One of the topics that are constantly in the news now days is marijuana. Several people are for the legalization of marijuana and several articles will tell you the benefits of marijuana. It is less common to see articles now days that tell you about the side effects of the use of marijuana, namely the addictive properties that cause an individual to become so addicted to need to be placed in rehab. Most people are surprised to learn that marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the United States and that most abusers start using in their early teens (NIDA for teens, 2012). People are also unaware that marijuana has some of the same addictive properties of alcohol. Marijuana users build up a tolerance to the drug like alcoholics do when they drink. Users form habits and even have rituals for when and how they use. Most regular users become addicts over time. They will eventually get to a stage in their life when they will do anything they have to in order to support their habit, including lying and stealing. All of these things and more add up over time until they are so addicted that they need to be placed in rehab to help kick the habit.
Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the United States (Walker, Neighbors, Rodiguez, Stephens, Roffman, 2011). Studies have shown that from 2007-2010 the number of users of marijuana dramatically increased. In these studies the estimated number of users in 2007 was only 14.4 million. The same study showed that the estimated number of users in 2010 was 17.4 million. That means that in just a matter of 3 years the number of users increased by 3 million. This same study showed that most users are 12 years of age and older. Most individuals start using marijuana in their teen years. This is due in large part to peer pressure. When a teen has friends that use marijuana they will at one point or another be asked to “join in” or “try it just once”. Marijuana is called a “gateway drug” because more than half of all illegal drug users begin their dug use with marijuana. Sometimes when an individual tries marijuana for the first time it has no effect at all on the person. This can have two effects; either the person will try it again in a larger amount or will never try it again. Most of the time the person will choose to try it again just to see what it is like rather than choosing not to try it again.
Marijuana like all drugs has side effects, both short term and long term, which manifest within minutes of use. Since every person is different some side effects differs from person to person but there are some that are the same regardless of whom you are. Some of the immediate side effects that occur with the use of marijuana are dry mouth and throat, impaired coordination, and delayed reaction time (NIDA, 2012). Moderate or strong users have more severe side effects which include a dreamlike state of mind, a higher suggestibility, and a heightened sense of paranoia. Individuals become regular users to relieve stress and induce a state of well-being. Like alcohol, marijuana causes a person to lose their inhibitions. Regular users find that they like to use marijuana instead of alcohol because unlike alcohol marijuana does not cause a person to have a “hang over” the morning after use.
Regular marijuana users tend to form habits concerning their use. They form rituals when they use. These rituals will include buying marijuana from the same source and or same place every time. Since one of the main side effects of regular use of marijuana is paranoia an individual may be hesitant to buying form a new sources or even meeting at a new place to make the purchase. Some to the other rituals that regular users may have are in the way they use. A regular user may feel they need to use a “lucky” pipe or other type of paraphernalia when smoking or ingesting marijuana. Another ritual that regular users may have is the feeling that they need to use a certain color, brand, or kind of lighter when smoking marijuana. Regular users form these rituals because they know they are doing something that is illegal and they feel that since they didn’t get caught when they used a certain method, piece of paraphernalia, or a certain lighter that they are “lucky” and if they continue to use them then they will not be caught again. A very common habit among regular marijuana smokers is to never use a white BIC lighter because it is considered bad luck (Even York, 2009). A white lighter is believed to be bad luck because multiple celebrities, Jimi Hendrix (1970), Janis Joplin (1970), Jim Morrison (1971), and Kurt Cobain (1994), are rumored to have died with a white lighter in their pocket.
One of the biggest problems with using marijuana on a regular basis is the user’s body will form a tolerance to it. The more a user smokes or ingests marijuana the more it will take to give them the same feeling as before (M. Price. 2011). This is again is very similar to alcohol use. A regular user may start with a certain amount each day that gives them the feeling that they want but soon they will find that, that same amount does not give them the same effect. They will have to increase the amount to get that same feeling. The more they use the more they will need to increase the amount. Since the user’s body is forming a tolerance to the drug the user will also need to increase the frequency in which they use. A regular user may start out with needing to smoke or ingest a certain amount only once a day but will eventually find that they will need to increase the amount as well as the frequency in which they use as well. Soon they will be using a larger amount two or even three times a day just to get the same feeling that they once got.
This is how addiction is formed. The user will want to continue to feel the way they did the first or second time they used so they will continue to increase the amount they use and frequency in which they use. The addiction to the feeling they want will grow with the more they want that feeling and the more their body forms a tolerance to the drug. Addicts will start to do whatever it takes to get the “fix” they need to have that feeling back. This includes lying, stealing, and sometimes even worse things. With all of the controversy regarding the legalization of marijuana it is very important that all of the facts are out there. Yes there are several beneficial properties that come with the use of marijuana but they need to be weighed with all of the addictive properties as well (NIDA, 2010).
Regular users are at higher risk for becoming addicts that will most likely need to be placed in rehab because of the side effects that come with the use of marijuana. Just like with alcohol, marijuana is addictive because your body grows a tolerance to it the more you use it. Users want to get the feeling that they got the first time they used so they will smoke or ingest more marijuana more frequently to get that feeling back. Addicts will go to such extents as stealing to support their marijuana habit that most of them will end up breaking the law and even end up in jail. In this day and age we need to remember that just because something does have good benefits does not mean that there not side effects that can cause life changing problems.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2012) Marijuana. Retrieved from http://teens.drugabuse.gov/facts/facts_mj1.php National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2010) Drug Facts: Marijuana. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana Clayton Neighbors, Lindsey M Rodriguez, Roger A Roffman, Robert S Stephens, Denise D Walker (2011). Social Norms and Self-Efficacy Amoung Heavy Using Adolescent Marijuana Smokers. Psychologiy of Addicitive Behaviors, Vol 25(4), Dec, 2011. pp 727-732. Retrieved from the University of Phoenix Online Library. M. Price. (2011). Marijuana Addiction, A Growing Risk as Society Grows more Tolerant. Monitor on Psychology, 42(5), May 2011. pp. 13. Retrieved from The University of Phoenix Online Library. Even York. (2009). Curse of the White Lighter. Retrieved from http://hightimes.com/video/ht_admin/5458