Marijuana is a drug that is surrounded by a great deal of controversy. While the drug is illegal in many states and on a federal level, there is strong evidence to support that marijuana has many legitimate medical benefits. The controversy lies in the fact that for decades, marijuana has been commonly thought to be a gateway drug, meaning it leads to the abuse of harder drugs later on. Now, some research is coming around to support this theory.
The National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders recently discovered a link between alcohol abuse and marijuana use. They found that people that reported marijuana use were more likely to abuse alcohol than those who didn’t smoke marijuana. Other studies have shown that THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, can actually prime the brain to be more responsive to the effects of other drugs, an effect called cross-sensitization. People who smoke marijuana may actually experience stronger highs from other drugs.
Evidence that Marijuana is a Gateway Drug
Although marijuana is generally well accepted in our society, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that it can have a serious negative influence on people who use it. The drug has continued to grow vastly more popular since the turn of the century, yet most people do not pay it much attention as a drug of abuse. For one thing, it’s important to note that marijuana itself has changed dramatically over the past two decades. In the 60’s through the end of the century, marijuana had an average THC content of about .07%. Today, the average THC content is around 14%. The marijuana smoked today is 200 times stronger than that of previous generations.
Recent research is showing more evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug, and that it is harmful and addictive on its own.
- 94,000,000 people in the United States have used marijuana at least once in their lives. About 2 million smoke pot for the first time every year.
- The Drug Enforcement Agency reports that marijuana is a factor in a large percentage of crime. Of nationwide arrests among men, 40% test positive for marijuana at time of arrest. In states like California, where smoking marijuana is legal and more common, that figure close to doubles.
- Marijuana is dangerous on its own. Smoking marijuana affects the lungs in the same way that smoking several cigarettes does. The legalization of marijuana is linked to a sharp increase in marijuana related emergency room visits. In many cases, people are having health problems caused by the marijuana being laced with an additional unknown substance.
- More and more research affirms that marijuana is indeed a gateway drug. It is not inevitable that someone who smokes pot will necessarily move on to other drugs, however most people who use hard drugs started with marijuana.
- Smoking marijuana itself may not have fatal consequences, however it can lead to risky activities that may be fatal. Marijuana is the second most common substance, after alcohol, found in the bodies of drivers who get into car accidents.
Medical Uses of Marijuana
A major defense for the use of marijuana is that it does have proven medical benefits. Many people have a hard time considering marijuana a gateway drug because it is medically beneficial.
The medicinal component of marijuana is called cannabidiol or CBD. CBD is not psychoactive and non-addictive, and produces a calming, pain-relieving and relaxing effect. This has been shown to be helpful for anxiety, sleep disorders, PTSD, pain relief, and other applications. However, just because marijuana contains this ingredient does not mean that it should be legal or encouraged in its traditional form. CBD can be isolated and taken on it’s own, as liquid drops, supplements, edibles, vaporizer form, or in strains of marijuana that only contain CBD and no THC. It makes sense that CBD on its own should be legal and subject to a great deal more study for its potential medical benefits, but it does not follow that marijuana itself should be used. Marijuana has many harmful effects, is potentially dangerous and addictive, and is no doubt a gateway drug for other more harmful substances. Because of this, marijuana should be avoided like other drugs, and those seeking its medical benefits should investigate using pure CBD products.