With all of the conversations around the legalization of marijuana, one of the things that get overlooked is, although it is legal, it is still only legal for those who are over the age of 21. Too many adolescents assume that if it is legal for adults, then it is okay for them, also. However, even the safety and regulation of the drug for adults is not clear. Marijuana is legal, but is it safe for me?
The answer is no. Marijuana is particularly unsafe for those under the age of 25, it can impact those with mental health issues like depression and anxiety, and there has been an increase in urgent physical health symptoms in areas where it has been legalized. Because it is not regulated, no one can guarantee your safety when you use marijuana.
Even if you fall in the legal category of ages 21-25 year of age, there is evidence that shows that marijuana can cause lasting damage to your brain functions. Your ability to think, learn, remember, reason, pay attention, and make decisions can all be impaired. While some of the effects should be reversed when you stop using, some cannot.
Something which cannot be reversed is the prevention of the vital connections in your brain that are still forming up through about your mid-20’s. The use of marijuana during adolescence will prevent sections of our brains from forming. It is not like we get a second chance for those connections to develop if they don’t form now, they won’t ever develop, limiting our brain functions for life.
However, the earlier you start using marijuana, the more likely you are to become addicted and suffer permanent harm to your brain and its functions. The long-term damage can even include damage to the actual structure of your brain, including the volume of grey matter. The risks are tangible and real, and your decisions now can limit your mind for life.
Impacting Mental Health
Another under-discussed topic surrounding the use of marijuana is how it can affect mental health. Marijuana use has been shown to increase the risks of depression and suicide, particularly in adolescence. If you already suffer from depression or anxiety, using a drug like this is not worth the risk. Your life is too valuable to become a statistic.
One of the stories surrounding marijuana in communities where cannabis has been legalized is a noticeable increase in Emergency Room visits as a result of using the drug. Many patients have come in seeking treatment for uncontrollable vomiting, where they are unable to stop vomiting for an extended period of time. Other visits have been for a condition called tachycardia when your heart is racing and feels like it is going to beat right out of your chest, which can be dangerous, especially if other conditions exist. There has also been an increase in patients having psychotic episodes due to marijuana use. Many of these emergency visits have resulted in hospitalization as well.
One of the reasons that your safety cannot be guaranteed is because, being a plant-based drug, there is not much control over the potency of the drug you are ingesting. The potency of marijuana was tested between the 1990s and the year 2014. The potency of marijuana has increased more than three times during that time. There is still no data on whether using less marijuana that is more potent has the same effect as more marijuana that is less potent. In fact, the consequences of the increase in potency are mostly unknown, because the drug is not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA.)
Lack of Regulation
There has been a lot of discussion about whether marijuana should be regulated, and if so, what that would look like. Because marijuana has not been legalized at the federal level yet, it is unlikely that the FDA will create any regulations anytime soon. This leaves the responsibility at the state level of those states which have legalized the drug. The labels and packaging vary widely, and it is not always clear what a safe dosage would be to consume, especially with edibles. Unlike other drugs that are regulated and have extensive testing to determine risks and side effects, as well as prescribed dosages, marijuana is like rolling the dice with your physical and mental health.
You have already received treatment for mental health and/or substance abuse. You know what it is like to take care of your psychological and physical health. You know that there are risks that are not worth taking. The use of marijuana is probably one of them.
Marijuana may be legal for those over the age of 21 in many states, but is it safe for you? The simple answer is no. The more complicated answer is also no, and the research-based answer is definitely no. Marijuana is often hyped as a safe recreational drug, but is any kind of recreational drug worth these types of risks to your mental and physical health? Especially when you have had mental health and/or substance use issues. Your safety is worth protecting at all costs. Getting high is never worth risking your well-being.
Marijuana is not worth the risk. If you need support with this or any other decision regarding your mental health, call Embark Behavioral Health 1-855-809-0409. Your brain is worth protecting.