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With Marijuana Becoming More Readily Available, Are We Likely to See Any Changes in Psychiatric Disorders in Terms of How and When They Present?

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Several studies have linked marijuana use to increased risk for psychiatric disorders, including psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, but whether and to what extent it actually causes these conditions is not always easy to determine.Recent research suggests that smoking high-potency marijuana every day could increase the chances of developing psychosis by nearly five times compared to people who have never used marijuana.The amount of drug used, the age at first use, and genetic vulnerability have all been shown to influence this relationship

The strongest evidence to date concerns links between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders in those with a preexisting genetic or other vulnerability.

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Research has shown that marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off, depending on the person’s history with the drug. Consequently, someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time. Considerable evidence suggests that students who smoke marijuana have poorer educational outcomes than their nonsmoking peers. For example, a review of 48 relevant studies found marijuana use to be associated with reduced educational attainment (i.e., reduced chances of graduating). A recent analysis using data from three large studies in Australia and New Zealand found that adolescents who used marijuana regularly were significantly less likely than their non-using peers to finish high school or obtain a degree. They also had a much higher chance of developing dependence, using other drugs, and attempting suicide. Several studies have also linked heavy marijuana use to lower income, greater welfare dependence, unemployment, criminal behavior, and lower life satisfaction. To what degree marijuana use is directly causal in these associations remains an open question requiring further research. It is possible that other factors independently predispose people to both marijuana use and various negative life outcomes such as school dropout. That said, people report a perceived influence of their marijuana use on poor outcomes on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement measures. One study, for example, compared people involved with current and former long-term, heavy use of marijuana with a control group who reported smoking marijuana at least once in their lives but not more than 50 times.58 All participants had similar education and income backgrounds, but significant differences were found in their educational attainment: Fewer of those who engaged in heavy cannabis use completed college, and more had yearly household incomes of less than $30,000. When asked how marijuana affected their cognitive abilities, career achievements, social lives, and physical and mental health, the majority of those who used heavily reported that marijuana had negative effects in all these areas of their lives

Studies have also suggested specific links between marijuana use and adverse consequences in the workplace, such as increased risk for injury or accidents. One study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% greater absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.

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According to Iversen (2001), the use of marijuana is a health hazard. Once smoked, marijuana is absorbed in the blood stream where it lowers the pressure of the blood and at the same time increases the rate at which the heart beats. Pulse rate may go up to 20 to 50 times beyond the normal rate or even more if it is used in combination with other drugs. Researchers have found that low blood pressure and high pulse rate puts marijuana users at a greater risk of heart attack, which is likely to take place within the first hour of smoking than normal people. There are high chances of conducting chest illnesses like heavy coughing and lung infections. Its users may develop a stinking mouth. Studies have also shown that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound contained in the drug lowers the immune system of the body making the body weak to resist diseases. This makes its users vulnerable to other diseases. For pregnant mothers who indulge in the use of the drug, chances of giving birth to abnormal children are high. Miscarriages and premature births are also common. Mental disorders like insanity are associated with marijuana use (Joy, Watson & Benson, 1999).According to Joy, Watson and Benson (1999), marijuana is associated with risky sexual behaviors that put an individual at the risk of conducting sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and HIV aids. Drug users fall as victims of rape where they force other people into sex. Drug consumption increases school dropout rate among students. Mainly, drug users perform poorly in school, the outcome that makes them quit while reducing the levels of education in the society. Finally, marijuana users tend to be violent. Some do not carry out their roles in the family like provision of basic needs. Marijuana is expensive and its addicts spend large sums of money on its purchase, the money that could have been use for other useful purposes in the family. Studies conducted by American Association for Cancer Research show that marijuana is used in the treatment of many diseases like cancer, glaucoma, Ritalin, cramp, and discomfort during menstrual cycle among other diseases

It is also used to relieve stress (Iversen, 2001). As much as the use of marijuana is beneficial, its side effects are also dangerous. Consumption of marijuana in large contents should be discouraged and avoided. If it has to be used, the user should follow the doctor’s prescriptions on how, when, and how much to take it to avoid its negative effects.

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For the most part, a conclusion weighted as substantial was reached for the research question addressing the statistical association between cannabis use and the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses. As noted in the chapter's Discussion of Findings sections, there are common trends in the types of study limitations found in this evidence base. The most common are limitations in the study design (e.g., a lack of appropriate control groups, a lack of long-term follow-ups) variable analysis of cannabis use (i.e., dose/amount/frequency current versus. lifetime); small sample sizes; and research gaps in the studies of depression and PTSD. These limitations highlight the enormous amount of available opportunity to advance the current research agenda, in the hopes of providing comprehensive and conclusive conclusions on the potential harms and therapeutic benefits of cannabis or cannabinoid use.

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Iversen, L. (2001). The science of marijuana, London: Oxford University Press.

Joy, E., Watson J. & Benson, A. (1999). Marijuana and medicine: assessing the science base. New York, NY: National Academies Press.

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