Marijuana Negative Health Effects Summarized

marijuanaResearch has linked marijuana to several negative health effects, including addiction.[1] The latest article, published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, is authored by scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).1 The review describes the science that is establishing that marijuana can be addictive, and that this risk for addiction increases for daily and young users.1 It also states that there is research for a gateway theory, indicating that marijuana use, similar to nicotine and alcohol use, may be associated with an increased vulnerability to other drugs.1

The authors reviewed literature that shows that marijuana impairs driving, increases the risk of being involved in a car accident, especially if it is combined with alcohol.1 Also, the authors discuss the implications of rising marijuana potencies and state that because today’s marijuana is more potent than those of older studies, stronger adverse health effects may occur.1

The reviewers also considered the areas in which little research has been conducted: possible health consequences of secondhand marijuana smoke; the long-term impact of prenatal marijuana exposure; the therapeutic potential of the individual chemicals found in the marijuana plant; and the effects of marijuana legalization policies on public health.1

The reviewers focus on marijuana’s harmful effects on teens, an age group during which the brain is rapidly developing, which is a factor that could help explain increased risks from marijuana use in this population.1 In fact, research suggests that marijuana impairs critical thinking and memory functions during use and that these deficits persist days after using.1 In addition, regular marijuana use among teens lowers their IQ into adulthood, even if users stop smoking marijuana as adults.1

“It is important to alert the public that using marijuana in the teen years brings health, social, and academic risk,” said lead author and NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “Physicians in particular can play a role in conveying to families that early marijuana use can interfere with crucial social and developmental milestones and can impair cognitive development.”1

This review also states that marijuana use is likely to increase as it becomes legalized at state and local levels.1 Therefore, the number of people suffering negative health effects may rise, too.1

[1] NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, June 5). Research on marijuana’s negative health effects summarized in report. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 5, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605093311.htm

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