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Marijuana: The Gateway Drug

What was once known as a gateway drug has become a punchline for drug advocates who are paying too much attention to issues of legality and too little attention to the potential harm marijuana is causing a new generation of casual drug users. The marijuana debate has been arguing back and forth for decades, but a crucial piece of information has gotten lost underneath all the controversies and legalities.

Marijuana: The Gateway Drug

Marijuana: The Gateway Drug

Marijuana is an addictive drug that can lead to serious dependency issues, and regardless of its potential legality, recreational marijuana use has either caused or propagated measurable substance abuse problems in millions of youth who use the drug with the indiscriminate naiveté of a whole generation of people who are underrating the adverse consequences of the drug. Proponents for marijuana’s legalization often misinterpret this fact to be an argument in their debate, but the addictive properties in marijuana is not a debatable point, and does not serve as an argument on either side of issues of legality. Research has shown that legal substances like alcohol carry more potential dangers, dependency issues, and serious addictions, but the legislature is for Washington — the people who should really be having this conversation are the millions of marijuana users who have let their support of the drug inhibit their acceptance of the statistics.

  1. One In Six:Although only 9% of marijuana users will become addicted to the substance, this percentage was culled from older populations. One in six users will become addicted to marijuana when marijuana use begins in their teens; an age range that is becoming increasingly comfortable with all forms of pot.
  2. One Fourth:
    Twenty percent to twenty-five percent of daily marijuana users are already addicted to the drug and don’t even know it. The addictive habits they are forming around the drug are putting them at potential risk for lapsing into harder and more dangerous substances later in life.
  3. One Fifth:Over 18% of drug rehab patients listed marijuana as their primary drug of choice, making an alarming conclusion about the myth of marijuana having zero addictive properties.
  4. Millions:In the current illegal climate, marijuana is responsible for over 4 million dependent drug abusers in the United States. Although the term ‘abuser’ might be dropped if and when marijuana becomes legal, the epidemic levels of marijuana usage is creating serious concern for the drug habits of future generations.

The habit of dependency marijuana is creating in its many young users is important for several reasons, the most important of which are the health risks.

The Gateway Drug: Nurturing Addictive Tendencies and Symptoms

A gateway drug is defined as any entry level substance that bridges the gap to harder, deadlier substances. Gateway drugs are often milder and less severe than their counterparts, tricking users into getting comfortable with mild addiction equivalents while systematically creating a physiological dependency that can be transferred to any number of dangerous drug habits.

Although cannabis itself has many different strains and types that cause a variety of reactions, most of the marijuana that’s currently being used by millions of Americans serves in the capacity of a depressant that mutes sensations and slurs motor functions. Statistics show an adverse reaction to school performance, and a suggested link to memory retention problems, attention issues, and impaired functionality in the physical and intellectual sphere of the human body. Casual marijuana users report anxiety, paranoia, irritability, and eventually even cravings for the drug that eventually give in to the familiar cycles of addiction that have been swept under the rug in favor of headline stories about harder drugs like heroin and meth.

The list of problems continues to grow, and recent studies are beginning to show a charting trend of familiar dependency side effects. Heavy marijuana users experience withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • Insomnia, or sleeping difficulties
  • Cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings causing depression, irritability, or anger
  • Attention problems and difficulty concentrating

The problem with marijuana isn’t the side effects of the drug, but the side effects of the habits that young people are developing by using the drug. Due to the addictive properties of marijuana, people are unwittingly developing dependency problems that aren’t being given their due attention and alarm thanks to the overwhelming noise of the overriding legality debate. Even in states where marijuana has been legalized, it’s important for people to understand what’s happening to their bodies so that they do not accidentally find themselves developing drug proclivities that can lead to dangerous alternatives like the aforementioned heroin and crystal methamphetamine. Young people who find themselves developing these addictive problems should seek out professional inpatient addiction treatment before the developing problem matures into a substance abuse disease that’s harder to correct.

When To Get Help, And Why

Inpatient addiction treatment can help marijuana users curb their drug trends at an early age, but it’s going to take a lot of convincing to sway the misinformed opinions of millions of drug users. It’s important for marijuana users to understand that the fact of marijuana’s addictive properties is not propaganda against the drug; the propaganda developed against marijuana in the 50s and 60s is as far removed from recent studies as the tobacco propaganda was from modern sensibilities. Cannabis has numerous different forms and medicinal benefits, but marijuana is not a harmless pastime, and statistics show that cannabis use frequently coincides with cocaine and alcohol. Marijuana dependency follows a similar behavior as that of any other substance dependencies, running parallel to alcohol abuse and affirming its place as a potential gateway drug after years of independent studies charting the crash course of many young people who begin marijuana in their teens.

The dangers of gateway drugs like marijuana come from the proverbial gateway, and less from the act itself. People can get addicted to cannabis, and that addiction can translate into a slew of behavioral problems, but people can also get addicted to sugars and foods with equally serious consequences. It’s the unique drug propensity marijuana nurtures in young users that puts it in a different and altogether more dangerous league.

Studies have explored troubling associations between ADHD, or attention deficit disorder, and other conduct disorders with marijuana use. Early cannabis use is widely considered a reliable predicator for future problems related to marijuana and drug use in general, while many middle school marijuana users also chart an affinity for cigarettes and anti-social behaviors. Harm to social circles, academic performance, and general aptitude follows an alarming 10% of daily marijuana users after high school. Psychiatric disorders are even beginning to show strong trends with a minority of marijuana users.

The most troubling statistics remain the high percentages of marijuana users who either develop serious addictions to cannabis, or transfer their marijuana habits into cocaine, alcohol, and hard-hitting substances like heroin and meth. With several states already legalizing pot, and many more waiting on the wings, it’s more important now than ever before to have an open discussion about the addictive properties of marijuana — as well as the serious consequences that come from casual substance abuse.

People of any age who are concerned about their well-being and marijuana habits can speak with their physician and visit addiction treatment centers. Not all pot habits will develop serious addictions, but the potential is there, and the prospect of continuing to overlook this problem sets a dangerous precedent for millions of active marijuana users.

 

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_dependence#Cannabis_use_and_dependence

http://www.cnbc.com/id/36465700