Marijuana: Socially Accepted Past Time or Addictive Gateway Drug?

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Marijuana. The word itself belies controversy. Marijuana is perhaps the most controversial drug in use today. Here we have a drug that is illegal in most states yet has proven medical benefits. However, some research suggests that marijuana is the springboard to the use and abuse of other, addictive substances, i.e. saying that marijuana is a gateway drug.

Data from the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders discovered that adults who reported using marijuana were more likely to have alcohol problems than adults who did not report marijuana abuse. Some scientific studies have even been able to prove that THC sort of “primes” the brain for enhanced responses to other drugs. This is called cross-sensitization. People take marijuana, and then they experience even stronger highs and are more receptive to stimulus-response from consuming other drugs.

Getting to the Bottom of a Controversial Problem

Though many do not like to really take a look at it, there are a lot of facts and statistics that point to marijuana as being a negative influence on people. This is a drug that has grown exceedingly more popular since the turn of the century, yet most Americans are still willing to turn a blind eye to it. Marijuana itself has also changed. What was once a .07 percent THC content in the marijuana of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s is now closer to 14 percent THC content, an increase at a two-hundred fold rate.

There are statistics from recently published studies that paint marijuana as a gateway drug. People are starting to see that this is not just a socially accepted past time, rather marijuana is actually serious and addictive in its own right.

• In the United States, more than ninety-four million people have admitted to using marijuana at least once. 21St century America sees roughly two-million people abusing marijuana for the first time every year.

• According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, marijuana is an instigator and an incentive in a large percentage of crime. On a nationwide average, forty percent of men test positive for marijuana at the time of their arrests. In states like California where marijuana abuse is more prevalent, that statistic almost doubles.

• Most people think that marijuana is safe to take, but it is not. One incidence of smoking marijuana has a similar impact on the lungs as smoking several cigarettes would. Furthermore, about two-hundred and fifty-million emergency visits occur every year because of marijuana. In these cases, the marijuana is often laced with some other substance that makes it even more potent. Most of the time, the hapless addict does not even know what is really in the joint to begin with.

• Statistically, there is an argument that marijuana is a gateway drug. When people abuse marijuana it inspires them to abuse other substances. Now, this is not to say that every marijuana smoker will go on to abuse hard drugs. However, most hard-drug users started with marijuana. As the old saying goes, “I rarely met a marijuana user who went on to use hard drugs, but I never met a hard-drug user who didn’t at first start with marijuana.”

• Another misconception regarding marijuana is that it is not fatal. While it is true that marijuana by itself is not as dangerous as drugs like heroin and alcohol are, marijuana is the second, (alcohol being first) most commonly found substance in the bodies of drivers involved in car accidents. So marijuana can be deadly in the context of what people do when they are under the influence of marijuana.

Both Sides of the Story

The main defense for marijuana and the reason why many argue against the gateway drug theory is that marijuana has medical benefits, and how could something which is medically beneficial be a gateway drug? Well, this can be explored further and we can see why marijuana itself should be avoided.

Marijuana contains THC, which is the active ingredient that creates the high that people get when they take it. However, marijuana also has another ingredient that makes it useful medically, a little chemical called CBD (cannabidiol). CBD has a medical benefit because it creates a calming, pain-relieving, relaxing feeling in those who take it.

Just because marijuana has CBD in it does not mean that marijuana needs to be legal or encouraged. One can purchase CBD extracts in a liquid, eyedropper form. Such CBD can be used as a calming agent. People struggling with insomnia can take CBD as a sleep aid (which is much better than taking pharmaceutical sleeping drugs). On its own, CBD has no elements of THC in it, nor does it produce a high, and it is not addictive.

Marijuana-use proponents argue the medical value of marijuana, but they often overdo it. While CBD itself has some value and should be explored further, there is no need to legalize and encourage a potentially addictive gateway drug simply to gain access to one medically helpful ingredient. Especially not when that ingredient can be extracted and used separately.

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