Less than 20 years ago, Marijuana, in any form, was a crime in every single state of the United States. Today, 18 states and the District of Columbia, have legalized Marijuana for medical purposes. Additionally, a number of states have decriminalized marijuana for personal usage, or have outlined legal cannabis sales. This drastic shift has not happened overnight, but the public support for legalizing marijuana has steadily grown, as people no longer view marijuana as addictive and dangerous. Are they right?
At this point, it is irrefutable that marijuana has medicinal value. It is prescribed for patients with glaucoma, to help with severe pain, and for those that have appetite loss during cancer and AIDS treatments. One of the lesser known facts is that marijuana has also been used to reduce the dependence on strong opioids, such as heroin and morphine.
So if Marijuana is medicinal, is it addictive?
The medical community is still not decisive on this issue. A recent majority of medical publications have shown with definitive clarification that casual use of marijuana is not addictive. Further, it is shown that even “heavy users” can become dependent on marijuana, depending more on their psychological make up, as opposed to the chemical reaction. In clinical studies, published in the textbook The Science of Marijuana (2008), it was shown that only 9% of users ever suffered from serious addiction. Compared to tobacco (32%) and alcohol (15%), of which are both already legal, Marijuana has the lowest rate of serious addiction.
The real concern has always been that marijuana is the “gateway drug”, in that it leads to more significant drug use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse confirms this. Their statistics show that teens that are users, and are daily users, can become addicted between 25 - 50%. In fact, it is further reported that 18% of all patients admitted to rehabilitation centers over the age of 12, are there because marijuana is their primary drug of choice.
Although classifying the degree to which marijuana is addictive is up for debate, what is clear that it can cause dependency, and if used at a young age, can stunt development in the brain. Any drug that has these lasting effects should be avoided, and even medicinal utilization should be properly prescribed. Anything that is done in excess can be addictive, and can cause dependency issues.
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