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Article Summary

About Marijuana

Marijuana is a very common drug of abuse, and is currently the most widely used illicit drug in the nation. To highlight how broad of an issue this is, over 100 million individuals in the United States alone have used the drug, with 25 million of those Americans reporting past year use. Marijuana is a drug which is grown and cultivated from the Cannabis plant. The active psychoactive compound in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or "THC" for short, along with 400 other compounds which provide sensory effects. Marijuana is most commonly smoked but it can also be mixed in food as well. When an individual does smoke marijuana, the THC affects areas of the brain which control motor function, thought, memory, the way they perceive space and time as well as pleasure. This is what creates the high marijuana users experience.

Popular culture has brought the use of marijuana to the forefront in national media and legislature, as the drug has been used for many years to help individuals with certain medical conditions. While it may be true that there are legitimate medical uses for this drug, most individuals who propel such claims are not those who require the drug medically but actually those who wish to freely abuse the drug. Unfortunately, individuals who abuse marijuana may not understand that marijuana use can cause profound side effects when used frequently over a long period of time, and carries a great risk of addiction and dependence. This dependence then leads to drug seeking behavior and opens up the door to abuse of other drugs as well as placing oneself into a drug culture is not going to affect that positively in the long run. Additionally, many users may not realize that today's marijuana is nearly 10 times as strong as the marijuana of a decade ago, which makes the chances of becoming addicted and dependent to such a powerful drug much greater.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

The same individuals, who wish to make marijuana seem like an innocent as a drug of abuse, are the same individuals who would like you to think that marijuana is not addictive. However, many years of research has confirmed that marijuana is in fact very addictive, and individuals who use the drug chronically do develop a physical dependence to it over time. Therefore, when chronic marijuana users try and quit, they will ultimately experience withdrawal symptoms along with intense cravings to use marijuana again. These are hallmark symptoms of addiction. Individuals who experience marijuana withdrawal report feeling irritable, insomnia, feeling anxious, depressed, etc, much like other common drugs of abuse.

To highlight the addictive qualities of marijuana, a study was conducted of nearly 500 marijuana smokers who tried to quit using the drug after long term use. About one in four marijuana users studied reported having used marijuana more than 10,000 times in their lifetime, the equivalent of daily use for 27 years. Over half of the participants in the study reported having smoked marijuana more than 2,000 times. During the study, almost half of all of the individuals who participated experienced withdrawal symptoms. The most common marijuana withdrawal symptoms reported were cravings for the drug, irritability, boredom, feeling anxious, and insomnia. Of the study participants who reported marijuana withdrawal symptoms, 78.4% of them said they began smoking marijuana again to reduce these symptoms.

Side Effects of Marijuana

In terms of side effects, these are also not benign when it comes to marijuana use. Marijuana users are at risk of increased heart rate as well as irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to palpitations and arrhythmias. As a result, marijuana users (especially those who have pre-existing heart conditions), are at almost a 5 times greater risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug. Lung damage is also a risk users of the drug may experience, as marijuana users typically deeply inhale marijuana smoke and hold it in their lungs considerably longer than tobacco smokers, which further increase the user's lungs to exposure of carcinogenic smoke. Studies have shown than some individuals who smoke marijuana show irregular cell growth in their lung tissue, which may be a precursor to cancer. Marijuana smokers also tend to be at higher risk of experiencing frequent upper respiratory illness.

The side effects of marijuana use or more than physical and recent studies have also found that chronic marijuana users are more likely to report symptoms of depression than people who don't use the drug. Individuals who use marijuana chronically are also more likely to report negative psychological side effects such as anxiety, changes in personality, and some marijuana users are even at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia and other mental health issues. Research also suggests that chronic marijuana users may develop fertility complications, and women marijuana users specifically run the risk of giving birth to babies with developmental and behavioral problems.

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

Most users who wish to make the drug seem harmless may persuade one to think that use of marijuana doesn't predispose an individual to abuse of other harmful illicit drugs. However, research has proven other ways and this is in fact just another attempt to justify abuse of the drug. In fact, research shows that marijuana users are at a much greater risk of using drugs like cocaine and heroin, and five times more likely to require treatment for substance abuse. Parents should be particularly keen of this fact, when considering that marijuana is in fact a gateway drug and the youth of today are under a great deal of peer pressure to abuse all sorts of substances including marijuana.


Marijuana addiction and dependence don't have to be a way of life, and individuals who want help can overcome their dependence and addiction issues with help. Drug rehab programs are available which provide effective drug treatment for marijuana abuse and addiction, which will help them stay off of the drug for good. These programs have proved effective in helping thousands of individuals overcome marijuana addiction and dependence and get their lives back on track.

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