Health

Mounting Marijuana Maladies

Once and for all, let's stop pretending pot is harmless

Fatigue. Anxiety. Lack of motivation. Memory malfunction. All are maladies on the rise among a certain slice of the U.S. adult population.

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As the rate of grown-up American marijuana users increases, the number of cases of reported cannabis disorders has risen steadily along with it.

As much as medical-use advocates and recreational pot smokers want to downplay it, no one can say weed is harmless.

Related: The Truth about Prescription Pot

Researchers at Columbia University in New York City examined the rate of cannabis users among U.S. adults in the new millennium and found the numbers more than doubled from 2001 to 2013. Similar tests conducted 12 years apart show pot use jumped from 4.1 percent in 2001 to 9.5 percent in 2013. Research subjects said they used marijuana at least once within the previous year.

As much as medical use advocates and recreational pot smokers want to downplay it, no one can say weed is harmless.

At the same time, cases of cannabis-use disorders also increased — but at a slightly lower rate. Reported cases nearly doubled from 1.5 percent to 2.9 percent among adult users. The study concludes that the number of people reporting disorders is simply a function of increased use among the general adult population.

Legislation and relaxed attitudes toward marijuana over the period certainly contributed to the increase in users. Twenty-three states now regulate cannabis for medical use, and four states have legalized recreational marijuana.

While pain sufferers looking for relief and partygoers looking to get their groove on can rejoice, research shows the growing acceptance can have negative effects on the younger population.

“It’s very important to address adolescent use because if teenagers do smoke marijuana early, it can have long-term adverse affects on their cognitive functioning and other areas,” said Deborah Hasin, a professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia and the lead researcher in the study on U.S. adults and earlier studies with adolescents.

Related: Pot Use Ramping Up

Results show that teenagers smoke pot at a higher rate in states where medical use is approved, but that there is no indication the rates climbed in those states after the laws were passed.

“There was no pre-post difference given the year that the law was passed,” Hasin said.

“I would like to know what those disorders are that they’re talking about,” countered Susan Soares, 57, a Santa Monica, California, advocate for Cannabis Awareness Research and Events (CARE).

Add decreased reflexes, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating to the list. Some studies list addiction among cannabis disorders.

Related: Smoke Pot, Drive Drunk?

“I don’t believe that marijuana is addicting,” Soares told LifeZette. “Maybe there’s a psychological addiction, you just want it, but I don’t believe it’s medically addicting.”

With the stated purpose of changing the stigma of what a cannabis consumer is by staging cultural and educational events, CARE’s purpose appears to be in step with the growing number of adult pot smokers in the U.S. Still, Soares admits there are problems that need to be addressed as cultural acceptance grows wider.

“The one concern I have is the concentrate that are so popular,” she said of the process of intensifying THC potency that is popular among medical users and can be abused by recreational smokers. “It needs to be made in a professional lab. It needs to be regulated.”

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