One of the most common myths when it comes to drug abuse education and prevention is that marijuana is not addictive. Many teens and adults believe that this seemingly innocuous plant is completely harmless. The facts tell another story, however.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), more teens and young adults receive treatment for marijuana use than for all other illicit and illegal drugs combined. In fact, statistics show that two people out of every 10 in the United States have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
Marijuana Is Addictive
The definition of addiction is very clear. There are four components to diagnosing addictive behaviors:
- Continued use of a substance despite harmful consequences
- Tolerance resulting in the use of more substance(s) to obtain the same physical response
- Craving a specific substance
- Inability to stop using a substance
Each of these components can and does apply to the use of marijuana in many individuals. Therefore, by definition, marijuana is an addictive substance.
The Reasons Marijuana Use Is So Prevalent
In addition to the misconception that marijuana is harmless, there are several other reasons that the drug is so widely used. These reasons include:
- Marijuana is easily obtained and users often cultivate their own supplies of the drug.
- Fewer than 100 years ago, marijuana was a legal substance in the United States.
- Medical marijuana has been legalized in several states, adding to the misconception that it must be “good for you.”
- Marijuana costs less than many other drugs.
Marijuana Causes Severe Health Problems
Smoking marijuana can cause many short-term health problems, such as frequent colds. However, there are long-term health effects to the use and abuse of marijuana, as well. Some of the disastrous effects of marijuana addiction are:
- Chronic bronchitis
- Reduced immune efficiency
A Gateway Drug That Can Lead to Additional Severe Addictions
Individuals, including teens and young adults, who choose to use marijuana have a greater risk of developing addictions to other drugs, including alcohol, heroin and cocaine according to some studies. Eventually, marijuana will have drastic effects on the user’s quality of life, which can lead to depression and other issues that often lead to drug abuse and addiction to the “harder” drugs.
An individual who uses marijuana, for instance, may face any of the following obstacles in their lives:
- Unemployment leading to financial stress and poor living conditions
- Arrest leading to misdemeanor or felony convictions
- Increased risks of car accidents that can lead to disability or addictions to pain medications
- Social dysfunction with family members, including spouses and children
Each of these issues can increase an individual’s stress and contribute to the emotional deterioration that can lead to to significant alcohol and drug abuse.
The Effect on the Human Brain
An individual who uses marijuana frequently will suffer profound effects on cognitive function – the process of thought and the ability to make clear decisions. Studies have shown that people who use marijuana obtain lower grades than their sober counterparts. Those users who are employed often have more difficulty completing their assigned tasks appropriately and have more problems with their superiors than coworkers who do not use marijuana.
Marijuana can also affect the process of short-term memory. Often, someone who has engaged in marijuana use will not remember what activities took place while they were under its effects. Combined with the disorientation and lack of ability to make clear decisions, this lack of memory can pose serious problems once the euphoria has dissipated.
Marijuana addiction can be treated with the help of trained professionals and a clear treatment program.