More and more studies are establishing that marijuana usage has real benefits for people with certain medical concerns; however, like all drugs, marijuana is not without its side effects. A recent review of studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine summarized many of the potential risks of using cannabis in various ways.
Some of the risks identified by the study include:
- Addiction. While marijuana is not as addictive as other controlled substances, it is possible to become chemically dependent on it. Teenagers are more likely to end up hooked on pot, according to research. Overall, about 9 percent of people who use the drug occasionally will become addicted, and up to half of daily users will develop a dependence. To see if your teen is smoking pot, click here.
- Learning Impairment. Teens who smoke pot heavily and continue to do so for sustained periods of time may have lifelong learning difficulties, due to the way the drug affects the learning and memory centers of the brain. The study found that adolescents who used pot regularly had IQs an average of 8 points lower than non-users.
- Respiratory Problems. People who smoke marijuana are at a high risk for chronic respiratory infections and for developing a nagging cough.
- Driving Impairment. Because of the way marijuana affects reflexes, information processing, and perception, it can render a person unable to drive safely. After using pot, a person is twice as likely to get into a car accident while driving.
- Possible Gateway Drug. The study could not prove conclusively that using marijuana led to the use of other drugs; however, it did find a correlation between using pot at a young age and using more dangerous drugs later in life.
- Increased Risk of Schizophrenia. People who were identified as being likely to develop schizophrenia were more likely to experience symptoms of the condition if they used marijuana.
The findings of the New England Journal of Medicine study suggest that marijuana usage is likely dangerous for teenagers, indicating that states that have legalized pot must actively work to keep cannabis out of the hands of minors. In addition, the study suggests that as with most things, it's better to only use cannabis in moderation. Plus, legal cannabis users should be responsible and not drive after using pot.