Marijuana-impaired driving, marijuana’s effect on the developing brain, marijuana as a gateway drug – these are all the concerns stemming from the increased allowance of marijuana use. Now that almost half of the states in the country allow marijuana use for medical purposes and recreational use is legal in Colorado and Washington, more marijuana-related concerns are coming to the surface.
“There’s a lot of misperception out there that marijuana is not addictive, but it produces both a physical and psychological dependence in a similar way to that of other drugs, along with its own characteristic withdrawal symptoms,” explained John Kelly of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Addiction Medicine.
A recent study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that about 40% of people enrolled in outpatient treatment who abused marijuana had withdrawal symptoms. What is interesting about this is that not only are people experiencing these effects, but they are enrolling in drug treatment to get off marijuana. John Kelly points out parallels between trends in the use of marijuana and those related to alcohol and tobacco. When you make something more accessible and affordable, more people gravitate towards it. He believes that instead of taking the allure away from marijuana, the government is inviting more and more people to abuse the drug.
Even with studies that strongly indicate that there are significant withdrawal symptoms attached to marijuana and that many people admit that they are addicted to the drug; it is still considered a harmless drug by some people. “The neurocognitive impacts, especially with teens, have been shown to have lifelong implications,” Kelly noted. “The rates of addiction and harm will go up, there’s no doubt about that. People need to be prepared for that.”