Marijuana: Clearing Up The Haze Around The “Gateway Drug.”
Marijuana addiction is a commonly debated topic . Comparatively harmless and non-addictive, marijuana has a legion of advocates who believe that it should be legalized. Major movements are afoot, most notably in California, to see the legalization of marijuana. Its proponents also strongly promote the decriminalization of marijuana, pointing to the disparity in statistics between incidences of violence and manslaughter relating to the use of alcohol, which is a legal drug, and the dramatic rarity in similar incidences which have been connected to marijuana use. This point is difficult to argue: Crime that involves alcohol, cocaine, or crystal meth is far more prevalent than the almost non-existent numbers involving marijuana. If the production and distribution of marijuana were not illegal, then marijuana-related arrests in the United States would drop profoundly.
Withdrawal Symptoms Of Marijuana
However, please note the phrase above: “Comparatively harmless and non-addictive.” The argument that marijuana use has absolutely no ill effects is not entirely founded in truth either. While marijuana addiction isn’t common, long-term users can certainly become psychologically dependent, consumed with the routine and the culture that comes common with the use of marijuana. Studies of marijuana’s mental effects show that short-term memory can be reduced or impaired, which certainly does effect activities requiring concentration and coordination. Traffic accidents involving marijuana are still possible, although of course their cause doesn’t involve the potential aggression or intensity of alcohol-related accidents. Marijuana does increase the heart rate, so it does pose a reasonable danger to those with cardiac issues, and it can affect fertility, which suggests a harm level to pregnant women and developing adolescents. There is also the “acute panic anxiety reaction,” or paranoia, that some marijuana users experience. This can surely lead to irrational or even dangerous behavior, if only temporarily.
Perhaps the most hotly-argued aspect of the marijuana debate is “the gateway drug theory.” This is the position, held by anti-marijuana stalwarts, that the use of marijuana leads impressionable people towards the use of more dangerous illegal drugs. Statistically speaking, the gateway drug theory can be summarily disproved by the simple fact that no widely-accepted study has ever been conducted that has proved that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between marijuana and the shift to “harder” drugs. However, it would be equally close-minded to discount this theory entirely.
There are legitimate sociological reasons why marijuana users might be more likely to experiment with more dangerous drugs. Because marijuana use is currently illegal, its users may enter into situations where they are exposed to people who sell and use other illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine. (Of course, this also serves as ammunition for the legalization argument.) Also, since it is somewhat easier to obtain marijuana than some of those other illegal drugs, the challenge of obtaining this illegal drug may lead those who are disposed to the more thrill-seeking elements of life to up the ante, and to pursue the next level of illegality. Beyond these two points, there is the idea that there are simply common factors among many serious drug users, such as age, wealth, employment status (or unemployment), psychological stress, familial support, and depression: Therefore, someone who finds the need to find refuge in marijuana just plain might be the same kind of person who seeks out harder drugs. It’s not cause-and-effect, in that case – it’s just a commonality of effect.
Even so, if that truly is the case, then marijuana is no more of a gateway drug than are alcohol or tobacco, both of which are currently legal. This is why the legalization debate over marijuana does have some legitimate traction, and why it will continue. There is no reason why the issue should not be explored, though it would surely help all sides if marijuana advocates remain open to maintaining caution as a portion of their argument. Any mind-altering substance should be approached in moderation and responsibly
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