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By Doug Brush, CACII
Director of MARR’s Men’s Recovery Center

With a growing number of states moving to legalize recreational marijuana, there is an ongoing debate on whether or not it is actually harmful. It is crucial to realize that legal doesn’t mean harmless. Let me say that again: legal does not mean harmless. Here’s the truth: scientific research tells us that marijuana has adverse effects on brain development, mental health, and overall well-being.

Let me be clear in saying that we are not talking about prescribed medical marijuana. There is good research that demonstrates how marijuana can be used to successfully treat some serious health conditions. Here, we are talking about individuals who use marijuana recreationally to escape from reality.

Sometimes needing to “relax” after a long day really means being emotionally removed and losing sight of one’s priorities. That is a pattern in addiction across the board, and it is no wonder that people return to the drug over and over again, unable to stop using. This cycle of escapism often leaves users disconnected from their loved ones, their emotions, and themselves.

If you find yourself getting angry about what we are saying, let me propose that we have “touched a nerve” and that your relationship with marijuana may be such that you feel you have to defend it. There is a massive misunderstanding about the difference between those who are addicted and those who are not. Someone is not an addict because they consider a drug a problem, they are an addict because they see it as an answer. Article: Why Won’t They Stop?

At MARR Addiction Treatment Center, we have seen an alarming increase of clients with marijuana as their primary addictive agent of choice.

So, how do we know that marijuana is harmful?

In an article titled “The Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana,” the writers present scientific data on just how addictive and damaging marijuana use can be. It is an addictive drug, in fact, 9 percent of those who even experiment with marijuana will become addicted. That jumps to 25 to 50 percent among individuals who smoke daily. There is also scientific evidence of a physical withdrawal from cannabis, which comes in the form of irritability, difficulty sleeping, dysphoria, craving, and anxiety, all of which can obviously contribute to continual relapse.

Early Onset Use

There are an increasing number of adolescents using marijuana, and within two years, they are approximately 2 to 4 times more likely to have symptoms of cannabis dependence than those who begin using during adulthood. This is because weed disrupts normal brain development. Our brains are in constant active development up until age 21, and THC (the primary active ingredient in marijuana) prevents the brain from establishing vital connections between neurons. As people start using earlier and more regularly, they not only have an increased risk of marijuana addiction, but also an increased risk of the use of other illicit drugs.

There is also data that suggests the weed may function as a gateway drug, especially in adolescents. It’s effects prime the brain to influence addictive behaviors in adulthood.  This is something that we have seen in clients here at MARR. Experimenting with marijuana, even if that is not the primary addiction, leads people to progress to other substances and eventually suffer from addiction to alcohol or other drugs.

The potency of marijuana is also on the rise. In confiscated samples, THC content has increased from about 3% in the 1980s to a whopping 12% in 2012. This means that the previously known effects of long-term use may be even more detrimental.

Right now, marijuana is the most commonly used ‘illicit’ drug in the United States. So we have more people using, they are using at a younger age, and the potency of the drug itself is higher. Modern culture and the media have a lot to say about weed, but we must be honest and straightforward about the facts. Marijuana is not a harmless pleasure, it is an addictive drug that is proven to damage brain development, and addiction is an isolating disease that can affect every area of a person’s life and relationships.

No one gets to choose whether or not they become addicted after they start using, and that’s why understanding the potential consequences of marijuana use is important. Despite the harsh reality of this drug, we always extend the hope of recovery. Addiction is a disease, but with the right tools and a supportive community, there is an opportunity for a life of freedom and wholeness on the other side.

Reference:

Volkow, N. D., M.D., Baler, R. D., Ph.D., Compton, W. M., M.D., & Weiss, S. R., Ph.D. (2014). Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use. New England Journal of Medicine,371(9), 878-879. doi:10.1056/nejmc1407928 http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1402309

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23 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    This is bullshit and don’t know where your info comes from,weed is not addictive!

    • Bob Ashby says:

      This is in reply to the person that was upset because MARR cited the dangers of cannabis use and abuse from empirical research sources. My questions to that person and those similarly minded.
      Where does your research come from? Why, “I wonder”, are you so upset about this? Normal people don’t get so defensive about something unless ? Hmmm…

      • Mark says:

        Are you serious, Bob?! Pull your head out of the sand and open your eyes. The research that completely debunks all of this Reefer Madness propaganda is everywhere. Can you do research? Obviously not if you believe this BS. What sources, specific sources, were cited in the article? Do yourself a favor a do a simple google search, try reading, and get back to us. Fool!

        • Shawn12345 says:

          Weed can be addictive. Just like alcohol can be addictive. It is scientifically proven. I think the question is whether it’s physically addicting or not. I would say it’s not very physically addicting, but it can definitely be mentally addicting. That being said I still think it should be legal. It’s still less harmful and less addicting than alcohol.

          • Julie says:

            I agree! Although EVERYTHING has side effects! Including but not limited to MJ ALCOHOL and even prescribed medications which are also proven to be addictive. There is or shouldn’t be a question to the matter. The question and of legalization is the real issue and the growing answer to that is YES! IT SHOULD! For medical as well as an alternative to alcohol as a recreational past time. The criticism of the people who use marijuana by others can often cloud the issues and do Just as much harm to anothers life. I am pro weed and anti alcohol. But all things have their place.

    • Name says:

      Lol you’re slow, there’s references at the bottom, that’s where they got their information

  • Anonymous says:

    There hasn’t been a single recorded death from marijuana use,unlike thousands of deaths from Opioid use every year !!!

