America is inching closer towards the nationwide legalization of marijuana, one state at a time. Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. were the most recent to buy into the promoted “need” for and “benefits of” legal marijuana. But all opinions and politics aside, studies show that marijuana does cause damage to its users.
The Minds of Our Future Leaders
A recent online Time article reported that the United States finished below average amongst the 34 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its latest international comparison of nations. The mission of the OECD is to improve the social and economic well-being of peoples worldwide through the promotion of its policies.
Much of the OECD evaluation centered on the performance of students in mathematics, science and reading. Amongst the 34 nations evaluated, the U.S. ranked 27th in mathematics. It ranked 17th in reading, and 20th in Science.
Already losing ground educationally, and despite the consequences, we are a nation that is legalizing pot–one state at a time. Recent studies show we are on dangerous ground:
- The University of Maryland School of Medicine reported in a 2013 study that the regular use of marijuana during adolescence “may permanently impair cognition” as well as increase the risk of psychiatric disease, such as schizophrenia.
- A study done in 2014 by Harvard/Northwestern found that youth who used marijuana recreationally “showed significant abnormalities” in two regions of the brain important to motivation and emotion.
- A follow-up study done by Harvard/Northwestern, again in 2014, found that marijuana use during the teen years “reduces gray matter” in parts of the brain linked to emotional and motivational processing.
- NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reported in a 2014 summary of a Duke University Study that individuals who started smoking marijuana heavily during their teenaged years lost an average of 8 IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38-years old. The long-term study also showed-up that the cognitive abilities which had been lost “were not fully restored” in these individuals who had later quit smoking the drug as adults.
The Health Risks
Were it so that damage to the mind was not enough reason to change the course of marijuana legalization this nation has engaged upon, there are health risks to be taken into account as well.
- A Canadian public health agency which did a review of scientific literature in 2013 reported “a number of in vitro” studies (in an artificial environment outside a living organism) which presented “strong evidence” that smoke generated by burning cannabis “is carcinogenic” (causing, or tending to cause cancer).
- Another study done in 2014 found that the use of marijuana during pregnancy was capable of impeding the development of a baby’s brain.
- The Journal of the American Heart Association study in 2014 reported marijuana causes diseases in the arteries and heart attacks—even amongst the young.
Proponents of marijuana legalization and its use apparently would like to dismiss all the study-based facts regarding the damages of pot by pointing-out its use is being legalized solely for adults. But as has been demonstrated by experience with alcohol and cigarettes and the legal-age limits imposed by law, there remains the fact that wider availability will affect underage youth.
There is also the black market which is an ever-present part of drugs and drug dealing; and those without scruples or regard for the law will likely direct their attention to a potentially lucrative teen market; making marijuana accessible to youth who want to buy and use.
In Colorado, one of the first to legalize marijuana for recreational use, a University of Colorado Denver youth-addiction researcher reported daily seeing the acute effects of the marijuana legalization policy. He noted his clinic is being “inundated with young people” seeking marijuana-addiction treatment. In commenting upon Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, researcher Dr. Christian Thurstone, said “our kids are paying a great price”.
The Writing on the Wall
Unless we face the study-based and long-term consequences of legalizing a drug which has been scientifically shown to cause damage to the mind and health, we will continue our downward spiral towards a less- educated people; a less-capable people; a less-employable people; and a diminished quality of life for us all.
Like a runaway train, our society is hurtling towards a drug-induced demise. As one great philosopher penned, “Death is a soft-footed thing.”