Here on the Prominence blog, we have discussed a variety of substance addictions. Many of them have been with what is known as “hard” drugs—heroin, meth, and prescription drugs that all have very swift and dangerous effects on individuals. They’re easily addictive and the path to destruction is quick.
But what about the health risks of marijuana? Is it considered to be as dangerous as these drugs? The common answer is no, when in fact it should be yes. Marijuana is a very popular drug and much more attainable than other street drugs. It is often considered a “light” drug, and, now that more states are legalizing it, marijuana is often considered OK to be used recreationally. But don’t let this fool you into thinking that marijuana is harmless or that it does not have addictive properties.
Statistically, research suggests that nine percent of people who use marijuana become addicted. This increases to about seventeen percent for users who start at a younger age. Many of the reported seven percent of high school seniors who use marijuana will go on to become addicted. Of the entire adult population, seven percent admit to using marijuana on a regular basis.
But what about its harmful effects?
In the short term, there are several side effects of marijuana that individuals suffer from, even though they do not realize it. Individuals under the influence of marijuana can have problems with memory and learning. Coordination can be lost, and general thinking and problem solving can become difficult. An individual’s perception is also effected in that it becomes distorted. In the moment of your high, you may find it funny to forget what you were talking about, but these short-term effects can become problematic. The distorted perception side effect is especially troubling if the user drives under the influence. It’s scary to think of the damage that can be done by individuals who drive after smoking marijuana.
Long-Term Effects on the Brain
We’ve said that there is part of the population that believes marijuana is a benign drug. But it’s not. It has direct effects on the brain, and these effects are very negative. If smoked over an extended period of time, marijuana has large effects on a user’s intelligence. Research shows that teenagers who smoked into their adult years suffered from lower IQ test scores when they were retested again at age 38. The drop was, on average, eight IQ points, which could drop someone from an average intelligence level to one in the lowest third.
Long-Term Effects on the Heart
The effects of marijuana are largely connected to mental side effects, but there are physical effects that are often overlooked as well. One of those effects is an increased risk of having a heart attack. Maybe it doesn’t seem likely, but it is. Within the first hour of smoking marijuana, an individual is four times more likely to experience a heart attack. This is because smoking pot will cause the heart to beat more rapidly. But it also lowers your blood pressure, an action that, when combined with the increased heart rate, risks causing a heart attack.
Long-Term Effects on the Lungs
Another physical ailment to the body caused by marijuana is its detrimental effects on the lungs. Like cigarettes, smoking marijuana puts smoke into your lungs. Smoke of any type is not good for your lungs. Surprisingly, marijuana increases the amount of tar inhaled three times more than cigarettes. Studies also suggest that individuals who smoke marijuana inhale the smoke more deeply and hold it in longer than cigarette smokers. In addition to this fact, marijuana contains 70 percent more cancer-causing substances than cigarettes. While you might not smoke the same volume of marijuana cigarettes as you do tobacco cigarettes, marijuana is no safer for your lungs than is tobacco.
Marijuana is not a benign drug. It has physical consequences, both in the short term and the long term. If you or someone you know has a habit of using marijuana, call Prominence Treatment Center now before your addiction takes control of your life.