    • Jennifer says:

      Exactly! And what the side effects of medications that are being prescibed for the same medical issues as what MJ can be helpful for? One of these side effects being DEATH! Also, hospice is used everyday to improve the quality of life for people. Yes, they are dying, but many people with chronic illness have to grief a loss daily of a life they used to be able to live. It’s like dying every day. Do only terminal ill people deserve quality of life? And truly, what quality of life can one receive while lying on their death bed. Is it not preached to us to live while we can? To make the most of everyday. I know many people do not understand chronic illness; so who are they to judge others on how to manage everyday tasks and living. People need to stop being so judgemental and start showing compassion.

  • Tod says:

    Being a recovering addict who started using pot at the age of 15 I can attest that this article is truth. I used for 20 + years and this was very detrimental to my mental health. Emotionally and also intellectually I regressed.
    Withdrawal was also a tough period to get through.
    I still have cravings for marijuana.
    I would say that is addiction.
    I’ve been clean and sober for 12 years now.

  • Anonymous says:

    Whoever wrote this must have a relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Bart Keough says:

    Hello so truth be known any Psychoactive substance & which Marijuana indisputably s can be used to the point of Addiction which is marked by increased tolerance & withdrawal symptoms when one ceases use..!! Not written by anyone pro or con Marijuana.

  • SkyeHelps says:

    Thank you for this!

  • Chuck Morris says:

    No danger in addicts using weed. Matter of fact, abstenance is the bigger issue. The whole concept of treatment being abstenance has probably killed more addicts than it’s helped.
    Substituting cannabis for opioids as a treatment would make more sense than 12 step programs.

  • Anonymous says:

    I could say so many things. Reality check. Addiction didn’t become a thing until it became profitable. Classes will tell you that an “addict” will use any excuse to continue using. So let’s give them the ultimate excuse. It’s a lifelong disease that you will never be able to control without treatment. Relapse is a part of recovery. Absolute bs! Show me an addiction virus, germ, bacteria etc…. Show me a scan on a non using “addict” that shows me this alleged imbalance. It can’t be done, because it doesn’t exist. And please don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. As a former user, who went as low as you can go, I am speaking from experience. Until you accept full responsibility for your own actions, you won’t get better, because you don’t want to. I don’t down others for whatever method works for them. However I refuse to support the lie that can’t be proven.

  • Anonymous says:

    If you smoke weed to escape reality, just like alcohol, you have a chance at becoming addicted to escaping your life!! If you are offended you may want to look at that. Sincerely, an addict in recovery who does not have a need to escape my life today! Clean and sober since Feb. 8, 2011 from ALL mind altering chemicals..

    • Dave Johnson says:

      You can say that about anything. People become addicted to food, should you stop eating food? It is called self control. Everyone has a choice, stop blaming it on being addicted. This definitely feels like am article by Big Pharma, who are the worst drug dealers ever.

  • Char Robin says:

    Give treatment to those who need it, the ones hooked on prescription drugs. They made marijuana out to look like a crazy man’s drug in the ’70’s and passed all these laws to make it harder to get and to use. As a result, people turned to prescription drugs. Politicians are the ones who created this disaster. Legalize it – states that have done it are making $$$$ out the ass. Alcohol is legal. You can’t tell me marijuana is worse than alcohol. What’s wrong with all these politicians?? They get financial support from the drug companies – that’s the problem. Once they see there is no harm with marijuana, and how much revenue it can generate – these old geezers will have to shit or get off the pot. How about taking a step forward out of the stone age???

  • Anonymous says:

    What the real truth is is that its controversy in it’s self proves its getting the attention we need. The fact of the matter is that people are going to lose high dollar profit when it becomes legal and live like the rest of us. No one wants that hence the hype and propaganda.

  • Frank says:

    You guys are missing the point of this article. It’s not about deaths or accidents from using marijuana but the reason for using?? If you feel the need to kill part of your day or feelings, something may be wrong? “This cycle of escapism often leaves users disconnected from their loved ones, their emotions, and themselves” Why are you guys so angry about this possibility?

    • Keefer says:

      Maybe what you should have wrote was or called your article was the need of people who have weak willpower to be taught to have stronger will power if I eat too much sugar for a long time of course I’m going to have a few withdrawal symptoms from it if I stop drinking coffee after drinking coffee for let’s say a month I’m going to have old let’s say some withdrawals because I’m not putting it in my system anymore anything you put in your system that you removed from your system after putting in for a while will cause withdrawal symptoms it depends on your personal willpower as to whether you will let it consume you or you will be the master of it teach people to be the master of what they use don’t stop don’t tell him it’s so bad just teach him to be the master of it mic drop

  • Anonymous says:

    I think this is funny, weed is not bad in any way but maybe putting smoke in your lungs, I had a addictive yo a hard drug, I needed it, had to have it and would get it before any thing els in my day(Work,Home,family,relationships.ect). Quoting after 10 years on this drug I quite, the every day struggle and routine I was mentally wiped out, and weed helped me relax and chill out and rest because I was so used to being high and doing things so fast when I didn’t have the drug I felt sodeppressed that every day so many things ran threw my head that I never worried about I finally thought things like, paying rent, paying bills, working cause my wife said home with our son and I had to be the income, plus stress of Work it’s self, I never could sleep weed made me just relax and forget every thing of the day and I could play with my son, do puzzles with my wife, help with dinner and shower before jumping in bed. Weed is something that can help hard addiction to hard drugs for any one suffering. Stoners are not going out robbing houses, there munching on chips in there own home In there own space, not like hard drug people stealing,staving,killling,and wiping out America as we know it

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