Marijuana has been in the national spotlight lately as news about its medicinal uses spreads. Colorado and other states have legalized or are in the process of legalizing the drug. Because of this, many people assume the drug is harmless. However, the truth is that marijuana, when used improperly, can be just as dangerous as any other drug.
Marijuana is particularly dangerous for young people because it affects how the brain processes information, stores memories and learns new things. Research has shown that teenagers who use marijuana can have long-lasting or even permanent damage to these brain functions. The younger a person is when they begin using the drug, the more likely it is that they will suffer permanent brain damage from it.
Although marijuana is not as highly addictive as narcotics or other drugs, a certain percentage of people do form a dependence on it. How often marijuana is used and how much THC is contained in each specific sample both affect the likelihood of addiction. The presence of THC in each sample has gone up over the past few decades. In the 1980s, marijuana contained about 4% THC, where it now contains about 10% on average. This means that people can become addicted to marijuana after fewer doses. It also means that those who have been using marijuana for a long period of time have slowly had their dose of THC increased, even though their frequency of usage may not have increased.
Another major risk associated with marijuana use is the impaired decision making and delayed responses and reflexes that are associated with a marijuana high. Even though users feel more relaxed, they are unable to respond to stimuli the way they naturally would, which can put themselves and others in danger. It is becoming more common for people to drive or attempt other potentially dangerous activities while under the influence of marijuana. Just like driving while under the influence of alcohol, those who use marijuana and drive are choosing to put both their lives as well of the lives of others in danger.
Marijuana has been found to be useful as a medical aid in some cases. It can relieve pain and nausea associated with diseases like HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other conditions. Marijuana has been approved for medical use in some states because of these positive benefits. But, like any other prescription drug, marijuana should only be used as prescribed by a doctor. Abusing the drug or using it in any other way puts one at risk to suffer from its widely documented negative side effects.