BY JANE WOODRUFF
As marijuana becomes legal in some states, or widely available in the form of medical marijuana, the question remains – what are the potential side effects of the drug?
Defenders of marijuana use often employ deflectors to forward their argument that marijuana should be legal. They will point out how dangerous or addictive alcohol can be, and yet, that is legal. They will cite the futility of the drug war, or how effective the drug can be in relieving certain symptoms of disease.
However, none of these points address the actual risk of frequent marijuana use. Writing in USA Today, Cathy Payne and Michelle Healy point out that studies say the drug is addictive, and even more so for users who start young. Daily use also increases the likelihood of addiction.
Roger Roffman, a professor at the University of Washington who supported that state’s legalization of the drug in small amounts, says that dependence can cause impairment. "It's fairly common for people who are using marijuana regularly to complain that their ability to think clearly is impaired — to remember, to organize their thoughts, to follow through with multitasking."
Marijuana acts potently on the areas of the brain that control pleasure, memory, concentration, time perception, appetite, pain and movement. Hence, the National Institute on Drug Abuse offers these warnings about the negative effects the drug can have:
- Impairment of short term memory;
- Slowing of reaction time/diminished coordination, which can lead to accidents;
- Alteration of judgment, which could encourage risky behavior;
- Increased heart rate; and
- In high doses, can cause paranoia and anxiety
Additionally, abuse of marijuana can result in respiratory problems, cognitive impairment, and, for younger users - poor educational outcome, leading to lower job performance and life satisfaction.