Marijuana, now legal in several American states, is more dangerous than people think, according to a chief researcher at the United Nations.
Many people think of marijuana as a relatively low-risk drug, but according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s annual report, its use, particularly at young ages, can be extremely to health. Some of the adverse health effects associated with marijuana use include:
- Lung problems
- Memory impairment
- Respiratory problems
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Impaired judgment and motor coordination
Although the perception is that marijuana is the least harmful of illicit drugs, the UNODC cautions that there has been a visible increase in the number of people seeking treatment for disorders caused by marijuana use over the past decade.
Nearly two-thirds of the nations surveyed for the report reported that cannabis was the main drug used in their countries in 2012. The UNODC estimates that nearly 180 million people worldwide consumed marijuana that year, much more than the 34.4 million that used the next most popular drug, amphetamines. Although global cannabis use dropped between 2011 and 2012, U.S. consumption continues to rise, at least in part affected by the 2012 votes to legalize recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Wisconsin.
Hard Habit to Break
Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is additive, according to DrugAbuse.gov. Experts estimate that approximately nine percent of marijuana users become addicted to the drug. The number increases to 17 percent, or one in six among those who start young, and to 25-50 percent for those who use marijuana daily.
Long term marijuana users trying to quit often experience some of the same withdrawal symptoms associated with other illicit drugs, including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and an intense craving for the drug. Although not currently available, developments have been made in medications designed to block the intoxicating effects of marijuana, ease withdrawal symptoms, and prevent individuals from relapsing.
Research indicates that marijuana also may cause problems in daily life, or at least make someone’s existing problems worse. Heavy marijuana users commonly report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, relationship problems, and a lower level of academic and career success than those who don’t use the drug.