Cannibas, pot, weed, grass, hash. Marijuana goes by a bunch of different names and is the most common illicit drug of choice throughout many countries of the world. How common is Marijuana use then? A recent Gallup poll suggests that almost half of Americans have tried Marijuana (44%). This is an increase of six percentage points since the 2013 poll results were available.
More people are using Marijuana, or at least admitting to taking the odd ‘toke’. With such numbers partaking is there even any point continuing to outlaw this drug? A number of states and countries globally have legalised or decriminalised it, and many people question the concept of marijuana dependence or addiction.
Most of us are familiar with the short term effects of smoking ‘pot’. A sense of relaxation or euphoria, drowsiness, an increase in appetite and perhaps a general malaise around the concept of time. Even some of the negative short term symptoms like impaired memory and cognition, paranoia and disruption to reflexes and coordination are seemingly of no major concern to recreational users.
After all these effects aren’t harmful or long lasting are they?
Well actually they are. In fact there is a growing body of clinical research on marijuana dependance and addiction and the damaging effects it can have on ones health. But when does use turn to abuse and even worse to addiction? When does regular marijuana use suddenly require some form of rehabilitation?
The simple answer is when marijuana is associated with a deterioration in a persons quality of life. This is sometimes hard to pinpoint, especially to the user. Another way to look at it is when marijuana use seems to be the necessary accompaniment to ensure a level of enjoyment or happiness… regardless of the occasion.
If you have reached the point where marijuana use is regular and deemed ‘normal’, or you continue to indulge even after there are clear impacts to your physical or mental health, then the chances are you are suffering from an addiction. More so, if you make a conscious decision to cut down on your marijuana use but are unable to do so due to the negative feelings associated with withdrawal, it is time to get some help.
We have talked about some of the short term signs and symptoms associated with marijuana drug use. But what are the real risks of long term dependence?
Impact on mental functions
If you continue to use marijuana it can have a marked effect on your mind. A significant drop in motivation for everyday tasks (resulting in poor productivity), low life satisfaction, and underperformance in tasks relating to memory recall are all common. As is interrupted sleep.
Smoking marijuana is no different to smoking tobacco in many ways. Both can result in ongoing respiratory problems and lung damage. At the lower end of the spectrum you may experience problems such as an ongoing nagging cough. At the upper end there is a higher risk of lung infection and even cancer.
Increase risk of heart attack or stroke
Inhaling marijuana has the side effect of increasing ones heart rate for a sustained period – a number of hours in many cases. This has been shown to elevate the risk of a cardiovascular event, particularly among elder users and those that already have high cardiovascular risk factors.
Many chronic marijuana users take the drug as a coping mechanism. Seemingly unable to manage everyday life they turn to it to help them ‘get through the day’. Severe cravings and heightened anxiety can be common when they are not able to engage in marijuana use.