More and more states are putting legalization laws on the ballot for medical marijuana use and recreational marijuana.
With a few states playing guinea pigs for this new legislation with current legal marijuana laws, it’s clear that there are more than a few potential problems with legalizing the drug.
Here are just a few:
- Little research available on the medical efficacy of marijuana on different: Though there is now a big push to fund studies on marijuana use in the treatment of certain ailments as well as research directed toward developing a THC pill that would allow for the standardization of care and an elimination of risks associated with ingesting smoke on a regular basis, we have little to go on right now. These studies will take years – many, many years – and in the meantime, patients are left with little in the way of hard evidence to guide their medical choices regarding the drug. With a prescription, patients are on their own to figure out which type of marijuana, in what form, and at what dose and frequency will best help them to manage their medical health symptoms. There is no other medication on the market prescribed this way.
- Possible increase in marijuana addiction: Marijuana is an addictive drug, and increased use of the substance will likely increase the rate of addiction. When an estimated 9 percent of people who experiment with or use marijuana develop a dependence upon the drug, it’s clear that more people using it will translate into more cases of addiction. All the problems that go along with addictive use of any drug are likely to follow as well, including health problems, financial problems, and relationship issues.
- Increased rates of medical emergency related to marijuana use: In the states where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use, there has been an increase in admissions to the emergency room. People eating too many servings of a marijuana-laced edible, combining marijuana with other substances, and getting behind the wheel while under the influence all contribute to the medical emergencies behind the increased ER visits. Hospital admissions may also increase in the coming years as patients continue chronic use of marijuana, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes.
- Uncharted territory in terms of protecting the community through appropriate regulations: This is the Wild West in terms of legislation regarding the legalization of marijuana. Simply removing criminal penalties for the purchase, possession, use, and distribution of the drug is not enough. New laws need to be created for taxation purposes, safety standards in the production and packaging of marijuana products, and determination of what constitutes “safe” amounts of the drug in the blood when the marijuana user does something like drive a car. These issues take time, and once new regulations are created, they may be adjusted after a trial period to ensure that everyone’s safety is taken into consideration and that the community as well as the user are protected.
- Possible increase in teen and child access to marijuana: More people having prescriptions for medical marijuana or access to marijuana for recreational uses means that more of the drug is available. People have it in their homes, and this increases access to those who would abuse the drug, begin or maintain addictions, or potentially overdose if they get ahold of the wrong substance and take too much. The latter issue, especially among children and teens, is of huge concern in many communities. Though it is illegal to prescribe the drug to anyone under the age of 18 and for minors to use it recreationally, some children are finding their parents’ marijuana products and eating them (if marijuana edibles) or experimenting with their use. Drug use of any kind during the teen years can cause a multitude of problems, including increased risk of substance abuse problems in adulthood, decrease in cognitive functioning, slowed emotional and psychological growth, and more.
Does Someone You Love Need Marijuana Treatment?
Marijuana abuse and addiction – as well as all the complications caused by addiction – may be more likely when the drug is legalized for recreational purposes, but it looks like more and more states will be falling in line behind Washington State and Colorado. Like alcohol (also legalized for recreational use) and painkillers (also legalized for medicinal use), it’s important for families to pay attention to potential warning signs. When moderation and/or safe use of the drug becomes problematic, identifying the signs early can help the person to get early treatment, which in turn increases the chances of long-term success in sobriety. You may notice:
- Personality changes with no other cause
- Changes in the person’s ability to manage at work or school
- Decreased ability to maintain commitments and manage relationships
- A poor financial situation
- Irritability or deceit when asked about drug use
- Driving while under the influence
- Health problems due to marijuana use
- Medical emergencies due to use of marijuana in any form
If you believe that your family member is struggling with marijuana abuse or dependence, treatment can help. Depending upon your loved one’s experience with the drug, different treatment services will be more or less appropriate. The good news is that learning how to cope without marijuana is possible. Treatment services are evidence-based, and thousands of patients have overcome their dependence upon the substance and gone on to live healthy, sober lives. Learn more about your family member’s options in treatment today.