Young Brains on Marijuana: Risky Business

Ok, so we all know that road safety professionals worry about pot-high drivers on the roads, along with drunken travelers. But worries should not end there. Indeed, last year, a Journal of the American Heart Association came out with an article about French medical scientists who concluded that, “The recreational use of marijuana may result in cardiovascular-related complications and possibly even death among young and middle-aged adults.”

Dr. Scott Krakower is the assistant chief of psychiatry at Zucker-Hillside Hospital. “In addition to cardiovascular diseases, the plant has also been linked to addiction, lung carcinomas and neuro-cognitive issues, and these concerns were pushed aside as pain-control was brought to the forefront.”

He added that “adolescent marijuana use is more likely to develop dependence.” Harvard University and Northwestern Universities have both found that young adults who use marijuana casually “develop significant abnormalities” in two brain regions crucial to emotion and motivation.

If I recall correctly, Obama said last year that marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol. Even though it is a Schedule I drug (aka the most dangerous), Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington have legalized marijuana. Seven states are still waiting for ballot initiatives.

According to a Gallup poll in July, 44% of Americans had tried marijuana. One in ten Americans also currently use it. The dollars are starting to pile up. Chris Miles of news.mic topshelfbc writes, “How much would marijuana sales make if legalization became a national issue?” Although there are many estimates, the total amount could be anywhere from $10 billion to $120 billion per year.

It’s not too bad, but it gets back to the core of the business.

The House Health Committee in Pennsylvania has stopped legalizing medical marijuana. This is largely due to one man, Representative Matt Baker. His view: “I have had marijuana bills in my Committee before, and they were always opposed by me and never moved. It should not surprise anyone in Harrisburg that I do not advocate for the approval of illegal drugs under federal law, such as marijuana. This has not been proven safe or effective.

Baker states that while 85% of Pennsylvanians favor the use of it for medical purposes, Baker believes that it should be left up to the FDA. We don’t have the authority to regulate what medicine Pennsylvania has as long as it’s illegal, which it is at federal level. He also stated that there is no distinction between medical marijuana or marijuana, and that marijuana has never been officially defined as medicine.

He might be right to be cautious, at least in relation to children’s use. There is a downside to marijuana, whether it’s medical or not. Dr. Sharon Levy from Boston’s Children’s Hospital says that smoking marijuana has all of the known side effects of tobacco, except nicotine addiction. As he or she accumulates ‘pack-years’ of marijuana, a heavy smoker increases the likelihood of developing chronic lung disease and cancer.

Did you also know that street pot is now more powerful than it was 15 year ago? Legalizing pot makes it easier for young people to access it, but there are still dangers. Gary A. Emmett M.D. According to Gary A. Emmett, M.D., the drug alters the brain’s pleasure centres and causes “relaxation then excitation.” The relaxation phase is so short that most teenagers don’t associate marijuana with it when the excitement stage begins. It also has a different effect on the long-term for users who are younger than those who have been using it for a while.

Dr. Emmett also adds:

  1. “Early users of marijuana have less white matter in the brains and a smaller brain size. The brain’s ability to learn and function is affected by white matter.
  2. Slower thinking is caused by fewer connections between brain cells.
  3. An association with schizophrenia and other anxiety disorders is strong when marijuana was first used. It is difficult to prove marijuana caused the disorder.
  4. Long-term, heavy use can lead to memory problems and lower IQ.

It’s no surprise then that pot advocates suggest that we slow down when it comes the under-21 group. Yes, a Partnership at Drugfree.org (formerly Partnership for a Drug-Free America), survey of 1,200 parents with children ages 10-19 found the following:

  • 35% of respondents favored legalizing recreational marijuana use
  • 46% voted to make it illegal
  • 70% of those surveyed supported legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

About the Author: Brandon Ward

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