Marijuana is more controversial than ever these days. With legalization for medical use in more than 20 states and legalization for recreational use in two, the drug continues to be the subject for debate. One of the hot topics is addiction. Some people claim that marijuana is not addictive, but most experts know better. While not as addictive as many other drugs, it can and does lead to dependence. The real issue now is that teens are getting hooked on smoking pot.
Addiction is a complicated medical condition, and it can occur when a person becomes physically dependent on a substance. But it can also be the result of a psychological dependence. The former is usually more severe and more difficult to overcome. Marijuana use can result in a physical dependence, a need to take more of the drug in order to feel normal. It can also turn into a psychological dependence or a combination of the two. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9 percent of marijuana users will become addicted. The risk is greater for users who start at a young age and for those who use marijuana on a daily basis for a long period of time. Those addicted to the drug report feeling withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, cravings, insomnia and a decreased appetite.
Teens and Marijuana Addiction
While the overall numbers reported by the government suggest that 9 percent of marijuana users get addicted, new research has found that the number could be much higher among teens. In a recent study, researchers looked at 127 teens being treated for substance abuse. Of those, 90 used marijuana most often and, of those, 76 percent were addicted. The criteria for addiction used for the teens included an inability to cut back on using the drug in spite of negative health consequences, increasing tolerance to its effects, and the experience of withdrawal symptoms. The results are important, but they come from a single, small study. To confirm the results, researchers hope to follow up with research involving more teens. In the meantime, the fact that so many young people may be getting hooked on what is often considered a harmless drug should start important conversations. The researchers also point out that the signs of marijuana addiction seen in the teens are much less severe than similar symptoms seen in addicts of drugs like heroin, alcohol or even tobacco. Addiction, however, is not the only concern that we should have for teens using marijuana. There are many more problems that can be caused by use of the drug. We know that marijuana impacts the brain, but it particularly has an effect on brains that are still developing. This means that teens smoking pot are at risk for diminished cognitive abilities and memory issues, and the drug has been shown to exacerbate mental health illnesses. Using marijuana also causes physical health problems. It can lead to the same respiratory conditions that effect smokers. Smoking pot also increases the risk of having a heart attack and of having a serious accident. It should be obvious to anyone reading the research that using marijuana is not a harmless activity. Not only can it cause a number of health problems, mental health issues and cognitive decline, but marijuana can and does lead to addiction in many users. Young people seem to be particularly at risk for addiction, and by spreading awareness we can educate teens and empower them to make better choices. By: Mary Ellen Ellis