Many people praise marijuana for its non-addictive qualities. However, physicians would strongly disagree with such a statement. “There’s no question at all that marijuana is addictive,” Dr. Sharon Levy, the director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Boston Globe. Right now, only one in 11 young adults who smoke weed will develop an addiction. However, with more potent products beginning to enter the market, the addiction rates will increase. With health care that doesn’t consider marijuana a serious addiction, people may have nowhere to turn.
While it’s easy to picture a marijuana user mellowing out as they wish, marijuana can raise a heart rate by 20% to 100% shortly after smoking, and the effect can last up to 3 hours, according to Live Science and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This may raise the risk of heart attack.
“A 2017 study by the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia found that those who used marijuana were 26 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who did not use marijuana,” explains Live Science. “Those studied were also 10 percent more likely to have developed heart failure.”
In 2016, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study confirming that those who practiced long-term, daily marijuana use had poorer verbal memory in their middle age compared to those who didn’t smoke. The study considered “long term” to mean five years or more. The researchers examined 3,400 people’s habits over a 25-year period. Everyone in the group took a cognitive skills test at the end of the study period, which determined the results. Legalization of marijuana across the United States may result in more people smoking the drug daily for long periods of time.
Although there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana causes lung cancer, it does create a series of respiratory problems in frequent users, such as a prolonged cough, airway inflammation, and wheezing. According to the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, marijuana smoke contains harmful chemicals that are in similar range to those in tobacco smoke. Since marijuana requires a deeper inhalation than cigarettes, it leaves about five times the carbon monoxide concentration and three times the tar in the respiratory tract compared to cigarettes.
Various studies on the effects of marijuana have been done through the years, but NBC recently reported that one potential risk of the drug is a serious one — mental illness. Marijuana can increase one’s risk of developing schizophrenia. This illness causes delusions, hallucinations, and unclear thinking, and greatly affects one’s ability to function properly. The drug can also increase depression and social anxiety, according to the same study. Those who use marijuana heavily are also more likely to be suicidal.
Some studies have shown that chronic cannabis use can result in lower testosterone levels, and even a lower sperm count. Doctors have agreed that it’s very plausible that chronic marijuana use can lower testosterone. However, researchers cannot draw a completely factual conclusion until they complete several more studies. Low levels can also result in something called gynecomastia, which is caused by a hormone imbalance between testosterone and estrogen levels in men.