The legalization of marijuana has spurred a great deal of compelling discussion and debate in recent news. Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in eight states and the District of Columbia – and 30 states allow its medical use for symptoms from cancer, epilepsy, HIV and other diseases. But even though it’s legal in some states, medical addiction experts strongly advise against the decriminalization of this drug.
PSI’s Interview with TV Travel Guide About Legalizing Marijuana
During her interview with TV Travel Guide, Fran Langdon, an addiction medicine specialist at Positive Sobriety Institute, discusses her position on the dangers of legalizing marijuana. “In the states that have legalized it there has been a huge up-kick in kids 12-18 years old who are using marijuana. Studies show that early cannabis users are four to eight times more likely to become addicted to opioids. The brain is primed to like opioids by marijuana use” Langdon says.
A common argument for the legalization of marijuana is that although its use poses health risks, it’s not as dangerous as alcohol, which is legal.
So what is the real harm?
For one, it is addictive and a common misconception is that it’s not. Marijuana is a plant, which may seem natural and somewhat harmless to many—but it’s also a drug that affects the brain, central nervous system, heart and more. And according to Dr. Mark Gold—addiction specialist and Chairman of RiverMend Health’s Scientific Advisory Board—out of all the people in the U.S. who abuse substances, approximately 60 percent are due to marijuana dependence. Meaning more Americans are addicted to marijuana than any other drug, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.
Marijuana—just like many other drugs—changes the brain. Langdon states, “If 100 people are exposed to marijuana once, nine will develop a dependence on it.” All drugs when abused, whether legal or illegal, produce an intense brain reward that users will try to perpetuate again and again. Marijuana users typically prefer a higher potency product, which can lead to serious consequences. Marijuana impairs cognitive skills such as memory, judgment and coordination and increases the incidence of DUIs, which poses a public safety threat.
Some experts believe that legalizing marijuana is a bit like making a deal with the devil. Even though legalizing marijuana reduces illegal drug production and distribution, it also encourages drug use, increases drug supply at cheaper costs and leads to higher rates of addiction.
Langdon reiterates the negative social and public health consequences. “This is a drug that affects the brain. This isn’t a war on drugs. This is a defense of our brains. Our brains are the repository of our humanity” Langdon says.