There are some who view marijuana as a harmless drug. Their oft-used argument is that, because it comes from the earth, it is “all-natural” and therefore safe to use. There are also many people who argue that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” implying that marijuana-use, in and of itself might be OK but, the danger lies in that it often leads to the use of other, harder drugs. It can be argued that alcohol is just as much of a gateway drug as marijuana. After all, anyone who goes on to use harder drugs probably first started with alcohol before trying marijuana.
The Wacky Weed – Is It Really That Bad??
It is well documented that alcohol abuse is prevalent among our youth. However, we see that the perception of Marijuana among teenagers, show that teens don’t see Marijuana as having many harmful qualities, side effects or consequences.
First, we shall weigh the belief that marijuana is an innocuous drug against some recent findings.
Beyond potentially lowering IQ, teen marijuana use is linked to school dropout, other drug use, mental health problems, etc. (drugabuse.gov) Mental impairment was evident not just in test scores but in users’ daily functioning. People who knew the study participants (e.g., friends and relatives) filled out questionnaires and reported that persistent cannabis users had significantly more memory and attention problems: easily getting distracted, misplacing things, forgetting to keep appointments or return calls, and so on. (drugabuse.gov)
But marijuana is not addictive…
Actually, recent findings have been able to show that marijuana is, indeed, addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about nine percent of people who use marijuana become dependent on it. The number increases to about 1 in 6 among those who start using it at a young age, and to 25% to 50% among daily users. (usatoday.com) Another indication is the rising number of people who are seeking inpatient treatment for marijuana (alone) use.
Okay. So maybe marijuana isn’t’t as harmless as once thought. But, that doesn’t mean that it will lead to harder drugs.
Well, according to NIDA, a person who smokes marijuana is 104 times more likely to use cocaine than a person who never tries pot. That isn’t to say that every pothead will graduate to full-fledged addict. However, studies show over and over again, that those with addiction problems usually started experimenting with Marijuana and/ or alcohol before moving on the harder substances.
Another piece to this argument is that people who are extremely interested in altering their consciousness are likely to want to try more than one way of doing it. That is, those who use harder drugs are more inclined to take the social and physical risks to achieve a desired effect, the “high,” and will start with marijuana but inevitably go on to the harder stuff.
Also factoring is the illegality of cannabis. Until recently, marijuana was illegal in all parts of the U.S. and so, in order to procure a weekly/monthly supply, the marijuana user had to do business with drug dealers who, often times can supply any number of harder drugs. This is kind of like the “prison effect,” where someone who is sentenced to jail time for a less serious crime is then introduced to ways of committing more serious crimes simply by being locked up with more dangerous types of criminals.
There are so many variables on all sides of this argument, that it easy to get lost in the shuffle. Our common sense tells us that there is a link between Marijuana and addiction.