Abstract

Marijuana is a popular choice amongst all people, especially amongst teenagers and young adults, to be used as a recreational drug. Marijuana has been around for hundreds of years and is used for purposes other than recreational. Some, using it as a stress buster, while it is used for medicinal purposes, to cure certain illnesses. This paper discusses both sides of a coin, the advantages, and disadvantages of using marijuana. The advantages are discussed with respect to its usage for medicinal purposes and the disadvantages are discussed with respect to the impact it causes on brain structure and function.

The study by Brumback et al., (2016) shows that marijuana use negatively impacts brain structure and function. The study shows that adolescence is a very sensitive period and acute marijuana use could cause long-term negative effects.

The study conducted by Vadhan et al., (2017) shows that marijuana users who are at clinical high risk showed a temporary increase in psychotic-like states and a decrease in neurocognitive performance during marijuana intoxication (“High” state), then controlled marijuana smokers.

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The study by Park & Wu, (2017), summarized findings from different articles regarding use of medicinal marijuana. The findings from the article shows that people used marijuana mostly for pain relief and anxiety-related issue among adults and among adolescents, the reason for medicinal marijuana use was for seizures. The motivation to write this paper is to understand why marijuana legalization is a big topic, even though marijuana has been around us for hundreds of years and also to know how certain medical issues can be cured by medicinal marijuana.

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Introduction

Marijuana is the dried buds of cannabis plant which is a very popular psychoactive drug. Debate over marijuana legalization is still ongoing, with many parts of the world considering it as illegal. As mentioned above, this paper discusses the advantages and disadvantages of marijuana. Although marijuana is used for medicinal and used in large quantities for recreational purposes, its effect has been understudied and little has been understood about its effect on our body, especially on neurological system and our cognitive functioning. The addiction to marijuana is a serious issue among teenagers and adolescents, with many losing their lives for it. At present, the buzz is around the topic of legalization of marijuana. Even though marijuana has been around for thousands of years, its legalization is still a big issue in many countries, although it is legal in certain countries.

Marijuana has been used for medicinal purposes for many years for the treatment of certain mental illnesses. But largely it is being used for recreational purposes, to get intoxicated (“To get High”) and this can lead to addiction and can have serious consequences. Medicinal marijuana is used by most people for pain relief and anxiety-related issues (Park & Wu, 2017). Studies show that medicinal marijuana is also used to treat people with depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and social anxiety (WWW1). Evidence also suggests that oral cannabinoids are effective against nausea and vomiting that is caused during chemotherapy (WWW1). The advantages are supported by use of medicinal marijuana and the disadvantages are supported by discussing the side effects and addiction of marijuana. The following sections discuss in detail the same.

Marijuana: The downside of being “High”

Marijuana is a popular option for recreational purposes, standing in the third spot behind alcohol and tobacco, especially among teenagers and young adults. Worldwide, around 3-5% of the teenage population (highest usage in the United States of America) admit that they use marijuana ( Brumback et al., 2016). Acute marijuana use is a serious issue amongst teenagers and can lead to serious consequences and can ruin their entire life. The study by Brumback et al., 2016 discusses the side effects of marijuana use on brain structure and function from a neurodevelopmental perspective. The study reviews findings from different articles that address neurocognitive deficits associated with marijuana use. During adolescence, the brain continues to grow during which changes in neurochemistry and anatomy occurs. The findings show that marijuana use has a negative effect on the amygdala and striatum, including an increase in gray matter. Functional MRI studies show that marijuana users exhibited differential activation patterns as compared to non-marijuana users. The neurotoxic effects of marijuana are associated with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) acting on CB1 receptors, which affects the neurotransmitter systems and neurodevelopmental processes. The study also shows a decrease in verbal memory, processing speed, and neurocognitive functioning in adolescents using marijuana.

The study by Vadhan et al.,(2017) examined the acute psychological and physiological effects of smoked marijuana in clinically-high-risk (CHR) subjects to develop a psychotic disorder. The aim of the study was to support a psychotogenic role for marijuana in CHR individuals. The authors wanted to find out whether or not, marijuana smoking in CHR individuals will increase psychotic-like states and decrease their neurocognitive performance, as compared to control marijuana smokers. The subjects chosen for this experiment were an ethnically-diverse sample of weekly marijuana users. These users did not use any other illicit substances, which were verified by urine toxicology. Among the subjects, half were CHR subjects who were selected based on the criteria given for CHR syndrome and the rest half were not CHR subjects and they were classified as control subjects. All the subjects had similar demographic characteristics and marijuana use patterns. In the experiment, prior to marijuana smoking, the subjects were required to do a set of subjective, neurocognitive, and cardiovascular measures.

After this, they smoked 50% of an active or placebo marijuana cigarette according to a standardized procedure. The above-mentioned tasks were repeated after smoking marijuana. The results showed that in the CHR group, active marijuana increased the state of paranoia, anxiety, visual illusions, feeling of strangeness, and decreased objective performance. On the other hand, all these effects were not observed in the control of marijuana subjects. The levels of intoxication (“high” state) and heart rate were increased in both groups when they smoked active marijuana as compared to placebo marijuana. Even though active marijuana increased certain states as mentioned above, it did not have a significant effect on auditory or visual hallucinations, depression, loneliness. Both these studies show that smoking marijuana does have effects on the neurological system and can if not treated, it can lead to serious consequences.

Marijuana as Medicine?

Due to the existence of widespread shame regarding the recreational uses of marijuana, we often tend to overlook the scientific evidence that suggests that marijuana has a large variety of applications for the benefit of mankind, especially in the field of medicine. In fact, marijuana has been used as an active medicinal agent for hundreds of years. One of the major areas of application is as a painkiller (Park & Wu, 2017). Studies suggest that chronic pain is a major cause of disability, affecting a large section of society. Marijuana or products containing cannabinoids (these are products containing the same active ingredients as marijuana or targeting the same receptors of the brain as marijuana) are extremely effective as painkillers for several kinds of chronic pain, e.g. neuropathic pain.

