Sunday, November 29, 2015

Marijuana, Will we learn from history? Probably not.

As a teacher, I am concerned. Why? Because so many of my students seem to be suffering from what is likely the results of the adults in their lives using pot.
They have problems with a shortened attention span and the number of students who need special services is rising every year. More studies are showing that marijuana affects the brain development of children who are either exposed during pregnancy or through secondhand smoke. They are also affected by the turmoil that their parents suffer in lives which have become topsy-turvy because the drug affects their abilities to make sound decisions. It also affects a person's drive to succeed.

Since it affects a person's memory, parents may "forget" to feed their kids, clean their clothes, have problems getting them to school on time etc.

LESSONS IN HISTORY

In the 1930s our society suffered through what was called 'reefer madness'. Because it was such a problem the country decided the only way they could get control over the use of marijuana was to make it a federal offense. It is still a federal offense and that fact has made it very difficult for the states who have deemed to make it legal within their borders. It is NOT really legal, because it is still against federal law. As a result the states and businesses that have 'legalized' it have no place to put their money. Banks will not take it. They have big piles of cash that are difficult to spend when the banks refuse to handle it.

I would hope we can look at the past, the present and the facts and put this drug back in its place; back on the shelves with other medical drugs.

What is Marijuana?

This article has been taken from the government website: National Institute on Drug Abuse

How does marijuana affect the brain? 

 Marijuana has both short- and long-term effects on the brain.
THC acts on numerous areas (in yellow) in the brain.

Short-term effects


When a person smokes marijuana, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it. In that case, the user generally feels the effects after 30 minutes to 1 hour.

THC acts on specific brain cell receptors that ordinarily react to natural THC-like chemicals in the brain. These natural chemicals play a role in normal brain development and function.

Marijuana over activates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of these receptors. This causes the "high" that users feel. Other effects include:
  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors) 
  • altered sense of time 
  • changes in mood 
  • impaired body movement 
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving 
  • impaired memory

Long-term effects

Marijuana also affects brain development. When marijuana users begin using as teenagers, the drug may reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions.

Marijuana’s effects on these abilities may last a long time or even be permanent.

For example, a study showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing cannabis use disorder lost an average of eight IQ points between ages 13 and 38. The lost mental abilities did not fully return in those who quit marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana as adults did not show notable IQ declines (Meier, 2012).

A Rise in Marijuana’s THC Levels

The amount of THC in marijuana has been increasing steadily over the past few decades (Mehmedic, 2010). For a new user, this may mean exposure to higher THC levels with a greater chance of a harmful reaction. Higher THC levels may explain the rise in emergency room visits involving marijuana use.

The popularity of edibles also increases the chance of users having harmful reactions. Edibles take longer to digest and produce a high. Therefore, people may consume more to feel the effects faster, leading to dangerous results.

Dabbing is yet another growing trend. More people are using marijuana extracts that provide stronger doses, and therefore stronger effects, of THC (see "Marijuana Extracts").

Higher THC levels may mean a greater risk for addiction if users are regularly exposing themselves to high doses.

What are the other health effects of marijuana?

Marijuana use may have a wide range of effects, both physical and mental.

Physical effects

  • Breathing problems.Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and frequent marijuana smokers can have the same breathing problems that tobacco smokers have. These problems include daily cough and phlegm, more frequent lung illness, and a higher risk of lung infections. Researchers still do not know whether marijuana smokers have a higher risk for lung cancer. 
  • Increased heart rate.Marijuana raises heart rate for up to 3 hours after smoking. This effect may increase the chance of heart attack. Older people and those with heart problems may be at higher risk 
  • Problems with child development during and after pregnancy.Marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to increased risk of both brain and behavioral problems in babies. If a pregnant woman uses marijuana, the drug may affect certain developing parts of the fetus’s brain. Resulting challenges for the child may include problems with attention, memory, and problem-solving. Additionally, some research suggests that moderate amounts of THC are excreted into the breast milk of nursing mothers. The effects on a baby’s developing brain are still unknown. 

Mental effects

  • Long-term marijuana use has been linked to mental illness in some users, such as: 
  • temporary hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they are not 
  • temporary paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others 
  • worsening symptoms in patients with schizophrenia (a severe mental disorder with symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking)
Marijuana use has also been linked to other mental health problems, such as:
  • depression 
  • anxiety 
  • suicidal thoughts among teens 

Is marijuana addictive?

Contrary to common belief, marijuana can be addictive. Research suggests that about 1 in 11 users becomes addicted to marijuana (Anthony, 1994; Lopez-Quintero 2011).This number increases among those who start as teens (to about 17 percent, or 1 in 6) (Anthony, 2006) and among people who use marijuana daily (to 25-50 percent) (Hall & Pacula, 2003).

How Does Marijuana Affect a User’s Life?

Compared to nonusers, heavy marijuana users more often report the following:
  • lower life satisfaction 
  • poorer mental health 
  • poorer physical health 
  • more relationship problems 

Users also report less academic and career success. For example, marijuana use is linked to a higher likelihood of dropping out of school (McCaffrey, 2010). It is also linked to more job absences, accidents, and injuries (Zwerling, 1990).

How can people get treatment for marijuana addiction?

Long-term marijuana users trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms that make quitting difficult. These include:
  • grouchiness 
  • sleeplessness 
  • decreased appetite 
  • anxiety 
  • cravings 
Behavioral support has been effective in treating marijuana addiction. Examples include therapy and motivational incentives (providing rewards to patients who remain substance free). No medications are currently available to treat marijuana addiction. However, continuing research may lead to new medications that help ease withdrawal symptoms, block the effects of marijuana, and prevent relapse.

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