Did you all see that citizens of Colorado and Washington voted on Tuesday to legalize marijuana use? Proponents of the law claim that states can make millions of dollars in tax revenue from the sale of "recreational" marijuana. Marijuana has been legalized in many states for medicinal use, increasing it's social acceptability. Many argue that marijuana does not cause significant impairment or addiction in users and is safer than using alcohol. One pro-marijuana website states,
"The dangers of marijuana use have been exaggerated for almost a century and the modern scientific record does not support the reefer madness predictions of past and present." (The Top Ten Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legal, www.alternet.corg/story/60959)Wait! Don't toke up just yet! I'm very familiar with the "modern scientific record" regarding marijuana use. I've seen the brain scans. Let me share the straight dope. Just a quick search of the scientific literature in this area from the last two years yields titles such as:
How Marijuana Impairs Memory
Cannabis Use Doubles Chances of Vehicle Crash, Review Finds
Gene Implicated in Schizophrenia Risk Is Also Associated With Risk for Cannabis Dependence
Cannabis Use Mimics Cognitive Weakness That Can Lead to Schizophrenia, fMRI Study Finds
Smoking Cannabis Increases Risk of Depression in the Case of Genetic Vulnerability, Study Finds
How Cannabis Use During Adolescence Affects Brain Regions Associated With Schizophrenia
Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms Might Have Clinical Importance
Marijuana Use Implicated in Pregnancy Problems
Schizophrenia? Depression? Memory problems? I'll pass.
And, this is only the beginning. I believe cannabis use in teenagers can be quite dangerous, though most teens report they believe it is harmless. Teens are starting to use marijuana younger and more often. In fact, teens are now more likely to smoke weed than tobacco. I know many teens in the high school where I work that smoke weed every day . . . at least once. I don't think they realize that this "recreational" drug use can have long-term effects.
Let me share the results of a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers looked at 1,000 teenagers who used cannabis early and often throughout their teen years. They found that by age 38, the pot-smoking teens had sufficiently lowered their IQ by 8 points. Quitting smoking marijuana did not reverse or prevent this cognitive decline. Not only was IQ impacted by long-term marijuana use, but memory, processing speed, reasoning and visual processing also showed impairment. Friends and relatives routinely interviewed as part of the study were more likely to report that the persistent cannabis users had attention and memory problems such as losing focus and forgetting to do tasks.
THC, the chemical in marijuana, affects the brain by binding to and activating specific receptors, known as cannabinoid receptors. These receptors control memory, thought, concentration, time and depth, and coordinated movement. THC is especially rough on one's hippocampus, where memory is processed, and limbic system, where emotions are processed. That is why many marijuana users report memory problems and mood swings (uncontrollable laughter, paranoia). Doesn't sound too fun to me.
I think the research is becoming pretty clear that marijuana can be harmful. So, if this issue finds itself on your ballot anytime soon, please take a "blunt" stance against marijuana legalization!
***I apologize for way too many corny puns in this posting. I couldn't resist.