Research also suggests that marijuana can be used widely among cancer patients. It has been used to reduce nausea and almost eliminate vomiting among patients going through chemotherapy (WWW2). Certain types of cancer cause loss of appetite, which can also be treated with marijuana and its derivative products to a large extent. However, it is still uncertain whether marijuana can actually help treat or cure cancer. While some research on cancer cells has led to conclusive evidence that marijuana does slow down the rate of growth or completely kill cancerous cells, several studies also exist which fail to prove conclusive evidence of the same; but they do all suggest that it can be applied as a safe treatment. One of the more controversial researches suggests that marijuana can help reduce alcohol and opioid dependencies among addicts (WWW1).

However, this is arguable as several other studies suggest that the greater the exposure to marijuana usage, the greater is the risk one has of abusing it or developing dependencies on other drugs. Further reports exist which claim that individuals who have exposure to marijuana at a tender age are more susceptible to developing dependencies later on in life. Similarly, one can also say that conclusive evidence exists which says that between smoking a cigarette and smoking marijuana, the latter is the lesser of the two evils as it does not pose any risk of lung disease in itself. It is also to be noted that marijuana-based medical agents do not need to be ‘smoked’ and is available in a non-smoking form such as edible agents.

Focusing on the positive, cannabis and its derivates can be used against a large variety of medical conditions under the umbrella term of ‘muscle spasticity’ (WWW2). Some of these medical conditions include but are not limited to multiple sclerosis and paralysis, among several others. One of the best applications of cannabis-based medication is in the development of a drug called Epidiolex, which is used in the treatment of two specific types of Epilepsy, namely, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, where the usage of other drugs has proved to be futile (WWW1). The medication here contains cannabidiol (CBD), which happens to be a non-psychoactive agent of cannabis. CBD is an example portraying the fact that isolated compounds of cannabis can help in the advancement of medical technology, without having to factor in the ‘high’ inducing compound in cannabis (known as THC). Such CBD based drugs, however, have shown to have an extremely high rate of side-effects, including vomiting, fatigue, and fever. This is ironic, considering the fact that cannabis-based drugs are used among cancer patients to alleviate them vomiting caused by extensive chemotherapy.

Developers of CBD based drugs have also issued warnings against liver damage, sedation, and suicidal thoughts. However, due to its high rate of success in preventing or reducing (potentially life-threatening) seizures among Dravet syndrome patients (especially children), CBD-based drugs are quite commonly used.

From recent data, we observe the trend of middle-aged people taking over a larger portion of the legal marijuana market (WWW3). Interviews with such users of cannabis have led us to believe that these help them relax and unwind from an otherwise stressful and hectic rat race that all of us in this world are a part of. It not only helps soothe the mind but also heightens several sensory factors, which such users claim to have forgotten to access in their everyday lives.

To conclude, it is safe to say that one cannot deny the health benefits that are present in the compounds making up a cannabis plant. However, further research and a strict monitor of controlled usage of cannabis and its derivatives is required to ensure the well-being of society at large.

Conclusion

The advantages and disadvantages of marijuana are discussed above. Even though marijuana is used for medicinal purposes, it has downsides too. Evidence shows that acute marijuana smoking has an impact on brain structure and function. Especially during adolescence, when the brain is growing, acute marijuana smoking could result in persistent changes to brain structure and function and has adverse cognitive outcomes. Also, CHR individuals reported an increase in psychotic-like states after smoking marijuana. This shows that people who have a pre-existing level of risk for psychotic disorders are likely to be affected by marijuana smoking and they experience psychotic-like effects when compared to people who don’t have this pre-existing risk. Apart from the recreational use of marijuana, it also used for medicinal purposes. The majority of people reported using marijuana for pain relief.

Middle-aged people reported using marijuana as a stress buster. Marijuana is also used to reduce nausea in cancer patients after they undergo chemotherapy and also used to treat loss of appetite during the same. Two specific types of Epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome are treated using Epidiolex, which is a cannabis-based drug. Further research is required in both directions (pros and cons). among all these studies, the quantity of usage of marijuana is not clearly specified. This raises the question of how much marijuana is too much to cause an impact on brain structure and also on cognitive thinking. Also, there are different types of marijuana that have different effects on the body and some studies did not mention what type of cannabis was used. By having a clear picture in both directions, the path to legalization of marijuana can be easy.

References

  1. Brumback T. et al., (2016). Effects of Marijuana Use on Brain Structure and Function:
    Neuroimaging Findings from a Neurodevelopmental Perspective. International Review
    of Neurobiology. 129: 33–65.
  2. Vadhan N.P et al.,(2017). Acute effects of smoked marijuana in marijuana smokers at clinical
    high-risk for psychosis: A preliminary study. Psychiatry Research. 257: 372-374
  3. Park J.Y & Wu L.T (2017). Prevalence, reasons, perceived effects, and correlates of medical
    marijuana use: A review. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 177: 1-13.
  4. WWW1. Medical News Today database. < https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/3209 84.php> Accessed 2 August, 2018.
  5. WWW2. Verywell health database. < https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-are-the-pros-
    and-cons-of-medical-marijuana-1132484> Accessed 2 November, 2018.
  6. WWW3. Psychology today database. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/between-
    the-lines/201807/making-the-case-marijuana-antidote-aging> Accessed 5 July, 2018.

Cite this page

Legalizing Marijuana: Pros and Cons. (2020, Oct 18). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/legalizing-marijuana-pros-and-cons-essay

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