Kayla Nguyen, Mercer University College of Pharmacy Class of 2017
The legalized marijuana debate has spread like wildfire across the nation. 23 states and Washington D.C. have all proposed and legalized some form of marijuana usage and possession[i]; however, marijuana is still a Schedule I and federally illegal drug. One of the most common misconceptions about marijuana is the safety and efficacy of smoking.
Most people provide information from personal experience, but to extend personal experience to the entire population is a common fallacy of composition. From these personal experiences come strong arguments for legalization. The most common myth is that marijuana is not addictive.
Many prescribing physicians and a portion of the general population incorrectly believe that marijuana is harmless and does not cause addictive behavior. The symptoms of marijuana addiction are not the same as other drugs of abuse such as benzodiazepines, opiates, or alcohol.[ii],[iii]
Patients who have used marijuana over an extended period of time often describe withdrawal symptoms that have the potential to continue for months after quitting. Common symptoms of withdrawal include anxiety, insomnia, and irritability. The average user does not typically experience severe withdrawal symptoms, but severity of marijuana withdrawal correlates with dosage, use, and length of addiction.[ii],[iii]
Clinical trials involving marijuana are still strongly regulated leaving confusion to the addiction and side effects of marijuana use. The nation may be gearing towards legalization in the future, but it is important to expand and update objective evidence to truly understand the risks and benefits of marijuana usage.
[i] ProCon.org. (2014, July 17). 23 Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC. Retrieved from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881
[ii] Mckenna GJ. The current status of medical marijuana in the United States. Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2014;73(4):105-8
[iii] Lisdahl KM, Price JS. Increased marijuana use and gender predict poorer cognitive functioning in adolescents and emerging adults. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2012;18(4):678-88.