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Marijuana is the most popular recreational illicit drug in the U.S., with approximately 25 million individuals in the country reporting having smoked the drug in the past year. Because marijuana is often promoted as a safe and benign drug, there are many efforts to legalize it. Because it is thought to have some medicinal qualities, there are even versions of the drug labelled as "medical" marijuana which individuals receive legitimate prescriptions for such as cancer patients who use it to promote appetite. However, users should not be fooled into thinking that marijuana is a safe drug or that it doesn't cause dependence. Time has shown that many users do in fact develop dependence to the drug and marijuana use can result in many of the same social, economic and health consequences as other drugs of abuse.
Those who use marijuana regularly will for the most part dismiss any reports of ill effects that the drug may cause. However, irrefutable studies have concluded that regular marijuana use does in fact result in serious side effects, some of which profoundly affect the user's quality of life. Because of the way marijuana affects the parts of the brain which involve stress, motivation, and reward, individuals who are dependent to marijuana are significantly more likely to struggle with depression than individuals who don't use the drug. There are other serious side effects which have been reported by chronic marijuana users including anxiety, personality disturbances, and even at serious psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and other mental health issues.
One has to also take into account that when obtaining the drug or being in the presence of others who are taking marijuana, one is predisposing themselves to other addictive and dangerous drugs of abuse. Marijuana is part of the drug culture, an undeniable fact. It is therefore very often a gateway drug, and users will often find themselves wanting to experiment with other drugs to find an even more intense high or a variation of the high they already have from having used marijuana. This is not just an opinion, and reliable statistics show that marijuana users are eight times more likely to use cocaine, 15 times more likely to use heroin, and five times more likely to need treatment for dependence and addiction.
Because Marijuana produces such intense changes in the body and mind which users cannot generate on their own without the drug many users will go through marijuana withdrawal if they suddenly stop using the drug. This is especially after regular long-term use of the drug, and can include extreme irritability, a disruption in sleep patterns, anxiety, depression, and a lack of appetite. Users will often continue regular use to avoid such symptoms, and this is the typical cycle of addiction to any drug. In fact, the marijuana which is available these days is nearly 10 times as strong as it was 10-20 years ago. This intensifies the risk of developing dependence and individuals can very easily become addicted to the drug even after short term use.
Because marijuana is smoked, chronic use of the drug can result in serious health consequences, some of which can be life threatening. Marijuana does in fact contain quite a few of the same cancer-causing chemicals as cigarette smoke. Because of this, studies have shown that regular use of marijuana promotes the development or certain types of cancer as well as serious conditions affecting the respiratory and immune systems. Just five marijuana cigarettes a day contain the same amount of carcinogenic toxins as a full pack of regular cigarettes. Much like a chronic cigarette smoker, chronic marijuana users are predisposed to breathing problems such as wheezing, coughing, chronic chest colds, and even pneumonia. One study points to why, indicating that marijuana use impairs certain cells in the lungs to ward off infection.
Marijuana is one of the top drugs of abuse among primary treatment admission to drug rehab facilities around the country. This is partly because thousands of individuals each year seek out this help themselves when they find they cannot control their compulsion to abuse marijuana. Many marijuana treatment clients are criminal justice clients who commit crimes while high on the drug and are sent to rehab as part of an alternative sentence. This is an indication of another important aspect to consider when determining the effects and consequences of marijuana use. Individuals under the influence of marijuana often don't use their best judgment and do things which are out of character because of lowered inhibitions; things they wouldn't normally do when not high on the drug. The point is that many individuals find themselves in trouble one way or the other because of their marijuana use, trouble which can all be avoided if marijuana was avoided like any other illicit drug of abuse.
There is no shame in owning up to the fact that one's marijuana use is causing problems and consequences in one's life, and that help is needed to put an end to it. Drug rehab programs around the country deal with marijuana dependence and addiction every day, and it is a very common problem which many people face. It doesn't make an individual a bad or weak person, and it can truly happen to anyone even after short term use. Marijuana dependence and addiction is addressed much in the same way as any other drug of abuse, and individuals have found great solace in knowing that other people struggle with this problem and have received effective help in resolving it.
It is not uncommon for individuals in need of treatment for marijuana dependence to require a significant stay in an inpatient or residential drug rehab setting. Even though it may seem like a small problem to someone who isn't educated and experiences in treating marijuana addiction, there are serious issues which will very likely surface in the course of treatment which will need to be resolved to ensure the individual is able to remain off of all drugs once they leave rehab.
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