YCC Rewind 1x


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M arijuana is viewed as a somewhat harmless drug by many people. A common misconception is that smoking marijuana is healthier than smoking cigarettes, or that marijuana isn't addictive. Although cannabis is frequently referred to as a gateway drug, this isn't a successful deterrent for youth who view the substance as a fun way to relax and spend time with friends. However, it has been proven that there is more to marijuana than just a pleasant buzz. Marijuana contains a chemical called THC, which when ingested over-activates the endocannabinoid system by binding to cannaboid receptors. These cannaboid receptors are found in the region of the brain that is associated with pleasure, memory, concentration, sensory, time perception, and coordina- tion. By stimulating this region of the brain, THC can create a "high" sensation in the user. There are many short term effects of cannabis, some pleasant and some unpleasant. For example, some users will experience frightening hallucinations and feelings of anxiety, fear, paranoia, and panic. These symptoms typically fade away relatively quickly, but there are other adverse side effects of cannabis which can affect users for the rest of their lives. Recent studies have shown that people who begin using marijuana at a young age are vulnerable to impaired memory formation, concentration, abstract think- ing, and learning, as well as depression and a lack of motivation known as a motivational syndrome. Chronic cough- ing, lung infections, and cancer can also be a result of heavy cannabis use. For adolescence, long term use can lead to a disconnectivity between regions of the brain, affecting learning and memory. A study in New Zealand revealed that individuals who began smoking in their teens lost about 8 IQ points from the time they were 13 to the time they were 38. These individuals who halted cannabis use in their adult years were unable to recover their lost cognitive abilities. However, if individuals have a certain genetic makeup the effects of regular marijuana use can be severely detrimental. People with preexisting mental illnesses such as schizophrenia experience worsening of symptoms upon ingestion of cannabis. The amount of drug used, age of first use, and genetics can all work together to create or trigger mental health problems like psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, suicidal thoughts, and personality disturbances. Regular users of marijuana were found to be at twice the risk of psychotic episodes and long term schizophrenia than those who did not use, and an Australian study showed that daily use can increase risk of depression and anxiety by five times. If youth use marijuana before the age of 15, they are four times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder by the time they are 26. More studies are being done to explore the connection between marijuana use and mental illness. One possible explanation is that during adolescence the brain is still developing. By inhaling or ingesting cannabis and the chemical THC, you are affecting the structure of your brain and altering development. Extended and frequent use could result in irreversible changes in the brain that will impact user's lives much later in the future. There truly is no "safe" drug. Check out The Downside of High documentary by Bruce Mohun to learn more about the mental health effects of marijuana use. http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/the-downside-of-high http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/cannabis.aspx http://www.cpha.ca/en/portals/substance/health/faq02.aspx http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-abuse/there-link-be- tween-marijuana-use-mental-illness Graph from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/topics-in-brief/marijuana THE BUZZ ON MARIJUANA AND MENTAL HEALTH Meghan Payment 16

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