According to a new study, marijuana use in the United States has more than doubled in the last 10 years.
The percentage of American adults who had used marijuana within the last year was 9.5%, the study found. In 2001-02, the rate of marijuana use was less than half that number at 4.1%.
The study, published by Jama Psychiatry, a monthly journal published by the American Medical Association and sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, was based on interviews with more 36,000 Americans over the age of 18.
The findings of this study have raised several questions, like why are more people using marijuana, what are the effects of marijuana use on the body and brain, and is marijuana really addictive?
Why Are More People Using Marijuana?
The increase in marijuana use can largely be contributed to the fact that the drug is now more accessible than ever. According to the study, 23 states now allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons and four states have legalized recreational use.
According to SAMSHA, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. The organization says the use of the drug is popular among young people, however rates of marijuana have steadied in recent years among middle and high school students. The number of young people, however, that believe marijuana is risky is decreasing.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana comes from the dried leaves, flowers, and seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. This plant contains a mind-altering chemical, known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as many other chemical compounds.
What Are the Effects of Marijuana?
Marijuana has several short-term effects on the brain. When a person smokes marijuana, THC passes through the lungs, enters the bloodstream, and then acts on specific brain cell receptors that ordinarily react to natural THC-like chemicals in the brain. The drug overactivates the parts of the brain that have the highest numbers of these receptors, which creates the “high” that users feel. Other effects on the brain include:
- Altered senses
- Changes in mood
- Altered sense of time
- Impaired body movement
- Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
- Impaired memory
Marijuana also has many long-term effects on the brain. When people start using marijuana at a young age, it may reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. These effects can last a long time or they may even be permanent.
Besides its effects on the brain, marijuana has several other physical and mental effects.
Physical Effects of Marijuana
- Breathing problems
- Increased heart rate
- Problems with child development during and after pregnancy
Mental Effects of Marijuana
- Temporary hallucinations
- Temporary paranoia
- Worsening symptoms in patients with schizophrenia
Is Marijuana Addictive?
The addictive qualities of marijuana are still being determined and are not yet fully understood. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates 9% of people who use marijuana will become addicted to it. The addiction rate is higher among teens at 17% and among people who use marijuana daily at 25 to 50%, according to the organization.
Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
If you or a loved one has developed a marijuana addiction, there are several treatment options available. According to DrugAbuse.gov, the following treatments have shown promise:
Cognitive-behavioral Therapy: A form of psychotherapy that provides strategies to identify and correct problematic behaviors in an effort to enhance self-control, stop drug use, and address a range of other problems that often co-occur with them.
Contingency Management: A therapeutic management approach that involves constant monitoring of the target behavior and the provision (or removal) of tangible, positive rewards when the target behavior occurs (or does not).
Motivational Enhancement Therapy: A systematic form of intervention designed to produce rapid, internally motivated change; the therapy does not attempt to treat the person, but rather mobilize their own internal resources for change and engagement in treatment.