You probably won’t be surprised to learn that marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the U.S.A. Additionally, it tends to be the first illicit drug teens use. It may be the first drug, but is it the only illegal drug marijuana smokers use? Again, there is no clear-cut answer. Often referred to as a “gateway drug”, many marijuana users do go on to use other illegal drugs. Some backup this claim by stating almost everyone who uses cocaine or heroin smoked marijuana first. Some specialists feel the mere fact that you smoke marijuana places you in the so-called drug culture, where you are more likely to be introduced to other drugs.
Those debates will likely continue. Let’s now concentrate on what we do know to be true of marijuana. “Pot” can have a negative impact on your life and your health. Like any drug, the more you use it, the more damaged you can become.
Frequent marijuana users are known to exhibit some or all of the following:
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor coordination
- Poor judgment
- Distorted sense of time and/or distances (For many, time tends to pass extremely slowly)
- Inflammation of the “whites” of the eyes
- Paranoia (sometimes extreme)
- Appearance of being in a “stupor”
Marijuana also affects the body in a number of ways
Most users experience an increased heart rate within minutes of ingestion. The drug makes some people feel “mellow” but can increase heart rate up to 50% or more. As the heart beats faster, pulse and respiration rates also increase – sometimes breathing becomes much shallower as it becomes faster. This can lead to hyperventilating and passing out. Other effects include craving for sweets, weight gain, dry mouth and throat. Though users claim that every sense is heightened, there is no scientific evidence that pot improves eyesight, hearing or skin sensitivity. Inhaling marijuana can cause chest pain in individuals prone to even slight cardiac problems – what’s more, marijuana can bring chest pain much faster than smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Tobacco vs. Marijuana
Smoking either of these substances is bad for your health; particularly to your lungs. Pot may cause lung damage more quickly because users inhale the unfiltered smoke deep into the lungs – holding it there as long as possible to get high. The ingredients found in marijuana are not dissimilar to those found in cigarettes; so, smoking either of these will greatly increase your risk of contracting lung cancer or emphysema.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. THC can also have adverse effects on some individuals; including hallucinations, panic and paranoia. THC is also thought to be responsible for withdrawal symptoms which marijuana users encounter when stopping the drug. These symptoms can include: stomach pain/cramps, irritability, anxiety and aggression.
There is a “marijuana addict”? Does it really matter? If your use of marijuana or any substance leads to any of the following, you probably (at the very least) have a problem that should be addressed.
- Has your routine changed; have you stopped going to school or work or are you absent more often than usual?
- Are you less concerned about grooming – taking fewer showers, shaving less, etc?
- Have you lost interest in things that you once enjoyed?
- Do you shun doing those things to stay in and smoke pot?
- Do you restrict your friends to others who smoke marijuana?
- Has marijuana use caused you to lose relationships you once considered important?
- Do trusted people tell you that you have a problem?
Any of these is a good enough reason to re-examine your lifestyle and to possibly make changes. If you decide to quit using marijuana, it is easier to do if you have not been smoking for very long. No matter how long you’ve used the drug, if you want to quit, there is plenty of help available. Twelve-step programs are extremely helpful for people trying to stop using many substances, including marijuana. You may feel more comfortable in the setting of a treatment center – in this environment you often receive one-on-one therapy, along with group sessions with other users.