Questions Still Surrounding Marijuana Use

Marijuana legalization continues to gain steam as more and more states take the debate to the polls. While waves of support for the movement treat legalization as an inevitability and purely positive thing, many questions remain surrounding marijuana. People have suggested answers to many of these questions with the support of small studies of evidence. However, there has not been enough scientific research to support the majority of claims being made on behalf of marijuana consumption.

Studies on marijuana use have been suppressed for a long time based on the legality of the plant. Now that this is actively changing, large scale studies have become a necessity. An exhaustive review of the questions surrounding marijuana use would require a whole book, but we can at least address some of the important ones you should be considering.

How Does Marijuana Affect Different People?

Neuroscience is still a scientific field in its relative infancy, and our understanding of the human mind remains far from complete. However, we do at least understand that there are dramatic differences in the features of the brain as it grows, ages, learns, and deteriorates. We also know that psychotropic substances – those that affect a person’s mental state – like marijuana, have significant effects on the brain and the way it interacts with stimuli.

This brings up many questions regarding how marijuana use might affect individuals at different stages of their development. Can it help maintain activity in older brains that are beginning to breakdown? Will it stimulate a developing brain for growth, or is it more likely to cause irreversible damage?

Research has found that people between the ages of 15 to 25 are most likely to experiment with marijuana use. This is not surprising as this is a phase of maturing with a lot of testing and learning. It is a wide age group, but one where a lot of mental development takes place. Therefore, it is critical to understand the impact that psychotropics could have on the development of the brain during this period.

Medicinal marijuana use has been met with the most acceptance, even though the effects it has on older users still isn’t completely understood. Recently, trials have been approved for marijuana use on patients with dementia. There have been some claims that marijuana use can help off-set dementia or lessen its impact, however there is no proof behind these claims. Even the trials currently taking place are more directed to experiment with marijuana’s ability to manage undesirable symptoms of dementia such as agitation and aggressiveness.

Is Marijuana Use Addicting?

It should be stated that any action or activity can become addictive to an extent if it is carried out habitually. Habit is almost synonymous with addiction, but with a positive implication.  What we know is that the likelihood of developing an abusive habit with marijuana and many other drugs is much higher when users first start experimenting in that 15 to 25-year-old age range. Beyond age 28, the likelihood of developing an abusive habit is much lower.

The question is more about where on the scale of addiction marijuana falls. Is it dangerously addictive the way nicotine in cigarettes is addictive, or is it more innocently addictive like your favorite snack food? The likelihood is that marijuana falls somewhere in between these two extremes, but that still leaves a huge range and plenty of research to be done.

What is the Best Way to Use Marijuana?

Last year, I started seeing a new primary care physician. In my introductory check-up with him he asked me if I used marijuana in any form. I told him the truth. I’d smoked recently, but before that it had been years since I last used it. His response was casual. 

“That’s okay. If you want to use it again, use the edibles.”

The logic here seems pretty straight forward. Smoking is bad. No matter what you’re smoking, you’re still sucking smoke through your esophagus and into your lungs. That is not a healthy practice. At the same time, there remains a lot of gray areas. There are many more ways to consume marijuana including pills, dabbing, tinctures, teas, and oils. This doesn’t even take into account the various ways you can smoke marijuana or the wide array of edibles that can be prepared. 

Each method of consumption has its own level of potency and its own path to get the THC into your system. Which of these is the most effective and safest forms of consumption? Some advocates have suggested tea and edibles are a couple of the safest ways to use marijuana. Again, there is still plenty of research to do. If you are going to experiment, the best advice is to start with smaller doses until you have a better understanding of how you react to it.

What Don’t We Know?

While this might seem obvious, it remains important. We don’t know what we don’t know, and as it stands, that’s a lot. There was a time when cigarette smoking was considered generally innocent. That was until there were links to lung cancer and other diseases that were later confirmed. 

Is it possible that there are some terrible after-effects lurking behind marijuana use? At this point, few of the questions surrounding marijuana use have conclusive answers. Any answers we do find will probably come attached with even more questions. The one thing that is known for sure is that marijuana is becoming more available and more accepted. With that greater availability must come a greater understanding.

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