6 Talking About Marijuana, and Combining Alcohol and Marijuana
Next to alcohol, marijuana is the most misused drug among youth. According to published studies: By the age of 20, approximately 50% of youth have used marijuana in their lifetimes. This is 2-3 times more than either younger individuals or older individuals. When recent marijuana use is examined, 1 in 5 of these individuals report using marijuana in the past month. Data shows that 1 in 3 youth who drink alcohol have also combined alcohol with marijuana on the same evenings. On these occasions, they tend to experience 2-3 times more problems compared to those evenings when they consume alcohol. HOW MARIJUANA WORKS IN THE BODY Marijuana contains a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC. When THC enters the brain by smoking, vaping, or eating edible marijuana (e.g., candy or brownie), it influences chemical reactions that create positive feelings or a “high.” While this is happening, marijuana is also altering normal communication inside the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body. These alterations can seriously affect movement and coordination, sensation, pain, emotions, judgment, decision-making, memory, and appetite.
Marijuana Yesterday and Today Prior to 1990, the THC content in marijuana was around 2-4%. In 2017, in states where there are stores that legally sell marijuana to the public, the THC content was approximately 28%. This means that the THC content between marijuana used in 1990 and today is 7-14 times stronger. If the strength of alcohol in beer increased in the same manner, having one beer today would be equal to having between 7-14 beers in 1990. Because of strong regulation, however, beer potency has changed very little over time, so a beer today raises the same effects as a beer did 30 years ago. To put it simply, today’s marijuana is not the same drug as what many parents over the age of 40 might have experienced when they were young. The magnified strength in today’s marijuana results in magnified effects. This is why health professionals are reporting marijuana use resulting in increased heart rate and bronchitis; cancer; anxiety; and sleep and fatigue. Regular or frequent use can also result in changes in brain function, mental illness (depression, schizophrenia), and addiction. Yes, today’s marijuana is highly addictive! Last, but not least, studies have shown that the effects of marijuana on brain function cannot be reversed.
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