Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

July 9, 2014

Don’t be too quick to legalize marijuana use

— Perhaps our society should consider some facts before jumping on the bandwagon for legalizing recreational marijuana use.

Recently, Colorado has received national attention as the pioneer state for legalizing marijuana. Sales of the drug there have skyrocketed.

But let’s first take a closer look at Colorado. According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of people in Colorado seeking treatment for heroin has nearly tripled in the last decade. In the metropolitan area admissions grew by more than 16 times from 32 to 524.

Many studies have shown that the earlier the age at which a young person uses cannabis, the more likely they are to use heroin and cocaine.

Shouldn’t the connection between early marijuana use and other drug abuse concern us?

A recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that marijuana, cocaine and alcohol abuse in Colorado is among the highest in the nation.

Colorado ranked first among the states in the usage of cocaine by persons over the age of 12 years.

In addition, an estimated 5.1 percent of the state’s population abused painkillers in 2012, which puts Colorado among the top states for pill abuse.

Epidemiological research suggests that regular use of cannabis during adolescence and into adulthood can have adverse physical, psychological and economic effects.

Such adverse outcomes include dependence syndrome, increased risk of motor vehicle crashes, impaired respiratory function, cardiovascular disease, are adverse effects of regular use on adolescent psychosocial development and mental health.

Cannabis users seeking help to stop report withdrawal symptoms that include anxiety, insomnia, appetite disturbance, and depression.

Cannabis use has also been associated with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. High doses of marijuana can also cause temporary psychotic reactions, such as hallucinations and paranoia.

Younger people with a family history of schizophrenia are at a 2.8 times higher risk of developing the disorder after using marijuana.

Cannabis smoke contains many of the same carcinogens a does tobacco smoke, with some in higher concentrations.

Chronic cannabis smokers show pathological changes in lung cells that precede the development of lung cancer in tobacco smokers.

Impaired educational outcomes are also attributable regular cannabis use.

Regular adolescent cannabis users who leave school early are more likely to be unemployed and depend on social welfare, and are less satisfied with their lives and their relationships than are peers in their late 20s.

The main reasons reported by young people who use cannabis is to experience a so-called high: mild euphoria, relaxation, and perceptual alterations, including time distortion and intensification of ordinary experiences such as eating, watching films, listening to music, and increased sexual activity.

Ironically, although marijuana decreases inhibitions about participating in more risky sexual activity, the actual physical enjoyment is sometimes impaired by the negative cardiovascular effects of the drug, not to mention the next-morning regrets.

A highly experienced drug counselor from Colorado has reported, “We’re undergoing significant economic problems and the use of substances is often used to in some way reduce the stress, reduce the tension, reduce the depression that many people are feeling.”

So to me that begs several questions: Is the current emphasis placed on legalizing marijuana for “recreational use” an effort to distract the population from our current economic and political plight?

Why are so many people unhappy that they need to self-medicate from a “recreational” drug?

Is the ingestion of chemicals the answer to human happiness?

Or are we all being duped into a simpleminded, drug-induced stupor so that we will not challenge the status quo?

Frank J. Clark

Cumberland

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