Since the legalization movements in Colorado and Washington State, marijuana use has been a topic which has received a lot of media attention. With these movements have come more social acceptance and adult use of this drug is on the rise. However, while its advocates promote it as a safer alternative than nicotine or alcohol, there are certainly health risks associated with it use, including those listed below.
1. Cognitive Impairment
Marijuana use can lead to cognitive impairments, especially in the areas of the brain that are responsible for memory, control of emotions and muscle movements. Recent research has found that memory impairment in particular can occur right after the marijuana has been used. Those in the study who received higher doses of the THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, took significantly longer to complete the given tasks.
2. Driving Dangers
Smoking marijuana leads to slowed reaction times, decreased hand-eye coordination and poor depth perception, all of which are necessary for safe driving. However, while there has been a 12% increase in traffic fatalities in Colorado since legalization, there is not yet any definitive proof to link the marijuana use with this higher incidence of collisions.
3. Structural Changes to Immature Brains
Regular use of marijuana has been shown in studies to have particular effects on the cognitive development on the still-maturing brains of teenagers and young adults. This can be linked to decreased memory and problem-solving skills as well as to poor academic achievement. Harvard researchers, studying the brains of 18- to 25-year-old adults who smoke regularly noticed changes to several specific areas.
4. Anxiety Attacks
While many people smoke to help alleviate anxiety, studies show that THC can actually cause a rapid heart beat, dizziness and lack of coordination, which can all induce anxiety attacks. Research has found that people who use marijuana regularly — especially if they began the use at a young age — were more likely to have psychological issues like depression or anxiety disorders.
While advocates of marijuana use will hotly deny this, marijuana can cause dependence in approximately 1 out of 10 users. This rate of addiction is roughly equivalent to that of addiction to anti-anxiety medications but still well below that of addiction to either tobacco or alcohol. Scientists supsect that there are likely genetic reasons why some people are more likely than others to develop depedence.
6. Cardiac Stress
It should be said that cardiac-related deaths due to marijuana use are extremely rare and that many marijuana advocates treat them as sort of an urban legend. However, a recent paper from Forensic Science International does describe the deaths of two otherwise healthy men in their 20’s who died from cardiovascular events after marijuana use.
So while the legal status and overall social accpetance of marijuana may be shifting in the United States, this does not mean that use of it is not without its dangers. With issues of cognitive and psychological impairment, addiction, impaired driving and heart disease, it is wise to think twice before using.
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