Medicinal Marijuana versus Smoking Weed to Get High

It is a myth that marijuana is not addictive and not harmful. Today’s statistics and research proves otherwise.

Studies show the long term effects of Cannabis on the brains of children, teens and young adults, a hard fact I learned at a recent class taught at Sierra College for the Foster Kinship Care Education. As a volunteer for CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children, what I learned was shocking and verified what my instincts told me to be true.

With the publicity about how “Medical Marijuana” (Cannabis) can help people who are terminally ill and in pain, we are overlooking a huge population of children, teens and young adults whose brains are being damaged by smoking pot, eating marijuana laced baked goods and other forms of Cannabis.

There are physical affects, physiological effects and emotional affects from using this drug. Yes, there is a place for medicinal marijuana, but let’s be clear and differentiate between using pot for recreational use to get high vs. using it as a medication to cope with pain and other long term chronic or life threatening illness.

Our instructor, Jennifer Scalzi who has been a highly respected drug and alcohol counselor for the past 25 years, explained that true forms of medicinal marijuana when regulated, help people cope, but opened our eyes to the recreational drug use she sees in young people she councils and even some who have died. She also cautioned against the unregulated forms of pot being grown without regulation. Many growers use pesticides, which seep into the crop and into the blood stream of the user along with mold and other bacteria that the user has no control over.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Harvard and Northwestern studied the brains of 18- to 25-year-olds, half of whom smoked pot for recreation purposes and half of whom didn’t. What they found was rather shocking: Even those who only smoked few times a week had significant brain abnormalities in the areas that control emotion and motivation.

Damage of Pot on Brain

Damage of Pot on Brain

Another big take away from the class: This isn’t the pot of the sixties. The people who smoked pot back then were getting 1-3% THC. Today, levels are as high as 10-25%. And because the levels are so high, it encourages kids to chase other drugs to get that high feeling.

In class we watched the 2015 film, “The Other Side of Cannabis” with interviews of people of all ages who had similar stories. Here are just a few of the comments:

  • “Teenage boy: “Pot was a gateway drug for me. It led to LSD, cocaine, mushrooms and everything bad. I was ultimately hospitalized finally after a long road, rehab.”
  • “Middle School boy: I was addicted after the first use. I loved the feeling it gave me.”
  • “I am 34 years old and homeless. I have been smoking pot since I was 10. I wish I never started. Pot has ruined my life.”
  • “I walked out on my children because of my addiction to marijuana. I eventually went to prison. I spent $60,000 on pot instead of my family.”
  • Teenage girl: “They told me that weed would help me be less depressed, but it was the opposite, I didn’t have any motivation, my grades dropped. I failed all my classes. I couldn’t break the cycle.”
  • Teen boy: “I didn’t care about anything else. I was only focused on smoking weed.”
  • Father: “I spent $500,000.00 on weed. My fortune literally went up in smoke.”
  • Teenage boy: “I wound up robbing people to get more weed.”

Some offering evidence-based, individualized addiction treatment say “Marijuana is addictive and is not safe. Cannabis has been proven to be both addictive and damaging in two recent studies.  The younger you start or the more you use over time, the more dangerous it is to your brain” as it has been proven by studies led by Harvard led researchers among others.” Whether or not you believe recreational marijuana should be legal, it’s time to admit its power as a dangerous, addictive drug.”

One of the consequences of pot is that it shuts down our brain’s natural chemicals which help us to calm ourselves. Anandamide is our natural substance giving us the ability to calm our anxiety, yet when we use pot to do that, our natural ability is shut down. People who smoke pot lose the ability to reach the natural reward center in the brain, dopamine and the ability to cope. This is what brings people back to smoking.

There is help with treatment and after a tough battle, the addiction from pot may be broken.

One of the teen’s in the film said, “Don’t let anyone tell you that Pot is natural so it’s harmless. Just because Poison Ivy is a plant doesn’t mean you want to roll in it. It’s not “Just Pot.”

A mother of a teen who smoked pot said, “It destroys lives. It is a family disease. It breaks relationships, ruins long term memory and ruined us financially.”

Another mother in the film said her wonderful son, who was a good student, all American kid, wound up addicted to pot. They put him in rehab, and after nine months, he relapsed and pawned his brand new laptop. Shortly after that he died. “My beautiful son was lost to marijuana,” she said.

Emergency room visits have increased in the age group of 12-24 in the past couple of years. Doctors are seeing vomiting, stomach pain and even stroke due to smoking marijuana.

Our teacher revealed that marijuana is a serious problem for children, teens and young adults. Many of them see their parents smoking it and think it’s harmless. “Of course, prescription drug use continues to be the most dangerous threat. Kids don’t care what they take. They mix drugs for fun, and then drink alcohol, ”says Jennifer Scalzi. Deaths from marijuana aren’t because of overdose, their body just shuts down with the mix of pot and alcohol.

Many people can smoke pot without becoming addicted, but when it comes to children, teens and young adults, smoking or ingesting pot does affect your brain chemistry, and the trajectory of your life. There is no safe way to use drugs. The next time a teen or young adults argues their case to smoke pot, quote this title from a recent article: Harvard Scientist Studied the Brains of Pot Smokers, and the Results Don’t Look Good.  Here are a few signs of drug use:

  • Depression or mood swings
  • Violent outbursts of anger
  • Hyperactivity, drowsiness or forgetfulness
  • Blood shot eyes, runny nose or cough
  • Frequent bouts with colds or flu
  • Decline in school work
  • Careless risk taking
  • Money problems

If you, a friend or family member has a drug problem, here is an agency that can help:

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence


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