Effects of Marijuana on Well-being

Unveiling the effects of marijuana on well-being: Pros, cons, and everything in between. Is marijuana bad for you? Find out now!

By Alis Behavioral Health Staff

July 9, 2024

Understanding Marijuana Use

To evaluate the effects of marijuana on well-being, it is important to first understand the trends and statistics surrounding its use, as well as its impact on brain development.

Statistics and Trends

Marijuana use has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2022, 30.7% of US high school 12th graders reported using cannabis in the past year, and 6.3% reported using cannabis daily in the past 30 days [1]. Additionally, cannabis vaping remains a concern among middle and high school students, with 6% of eighth graders, 15% of 10th graders, and 21% of 12th graders reporting past-year cannabis vaping in 2022 [1].

Impact on Brain Development

The use of marijuana during adolescence and young adulthood can have negative effects on brain development. The adolescent brain is actively developing and continues to do so until around age 25. Cannabis use during this period may harm the developing brain and have long-term consequences. Studies have shown that compared to teens who do not use cannabis, teens who use cannabis are more likely to quit high school or not obtain a college degree [1].

Furthermore, research indicates that marijuana use may lead to permanent IQ loss, especially when individuals start using it at a young age. Studies suggest that marijuana can cause IQ loss of up to 8 points, and these IQ points do not recover even after quitting marijuana.

Understanding the statistics and the impact of marijuana use on brain development is essential to fully comprehend the potential risks and effects associated with its consumption. In the following sections, we will further explore addiction rates, cognitive impairment, and the use of marijuana in specific populations to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the effects of marijuana on well-being.

Addiction and Cognitive Effects

When evaluating the effects of marijuana on well-being, it's important to consider the potential for addiction and cognitive impairment.

Addiction Rates

Approximately 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted, according to SAMHSA. However, when marijuana use begins before the age of 18, the rate of addiction rises to 1 in 6. This highlights the increased vulnerability of adolescents to develop an addiction to marijuana. If you are concerned about your marijuana use or suspect addiction, it is essential to seek professional help. To learn more about the signs of marijuana addiction, visit our article on how to know you’re addicted to marijuana?.

Cognitive Impairment

The long-term effects of marijuana use on cognitive function, particularly in heavy and ongoing users, have been a subject of research. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, individuals who started smoking marijuana heavily during their teens and had an ongoing marijuana use disorder experienced a loss of an average of 8 IQ points between ages 13 and 38. Furthermore, the lost mental abilities did not fully return in those who quit marijuana as adults.

Research also suggests that between 9 and 30 percent of marijuana users may develop some degree of marijuana use disorder, with the risk being four to seven times higher for those who began using marijuana before the age of 18. Adolescents using cannabis are also more likely to develop cannabis use disorder compared to adults [4].

Moreover, a study published in Harvard Health Publishing found that long-term cannabis users experienced a decline in IQ of 5.5 points on average from childhood, along with deficits in learning and processing speed compared to those who did not use cannabis. The frequency of cannabis use was found to be positively correlated with the extent of cognitive impairment.

It is important to note that the cognitive effects of marijuana can vary depending on factors such as the frequency of use, dosage, and individual susceptibility. If you have concerns about the impact of marijuana on your cognitive function, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.

Understanding the potential risks and cognitive effects of marijuana use is essential for making informed decisions about its use. It is crucial to weigh these factors against any potential benefits and consider individual circumstances when evaluating the effects of marijuana on well-being.

Marijuana Use in Specific Populations

Marijuana use can have varying effects depending on the specific population involved. In this section, we will explore the impact of marijuana use on adolescents, pregnant women, and athletes.

Adolescents

Adolescents are a particularly vulnerable population when it comes to marijuana use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2022, approximately 30.7% of US high school 12th graders reported using cannabis in the past year, and 6.3% reported using it daily in the past 30 days. However, it's important to note that marijuana use during adolescence and young adulthood may harm the developing brain.

The teen brain is actively developing and continues to develop until around age 25. Cannabis use during this critical period may have negative consequences. Studies have shown that compared to teens who do not use cannabis, those who do are more likely to quit high school or not obtain a college degree. Additionally, marijuana use during adolescence has been associated with an increased risk of mental health issues and other substance abuse problems [2]. For more information on the dangers of marijuana use in teens, refer to our article on the dangers of marijuana and teens.

Pregnant Women

Marijuana use during pregnancy is a topic of concern due to potential risks to both the mother and the developing fetus. Research indicates that marijuana use during pregnancy may cause fetal growth restriction, premature birth, stillbirth, and problems with brain development, resulting in hyperactivity and poor cognitive function. It is strongly advised that pregnant women avoid using marijuana to protect the health and well-being of their unborn child.

Considering the potential risks, it is recommended that pregnant women seek alternative methods for managing any symptoms or conditions for which they may have previously used marijuana. Consultation with a healthcare professional can provide guidance on safer alternatives. For more information on this topic, see our article on parents who smoke pot don't want their kids to.

Athletes

Marijuana use among athletes has become a topic of increasing concern, particularly in competitive sports. While some athletes may use marijuana for various reasons, it's essential to understand the potential consequences.

Marijuana use can affect an athlete's performance and pose risks to their health. It may impair coordination, reaction time, and decision-making skills, which are crucial for many sports [2]. Moreover, marijuana use can lead to potential disciplinary actions and disqualification from competitions if it violates the rules and regulations set by sports organizations.

Athletes should be aware of the potential consequences of marijuana use and consider the impact it may have on their athletic performance and eligibility. It is advisable to consult with sports organizations, coaches, and medical professionals to understand the specific rules and regulations regarding marijuana use in their respective sports.

