolescents consuming marijuana. This was a very detailed article about the psychiatric disorders and how they occur with different genes and genetics. This article was not very biased but still helped see from two different perspectives.
“What are marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain?” National Institute of
Drug Abuse, June 2018, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-are-marijuanas-long-term-effects-brain. Accessed 16 Feb.
This website consisted of studies that show how marijuana affects a human’s brain. It includes information about how marijuana was tested on rats and how the substance affects mental health. This page was biased in a sense that it was against people smoking marijuana and abusing substances. This article was helpful for my argument because it helped provide evidence of long term physical effects.
Flemming, Kelly. “What Smoking Weed Does to Teen Brains.” The Stranger, Index
Newspapers LLC, 22 Oct. 2014, www.thestranger.com/seattle/what-smoking-weed-does-to-teen-brains/Content?oid=20884581. Accessed 16
This website helped shape my argument on how marijuana affects a brain of an adolescent. This article consisted of insight on how weed alters brain chemistry and how mental illnesses can form. This page was biased to show how teens are heavily affected by substance abuse. This page helped give me knowledge and a better argument for my essay. This website was not as reliable as the other websites I have used for my essay.
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