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TIP OF THE MONTH

May

Weed or No Weed, That is the Question.

With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington after the 2012 election, the debate surrounding marijuana has sharply risen. The debate topics surround whether marijuana should be legalized everywhere and the extent of the dangers faced when smoking marijuana. Is smoking marijuana less dangerous than smoking cigarettes? And what are the consequences of possessing or smoking marijuana in Pennsylvania, where it is currently illegal, even with a prescription? We will take a further look into this controversy.

The active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, for short. THC quickly absorbs into Cannabis. This, in conjunction with the other substances in marijuana causes these short-term medical effects:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite (also called “the munchies”)
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Impaired coordination

While these effects can last for three or four hours, marijuana can remain in the body for as long as a month after smoking. This means that you can be impaired for several days or weeks after the “high” wears off.  Also, marijuana contains more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco and because marijuana smokers typically inhale deeper and hold the smoke in their lungs longer than tobacco smokers, the risks of smoking marijuana go up with heavy use.

The psychological effects of marijuana generally are an alteration of mood, including euphoria, calmness, anxiety or paranoia. Other short-term effects include:

  • Distorted sense of time
  • Paranoia
  • Magical or “random” thinking
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Heightened perception

These will usually lessen after a few days, but residual effects can last for several days.

Mentally, marijuana use reduces your ability to think and problem solve. Continued use can have lasting effects on your IQ. Heavy marijuana use can lead to serious health conditions. Although, no link has been found, it is suggested that heavy smokers are at an increased risk for lung cancer. Men’s testosterone and sperm count and quality will decrease. Also, sexual libido and fertility also decreases with increase usage.

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is psychologically addictive. Even among recreational users, 1 in 12 can feel withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug, or don’t reach the optimal high.  Among heavy pot smokers, rates of dependence are higher.  

Physical symptoms associated with withdrawal include: aggression, anxiety, depressed mood, and decreased appetite.
Lastly, in Pennsylvania, marijuana is still an illegal substance. Therefore, purchasing and selling marijuana puts you at greater risk for arrest, injury, or death due to the nature of this activity and the unpredictability and motivations of many dealers.

If you are concerned for yourself or a friend, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with the Gable Health and Counseling Center to receive help and support. You can make an appointment Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00pm. To make an appointment today, please call 610-921-7532.

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/marijuana-use-and-its-effects

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