Understanding the effects of marijuana use in specific populations is essential for making informed decisions. Whether it's adolescents, pregnant women, or athletes, it's crucial to consider the potential risks and weigh them against any perceived benefits. Consultation with healthcare professionals, coaches, and relevant authorities can provide valuable guidance in navigating these considerations.

Risks and Dangers

When evaluating the effects of marijuana on well-being, it's important to consider the potential risks and dangers associated with its use. In this section, we will explore two significant aspects: driving under the influence and the effects of marijuana on coordination.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence of marijuana is a serious concern. The use of marijuana can lead to dangerous effects on driving abilities, including slower reactions, impaired judgment, lane weaving, decreased coordination, and difficulty reacting to signals and sounds on the road. These impairments significantly increase the risk of accidents and pose a threat not only to the individual using marijuana but also to other drivers and pedestrians.

It is important to note that laws regarding driving under the influence of marijuana vary across jurisdictions. In many places, driving while impaired by marijuana is illegal and can result in severe legal consequences. It is crucial to prioritize safety and avoid driving after using marijuana. If you need to travel, consider alternative means of transportation or designate a sober driver.

Effects on Coordination

Marijuana use can affect coordination, which is essential for performing tasks that require precise movements. Coordination impairment can impact fine motor skills, balance, and overall physical performance. This can have implications for activities such as sports, physical work, and even simple daily tasks.

While the degree of coordination impairment can vary depending on factors such as the amount and potency of marijuana used, it's important to recognize that marijuana can affect motor skills and coordination. This can lead to difficulties in situations that require precise movements or quick reflexes.

To minimize the risks associated with impaired coordination, it is advisable to avoid engaging in activities that require high levels of coordination while under the influence of marijuana. This includes operating heavy machinery, participating in sports that require focus and precision, and performing tasks that involve potential hazards.

By understanding and acknowledging the risks and dangers associated with marijuana use, individuals can make informed decisions regarding their well-being and prioritize safety. It is important to consider the potential impairments on driving abilities and coordination to prevent accidents and ensure the well-being of both the user and others in the community. For more information on the effects of marijuana use, continue reading our article on the impact of marijuana on brain development.

Medical Marijuana

With evolving attitudes towards marijuana, the focus has shifted towards exploring its potential medical applications. It is essential to understand the legal status of medical marijuana and its associated benefits and uses.

Legal Status

The legal status of marijuana varies across different jurisdictions. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, indicating that it has no currently accepted medical uses and a high potential for addiction. This classification restricts healthcare providers from prescribing marijuana. However, in some states where it is legally allowed, healthcare providers may certify its use for certain medical conditions [4].

Benefits and Uses

CBD, a component of marijuana, has gained attention for its potential therapeutic benefits. Unlike THC, CBD has little to no intoxicating properties and is used for various purposes. Some reported Benefits of CBD include relieving insomnia, anxiety, spasticity, and pain. It is also used in the treatment of conditions such as epilepsy. Patients often report minimal alteration in consciousness when using CBD-dominant strains [5].

Medical marijuana is commonly used for pain control, particularly in chronic pain conditions such as multiple sclerosis and nerve pain. It is considered a potentially safer alternative to opiates and can be used in place of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for individuals who cannot take them due to kidney, ulcer, or GERD issues [5].

Additionally, medical marijuana has shown promise in managing nausea, weight loss, glaucoma, and other conditions. It may be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans, pain and wasting syndrome associated with HIV, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn's disease.

It is important to note that the use of medical marijuana should be approached with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. The efficacy and safety of medical marijuana for specific conditions are still being researched, and further studies are needed to fully understand its potential benefits and limitations.

As regulations and attitudes towards medical marijuana continue to evolve, more research and future considerations will shed light on its long-term effects and its impact on cognition and brain function. Understanding the medical applications of marijuana and its potential benefits can contribute to informed discussions and decisions regarding its use.

Research and Future Considerations

As marijuana use continues to be a topic of interest, ongoing research aims to shed light on the long-term effects of its consumption and its impact on cognition and brain function.

Long-Term Effects

Studies have shown that marijuana use, particularly when initiated at a young age, can lead to permanent IQ loss. Starting marijuana use in adolescence has been associated with a decline in IQ points that does not fully recover even after quitting [3]. Individuals who started heavily using marijuana during their teenage years and had an ongoing marijuana use disorder experienced an average IQ loss of 8 points between ages 13 and 38, with no complete recovery in mental abilities after quitting [3].

Furthermore, long-term cannabis users have shown cognitive impairments, including deficits in learning, processing speed, and memory compared to those who do not use cannabis. These impairments were more pronounced in individuals who used cannabis more frequently, suggesting a potential causative link [6]. The cognitive deficits observed in long-term cannabis users were greater than those associated with alcohol or tobacco use. Additionally, long-term cannabis use has been associated with smaller hippocampal volume, the region of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Cognition and Brain Function

Individuals who consume cannabis long-term may experience cognitive symptoms such as brain fog, lowered motivation, difficulty with learning, and attention difficulties. These symptoms are typically reversible, although using products with higher THC content may increase the risk of developing cognitive impairments.

Research on the effects of marijuana on cognition and brain function is an ongoing area of study. It is important to note that individual responses to marijuana can vary, and not all long-term users may experience significant cognitive impairments. However, it is crucial to consider the potential risks associated with marijuana use, especially when initiated at a young age.

As more research is conducted, future studies may provide further insights into the long-term effects of marijuana on cognition and brain function. Understanding these effects can help individuals make informed decisions regarding their marijuana use and contribute to the development of effective harm reduction strategies.

References

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