As a media-hot topic, the current trend of marijuana legalization throughout the country sends a number of flawed messages.

A recent Gallup poll reports 13% of U.S. adults currently using marijuana on a regular basis. This is  nearly double the rate of four years ago. The number of adults who have experimented with cannabis products over the past year has increased by 25% in the same time frame, a pattern in lock-step with the number states on the legalization bandwagon.

There is no argument that marijuana use is likely to increase in states where recreational use is already legal (Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Washington). The same is expected where medicinal consumption is currently approved (California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada). As additional state legislatures bend to the apparent will of their voters, usage and experimentation can be reasonably predicted to continue its increase across all age groups throughout the rest of the country.

As cannabis use becomes ever more widespread, the methods of consumption continue to proliferate. The thinly-rolled once classic “reefer” cigarette has been joined by “blunts,” “brownies,” and assorted ingestible forms including chocolate candy, brewed tea, refined oils, and vaporized marijuana.

All these options may serve to make marijuana use increasingly attractive from both a recreational and medical perspective, but none of them are without the risk of addiction or neurological and physiological consequences.

While the team at Recovery Road Medical Center in Santa Barbara is focused upon addiction treatment, we would be remiss if we failed to point out the serious effects beyond the addictive nature of marijuana use, including:

  • Impaired motor skills
  • Feelings of paranoia
  • Increased appetite
  • Reddened eyes
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cognitive disability both short term as well as long term
  • Impaired emotional development
  • Respiratory complications
  • Mouth & throat cancer
  • Memory impairment (the effects of heavy use on memory in students may last several weeks after stopping)
  • Increased risk of addiction if use is begun in adolescence

The current debate over the effects of cannabis use—driven by media messaging and standard generational gaps—leads those most susceptible to the negative effects of marijuana use—adolescents and children–to misinformed awareness of the dangers of marijuana use.

Among those false assumptions of juvenile users (as well as most adults) are:

The downside is no fun.

Marijuana use is a path toward social acceptance.

False. Because adolescence is a period when self-image is being created, when peer group pressures are at their strongest, and when youthful rebellion against authority is the norm, prolonged marijuana use at this time will often diminish rates of further psychological and emotional development.

It’s no worse than smoking cigarettes.

False. The fact is that taking any foreign substance into the body has the potential for significant unforeseen consequences. Inhaling marijuana smoke deposits significantly more tar on lung tissues than cigarette smoking.

It’s a natural substance and is therefore not addictive.

False. Just because marijuana is a plant product, the repeated use of it to alleviate certain stresses or to achieve a euphoric effect is a fundamental indicator of an addiction syndrome. The use of marijuana to deal with the sources of those stresses only leads to continued use.

Marijuana use can’t be addressed through any rehabilitation program.

False. The opposite is true. At Recovery Road Medical Center, we often encounter young adults who are convinced their pot smoking is not a major issue and that they can “handle it,” only to discover that their marijuana use is exacerbating hidden emotional and mental issues.

The reality is that using cannabis in any form can become highly addictive. Continued use in the face of adverse consequences is a strong indication of addiction. Anyone who attempts to stop using it and in its absence feels anxious, depressed, restless, experiences sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, or irritability may need addiction treatment and a new set of skills to overcome their need to use marijuana.

Recovery Road Medical Center provides just such treatment on an out-patient basis involving support groups, personalized therapy, and medical intervention when appropriate. The bottom line: if marijuana use is habitual, prolonged, or out of control…there is help available now.

It all starts with a friendly conversation at (805) 962-7800.