Marijuana has been the topic of debate in many state legislations recently, leading to marijuana being legalized for medical and recreational purposes in at least 23 different American states, according to ProCon.org. With marijuana as the hot topic in many of new places across the country, and with laws becoming more relaxed, many question if marijuana should be considered safe enough to be legalized completely. While it may seem that relaxed laws must mean that marijuana is not as dangerous as once believed, the use of this psychoactive drug does have its own set of dangers and concerns.
Marijuana, also known as the plant Cannabis, is smoked, ingested, and even used in some pharmaceuticals. It is classified as a psychoactive drug because when used, it causes psychoactive changes, such as a feeling of euphoria or relaxed state. It has physiological effects as well. Even though the drug is proven to be effective for certain ailments, ranging from muscle control problems to inflammation, use of marijuana for recreational purposes without close medical supervision can be quite dangerous - even just one time. To understand why, you must first take a look at the various effects marijuana can have on your body and mind.
Immediate Effects on the Brain
According to DrugAbuse.gov, marijuana that is inhaled through the lungs, in smoke or as vapor, travels into the bloodstream to the brain and the rest of the body quickly. Therefore, the effects are almost immediate. However, ingested marijuana can take anywhere between 30 minutes to more than an hour to do the same. In either case, the immediate effects of marijuana on the brain, according to DrugAbuse.gov, include:
- Slower reaction times and slower bodily movements
- Mood and personality changes, such as euphoric happiness or a relaxed state
- Lack of ability to think clearly to solve simple problems
- Changes in bodily senses, such as enhanced sense of smell or sound
- Perception of time is altered
Immediate Effects on the Body
Regardless of how marijuana is used, it has several physical effects that will occur quickly. Some of the most concerning ways in which marijuana affects the body include:
- An increased heart rate for as long as three hours after use, which could be dangerous with an existing heart condition, as reported by DrugAbuse.gov
- Aggravation to bronchial issues that may already be present in the lungs, such as asthma or other breathing problems
- Expanded blood vessels in the eyes, slightly dilated pupils, and the possibility of lacking peripheral vision
- One marijuana cigarette smoked could cause as much damage as five regular cigarettes, according to DrugFreeWorld.org
Marijuana is a long-acting drug, meaning it stays in your system for a long time once it is used. Furthermore, using marijuana over the long-term can bring about even greater concerns and dangers. A few dangers faced by people who use marijuana a great deal include:
- Also according to DrugFreeWorld.org, changes in reproductive function- such as in the development of sperm cells and the menstrual cycle
- An increased risk of developing psychosis after years of heavy use
- Possible increased risk of testicular cancer
- Risks of chronic bronchitis, and the possibility of other lung issues
- Dependance on marijuana after heavy use for long periods
- Dry mouth, tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems
- Risks of anxiety disorders
Hidden Dangers of Legalization
Beyond the concrete dangers that come along with using marijuana, some people fear most the sociological dangers. Even though some laws concerning marijuana are being relaxed in some states, not everyone is on board. A study introduced by the Pew Research Center shows that about 44 percent of people believe marijuana should stay illegal. Their reasons for this opinion range from the fact marijuana is a harmful drug to the belief marijuana could be considered a gateway drug.
Fears that marijuana is being portrayed as less of a drug are not without warrant. A report by CNN brought to light that the country has been down similar paths when it comes to harmful substances. Tobacco, for example, is one drug that is readily available, perfectly legal, and incredibly dangerous. Yet, the U.S. is taking steps to legalize another harmful substance all future generations will have consequences with which to contend.
With marijuana being more accepted, it is bound to be easier for children and young adults to access. According to some studies, the younger age a person is when he or she starts using marijuana, the greater the risks of developing an addiction. Plus, the longer anyone uses the drug, the more dangerous it becomes for their mental and physical health.
Are the Risks Worth the Changes?
When you take a look at all the potential dangers that come along with marijuana use, most would likely reach the conclusion that full legalization would not be worth the inevitable risks. It is true marijuana could be beneficial in the medical community for some patients, but taking steps to allow recreational use does bring about dangers that should be heavily considered.