The whole truth about marijuana

The latest French research on the effects of marijuana use reveals many previously unknown facts and no doubt forces us to retreat from the notion that marijuana is just “innocent pot.”

The whole truth about marijuana

The immediate, albeit short-lived, effects of marijuana use are euphoria – that is, a feeling of contentment associated with memory impairment and an inability to perform certain (especially complex) actions – followed by drowsiness. These effects are well known today. However, marijuana also impairs some intellectual abilities and alters some psychomotor functions (e.g., it speeds up the heart rate, interferes with normal digestive function, and irritates the visual analyzer).

Attempts have been made for a long time to study the relationship between marijuana use and the occurrence of psychiatric disorders. The aforementioned studies have found, among other things, that marijuana exacerbates depression and suicidal tendencies, and enhances schizophrenia (or facilitates its onset).

People suffering from cyclophrenia (or manic-depressive psychosis), characterized by alternating between excessive excitement (and agitation) and depression, abuse marijuana in 14-64 percent of the cases studied. And the risk of suicide attempts during the depressive phase is significantly higher in marijuana users than in those who do not. Marijuana is a psychoactive substance, and it is known that in many mental disorders, the use of psychoactive substances aggravates the illness.

While 1 percent of the general population suffers from schizophrenia, the incidence of schizophrenia in marijuana users is as high as 6 percent! In addition, 13-42 percent of schizophrenics surveyed had abused marijuana at some time in their lives. Thus, it seems that the link between marijuana and schizophrenia is obvious. At present, the nature of this relationship has not yet been conclusively established, but researchers believe that one of the following possibilities (or perhaps all three) is involved:

marijuana is a type of self-medication in the early stages of schizophrenia

marijuana use promotes or even accelerates the development of schizophrenia, becoming a specific trigger for the illness

excessive marijuana smoking increases certain dysfunctions present at the onset of schizophrenia, intensifying its dramatic course and exacerbating the clinical picture.

While the relationship between schizophrenia and marijuana is complex and not fully elucidated, there is no doubt that marijuana can induce a specific psychosis characterized by acute and violent bouts of rage combined with hallucinations. Fortunately, these symptoms are transient and last at most three months.

The French researchers’ report mentions not only the toxic effects of marijuana on the nervous system, but also on the lungs and endocrine system. Cases of lung cancer have also been described in people who only smoke marijuana (not tobacco). According to experts, the percentage of tar in a marijuana joint can be up to five times higher than in a tobacco cigarette.

Marijuana is the drug that is taken most often, and it is smoked mostly by young and very young people! How does it affect their health and behavior?

THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – lodges in lipid-rich tissues, mainly in the brain. The effects of this poisoning of the central nervous system are varied, including: short-term amnesia, learning disabilities, auditory perception disorders, speech and motor coordination disorders. The real problems arise when these symptoms begin to have a negative impact on schooling, work performance or social adjustment.

Does marijuana use inevitably lead to hard drugs, including heroin? It is true that heroin addicts used to start with marijuana, but it is also true that only 5.5 percent of French adolescents (15-19 years old) who use marijuana have also tried other drugs, including heroin (1998 study). Because in addition to environmental factors, there must also be a genetic predisposition to drug addiction (including alcohol, for example).

I think that the French study reveals for the first time the whole truth about “harmless” joints and will give food for thought both to the supporters of legalization of this drug and to the consumers of marijuana themselves.

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