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Pot To Become A Public Health Problem

In the United States, there is currently national debate raging concerning marijuana. In spite of the mountain of research and science that points out how dangerous using marijuana is, a move towards legalisation seems to be what the public is favouring.

Recently the Current Addiction Reports journal published a new study that concluded that young adults and teenagers who use pot once a week were likely to suffer decreased IQ, poor memory and attention, and cognitive decline. Also recently at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA), the effects of legalising marijuana was discussed and one of the key points that was bought out was, using cannabis regularly could lead to neurocognitive damage and addiction. Since most people who use marijuana do so much more than once weekly, the harm done will be a lot worse on brains that are developing. It’s estimated that for young people who are marijuana addicts will lose close to six IQ points by the time they become adults according to the APA. Similar results have been shown in others studies including a 2012 New Zealand decade-long study, which showed that persons who were frequent pot smokers in adolescence, loss on average eight IQ points by the time they reached adulthood. Over the last year or so, much media attention has been focusing on pot and on its legalisation in the U.S. In a survey done in January 2014 by CNN/ORC International, some 55% of respondents were in support of legalising marijuana. There is an obvious disconnect as far as public opinion and science is concerned. The campaign of misinformation appears to be having some success, so much so that sugar was seen by Americans as being more harmful than pot, according to a NBC News/WSJ poll in March 2014.

The Truth

This is what the truth is. Marijuana has changed throughout the years, so the drug now is not the same as it was in 1930 or 1980. These days it is much stronger, at least four times stronger, as there has been a dramatic increase in the amounts of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. THC levels have increased to 15% on average and are often over 20%.

This increase in THC levels brings about a resultant increase in health risks. There have been two deaths linked to marijuana use in the state of Colorado since it became legal recreationally. In both deaths the marijuana was had in edible form, meaning that the users likely ended up consuming much more THC than if it was smoked. After eating cookies that contained a large amount of pot, one man jumped off a hotel balcony to his death. The other death occurred after a man ate marijuana-infused candy shot and killed his wife. It has also been reported that there has been a significant increase in emergency room admissions and intoxicated driving due to pot use and overdose.

The last decade has seen a number of studies that show how marijuana usage damages the brain of teenagers. In the December issue of the Schizophrenia Bulletin, researchers at the Northwestern School of Medicine reported that teenagers who smoked pot every day for three years displayed abnormal changes in their brain structure. The evidence seems clear that there is a direct link between marijuana use and permanent brain damage, decreases in IQ, and also teen psychosis.

The supporters of legalizing marijuana will respond as follows:

Teens can be barred from going near marijuana. If the poor record concerning alcohol and tobacco’s age restrictiveness, then why would anyone believe that there will be any form of success in keeping teens away from marijuana especially if it is legalized. This would be a miracle. It is mainly due to the fact that tobacco and alcohol are legal why we see a large number of teens using them. It is the same reason why increased number of teens are now turning to marijuana, the status of the drug has shifted from being a forbidden dangerous drug to something that is now been seen as “medicinal,” or recreational as in the states of Washington and Colorado. It was not so long ago that marijuana being illegal and embarrassment and pain of breaking the law served to keep its use well under that of alcohol and tobacco.

In his book “High Society” which deals with substance abuse, Joseph A. Califano Jr, who was at one time the Health, Education and Welfare Secretary, stated the legality is the mother of availability, and availability is the mother of use. At present some 2.7 million Americans over the age of twelve fit the clinical requirement for marijuana addiction or dependence, as reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The University of California, Los Angeles, professor of public policy, Mark A.R. Kleiman has put forward that marijuana use will likely increase by up to six times with legalization. what this means is that the current estimate of 2.7 million marijuana addicts would balloon to just over 16 million if marijuana was legalized right across the U.S. now that figure should be a serious cause for concern for any policy maker, teacher, or parent.

Currently in the U.S. the conversation about marijuana is focused on two main points: in one corner, the idea is that marijuana is a product with low THC, and this makes it relatively harmless, which is an obsolete perception. The other idea looks mainly at the scientific evidence concerning the newer marijuana and how it is affecting teenagers, whose adult life will end up being seriously affected by the brain damage suffered in youth which is irreversible.

Conclusion

Those who support the legalizing of marijuana are insisting that in the current climate things are different and as such government policy should also change. Yet it is apparent that they are holding on to old views that marijuana is harmless and as such are heading on a path to the future that is dangerous for the country as a whole.

Health


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