Is Marijuana Really so Bad?

Recent data indicates that over 68 million Americans over the age of twelve have at least tried marijuana, and that the average age teens try it for the first time is fourteen. Such common use among young people raises concerns about the potential effects of this drug. Is it as harmless as its users would have you believe? Or is there more to smoking pot than meets the eye?

From the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. It has also been the subject of debate concerning the potential for addiction and possibility of negative effects, and whether or not it should be legalized.

While there is much disagreement over how marijuana should be treated in our society, is it ever addressed why people use marijuana in the first place? Whether or not marijuana is addictive, whether or not it’s better than alcohol and cigarettes and whether or not it has medical benefits for a miniscule portion of the population, people are beginning to use marijuana for a reason. Many of those in favor of legalization of the drug scoff at the reference to it as a “gateway drug” to drugs more powerful and destructive. But those people may be failing to realize the underlying problem at the root of marijuana use: the desire to do drugs at all.

The basic intent when smoking marijuana is to alter the mental state from where it is naturally. The very dissatisfaction or discontentment with the natural, unaltered state of being is a significant problem, leading not only to the pursuit of a marijuana high, but a high from a variety of sources. This is the reason why many people who wind up being a slave to heroin or crack began with marijuana. Even if the argument of marijuana in itself being completely harmless is true, it is still a mind-altering substance. Individuals seeking this type of alteration are on a dangerous path of self destruction.

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A big red flag is raised when the psyche of a person is such that they require an escape of any kind from their reality in order to function at a tolerable level. This is where attention is needed and action should be taken, and will not be helped by the legalization of the substances that provide these individuals the medicating they think they need.

Now, suppose the claims that marijuana is harmless are actually false. What exactly does one sign up for when they choose to smoke pot? For starters, what they are getting each time they use is the active chemical in marijuana called THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) which binds to the nerve cells in the brain that contain protein receptors. Once this attachment takes place, the THC causes a series of cellular reactions that result in the user’s sought-after high. And even though almost all users claim that marijuana is not addictive, a large number of users do so on a regular basis, usually several times a day.

THC passes rapidly from the lungs into the bloodstream, and is then distributed to all organs throughout the body, not only the brain. The chemical also connects specifically to certain receptors on nerve cells and affects the activity of those cells. These are in the parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.

The short-term effects of marijuana include disruption to several cognitive functions such as memory, learning, thinking and problem solving, coordination as well as causing a rapid heart rate. And speaking of the heart, one study has indicated that an abuser’s risk of heart attack more than quadruples in the first hour after smoking marijuana. The researchers suggest that such an effect might occur from marijuana’s effects on blood pressure and heart rate and reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of blood.

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The list of health effects goes on and on, and includes harm to the lungs, immune system and to mental and social function as well; all cited by different scientists and physicians after lengthy research. Of course those not pleased with such findings will dismiss them regardless of the source.

The next time you go to smoke that joint, blunt or bowl, don’t be fooled into thinking you’re not doing something that harms you. And for those who argue that there’s nothing wrong with marijuana, there are long lists of facts that state otherwise.