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Marijuana: The Straight Dope

Posted by Steffanie Campbell, M.D. on May 28, 2016 9:00:00 AM

As marijuana becomes legal in more states (not in Texas), many people are asking if this means it’s safe. 

Before you light up, be sure to get your facts straight. Remember: Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Look at alcohol and tobacco! 

Whether marijuana has health benefits that outweigh its risks is a question researchers are still working out. But here’s what we do know. 

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Marijuana use is common in young people – and that’s not a good thing.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is used by about 22 million Americans, making it the most popular illicit drug.

More than one-third of high school seniors reported use in the previous year; 6 percent say they use it every day. This is worrisome since research shows long-time use, especially if it starts at a young age, is associated with lowering IQ. 

Marijuana is becoming more potent.  

Levels of THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes you “high,” are increasing. Scientific American reports that the average concentration of THC in confiscated marijuana went from 3.4 to 8.8 percent between 1993 and 2008. 

Marijuana has short-term – and possibly long-term – negative effects on the body.

In the short-term marijuana may: 

  • Increase heart rate, which is potentially dangerous for older people or those with heart problems.
  • Affect blood sugar.
  • Lower blood pressure to dangerous levels.
  • Decrease testosterone and sperm count. 

Frequent use may cause problems similar to those of smoking cigarettes, including cough and lung infections.

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Marijuana messes with the brain.  

I guess that’s kind of a no-brainer, right? Some of the short-term effects are: 

  •  Altered senses, including sense of time and reflexes.
  • Difficulty with thinking and problem solving.
  • Changes in mood. 

While some people report these as pleasurable or no big deal, others have less pleasant reactions, such as temporary hallucinations and paranoia. Studies are mixed on whether marijuana can contribute to other emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. 

We’re still learning about marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain. Use during pregnancy or when nursing has been shown to increase risk of brain and behavioral problems in babies. 

You can get hooked on marijuana

Contrary to popular belief, some people who use marijuana become dependent on it, making it difficult to stop. This number is higher in people who begin using it before 18. 

Do you think marijuana should be legal?   

 

Campbell_Steffanie.pngDr. Steffanie Campbell specializes in Internal Medicine at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Pearland. Preventive care, individualized care plans and women’s health are her primary clinical interests.  

 

 

        

 

Topics: marijuana, health risks with marijuana

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