While marijuana has been popular with many Americans throughout much of the last century, rates of usage are increasingly rapidly. According to Gallup polls, 13% of American adults have currently smoke marijuana, while 43% of them say they have tried the drug in the past. That’s nearly double the 7% of people who reported being current marijuana users in Gallup’s 2013 poll.
With such a large increase in reported use, many are re-examining the potential risks and benefits of this potent plant. While the risks of marijuana use itself could pose a threat to users, more people seem to be worried that the plant could be a ‘gateway drug,’ helping encourage users to turn to harder drugs like opioids, benzos, or stimulants. So, is marijuana actually a ‘gateway’ drug? Let’s take a look.
A variety of research indicates that individuals who use marijuana may be more likely to progress to the use of more dangerous drugs, like alcohol or nicotine. Some of this research includes:
- A survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that adults who said they used marijuana during the first part of the survey were more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD) within the next 36 months compared to those who did not.
- In the same survey from NIDA, individuals surveyed who used marijuana and already had an AUD were at greater risk of their alcohol use disorder becoming worse.
- A variety of other studies also link the marijuana usage to other substance abuse issues, including nicotine addiction.
While the study above may sound dramatic, it’s important to understand that many individuals who use marijuana never use other ‘harder’ drugs. However, this doesn’t mean that marijuana use is harmless, and while the drug may not be deadly, it could carry long term cognitive risks that impair an individual’s ability to think, reason, and perform well under pressure. Marijuana’s potential harmful effects are often multiplied by the fact that most people who use it smoke it.
- Breathing and lung problems
- Increased heart rate
- Pregnancy problems
- Depression and anxiety
While marijuana may not exactly be a ‘gateway’ to drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines, it can still pose a variety of dangers to patients. Furthermore, some individuals can easily find themselves addicted to marijuana, and while ceasing use of the drug does not create a substantial physical withdrawal, users may find marijuana withdrawal to be a significant psychological challenge.
In particular, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or individuals who are suffering from schizophrenia should avoid marijuana at all costs. Research indicates that marijuana use by pregnant women is associated with a lower birth weight for babies and an increased risk of brain and behavioral problems.
Scientists also suggest that THC may be excreted into a woman’s breast milk if she uses marijuana in the weeks before or during pregnancy and breastfeeding, which could have serious effects on the developing brain of a child. In addition, medical professionals say that marijuana worse can worsen the side effects of schizophrenia by increasing paranoia and stimulating delusional thoughts.
Just like alcohol, as marijuana becomes more and more widespread, it can be difficult to realize when you have a problem. At Get Treatment, we understand that admitting you have a substance abuse problem takes courage. Just because everyone else is doing something does not mean it is safe for your physical and mental health. If you feel that you or someone you love is addicted to marijuana, we can help you find a quality marijuana treatment center.
At Get Treatment, our network of state-of-the-art, community-based marijuana addiction treatment centers each provide high-quality treatment for marijuana addiction and a variety of other substance use disorders. Getting professional marijuana withdrawal treatment doesn’t have to be scary; with Get Treatment, you know you’re in good hands, and that help and hope are just one call away.