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Marijuana: Just how safe is it?

A writer receives interesting pieces of mail, sometimes on controversial issues like marijuana. You have the right to disagree with the information we are going to share today, but please read with an open mind, reality based. Before you roll your eyes, ask yourself who your sources are and if they are reliable.

That disclaimer aside, using marijuana, indeed, any illicit drug, is risky. Marijuana may now be legal. And you may believe that it is harmless, that it helps with pain relief better than opiates.

Alex Berenson spoke in Washington, D.C. recently about “Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.” (You can read the full article here: https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/marijuana-mental-illness-violence/.) Berenson, a seasoned investigative reporter and author, spoke about his wife’s former job at a facility for the “criminally mentally ill,” those “judged not guilty by reason of insanity.” He shared that “Over the last 30 years, psychiatrists and epidemiologists have turned speculation about marijuana’s dangers into science.”

Marijuana use, Berenson says, is more likely to lead to “greater pain over time” and does not work as well in pain management as opiates. Studies show it is a gateway to other drugs. Research also shows that “marijuana can cause or worsen severe mental illness, especially psychosis, the medical term for a break from reality.” And teens who smoke marijuana have a greater risk to develop schizophrenia.

He cites a review of earlier studies that found that 27 percent of people with schizophrenia had been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder in their lives.” Marijuana use may very well increase the occurrence of violence. And paranoia is a part of the marijuana problem.

Something else to bear in mind is learned in elementary school: cause and effect. When you take an action at Point A, it will affect something else at Point B somewhere down the line. In other words, our actions bring consequences. The wise person considers if the action is going to be worth the consequences before they do it. Too often, when a crisis arises, people comment that if they had just listened … if they had just known … if, if, if …

At the National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine, another article, “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use,” which also appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, advises, “The regular use of marijuana in adolescence is of particular concern, since, use by this age group is associated with an increased likelihood of deleterious consequences.” (Deleterious means causing harm or damage.) The article cites the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health which says 2.7 million people age 12 and older met the criteria for dependence on marijuana. Short-term memory is impaired making learning and retention of information more difficult. Driving abilities are impaired putting self and others at risk of injury. With judgment impaired, there is greater risk of sexually transmitted disease because of unchecked sexual behaviors. In high doses, paranoia and psychosis are involved.

Nine percent of users, overall, become addicted to marijuana. Of those, 17 percent of those who begin use in adolescence (1 in 6), and 25-50 percent of daily users become addicted. Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome signs and symptoms include irritability, sleeping difficulties, dysphoria (feeling uneasy, unhappy, unwell), craving and anxiety that make quitting use difficult.

“Marijuana use by adolescents is particularly troublesome,” say the article’s authors. “Adolescents increased vulnerability to adverse long-term outcomes from marijuana use is probably related to the fact that the brain … undergoes active development during adolescence … Early and regular marijuana use predicts an increased use of other illicit drugs.” (You can read this article at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827335/.

Both articles are well worth your time. Knowledge is key to quality of life.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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