Today´s post is by guest writer, Allison Gamble.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal substance in the United States, and the most controversial as well. While some people argue from a forensic psychology standpoint it's an addictive drug that leads to the use of much more addictive and harmful substances, others point to studies that emphasize the exemplary safety profile of the substance. For many people who use it for medicinal or recreational purposes, the perceived benefits outweigh the potential risks. A careful analysis of existing data is needed to determine whether the war on this particular drug is justified.
According to estimates by the University of California Los Angeles, around one fifth of the adult American population has smoked marijuana within the past year, and two to three percent use it on a daily basis. Some people use this drug for its health benefits, which have just begun to be discussed in scientific literature, but include the reduction of nausea and the relief of pain.
The National Academies Press has put together a comprehensive review of the effects of marijuana. It notes studies involving the use of marijuana for cancer pain showed significant pain relief, and when used in conjunction with chemotherapy (which often induces severe nausea) over half of patients were better able to eat and keep down food. Additionally, many patients reported feeling happier and less anxious.
Marijuana has been noted to be effective in treating the pain of several other medical conditions. These include chronic pain, especially when paired with insomnia, due to marijuana's sedative effects; migraine headaches; pain originating from the nerves or due to spinal cord injury; and pain related to HIV/AIDS or its associated therapies. Newer studies suggest marijuana may even exhibit anti-cancer properties. For of these reasons, 16 states have seen fit to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes, and voters in several other states are considering doing so.
Marijuana is frequently compared to alcohol in terms of recreational use. Similarly to alcohol, many people report feeling euphoria and disinhibition after using this drug. Unlike alcohol, however, marijuana does not have a known lethal dose, and the likelihood of harmful physical effects or addiction is actually quite low. In fact, studies are inconclusive as to whether marijuana is even addictive at all. To date, there have been no known fatalities due to overdose of marijuana, and even reports that solely focus on the adverse effects of the drug note it generally has a good safety profile when compared to other recreational drugs.
Although there is a growing acceptance of the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, with up to 73 percent of the population supporting its use as a painkiller and anti-nausea drug, far fewer Americans support outright legalization. State laws that allow this drug to be used as medication conflict with federal laws that keep it completely illegal, and have led to federal raids on dispensaries around the nation, even if no charges were filed. Only further research into the specific benefits and risks posed by this plant will allow Americans to make an informed decision as to whether it should continue to be illegal, or if the war on marijuana should finally be ended.
Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing.