Beware of “that which appears like nectar at first but is poison at the end.” (Bhagavad Gita 18:38)
Don’t Be Fooled: The Hidden Dangers of Legal Intoxicants
The term “legal intoxicants” might sound harmless, conjuring images of unwinding with a glass of wine or celebrating with a craft beer. But the reality is far more complex. While certain substances have been legalized in some states, their impact on health and well-being can be far from benign. Let’s delve into the hidden dangers lurking within these seemingly innocuous substances, specifically focusing on the detriments of marijuana use.
Beyond the Buzz: The Unseen Threat of Marijuana
Marijuana, often touted for its recreational and medicinal properties, is now legal for recreational use in 21 states and medically in 37 states in the US. However, the “harmless herb” narrative is riddled with holes. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, regular marijuana use can lead to a range of health problems, including:
- Cognitive decline: Studies show chronic marijuana use can impair memory, learning, and attention, particularly in adolescents whose brains are still developing. A 2019 study in JAMA Psychiatry found that regular marijuana use before the age of 25 was associated with lower IQ scores in adulthood.
- Mental health issues: Marijuana use can increase the risk of developing or worsening mental health conditions like psychosis, anxiety, and depression. A 2016 review in the journal Lancet Psychiatry found that cannabis use was associated with a 30% increase in the risk of developing psychosis.
- Addiction and dependence: While marijuana is often considered less addictive than other substances, it can still lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms. A 2019 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that 9% of adults who use marijuana regularly meet the criteria for dependence.
- Respiratory problems: Smoking marijuana can irritate the lungs and increase the risk of respiratory problems like bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A 2019 study in the European Respiratory Journal found that regular marijuana use was associated with a higher risk of developing COPD.
These are just a few of the potential dangers associated with marijuana use. And it’s not just about individual health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana use can also lead to:
- Increased risk of accidents and injuries: Marijuana use can impair coordination and judgment, increasing the risk of accidents, including car crashes and workplace accidents.
- Harm to children and adolescents: Exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke can harm children’s developing brains, and early marijuana use can increase the risk of addiction and other health problems later in life.
Cannabis Can Alter DNA
A study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, found that chemicals in cannabis, including the active ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), alter the user’s DNA, which can cause gene mutations that can increase the risks of diseases.
The authors of an earlier study, Gary Hulse and Albert Stuart Reece from the School of Psychiatry and Clinical Sciences at the University of Western Australia, point to the connection between the use of cannabis and the health risks associated with it and what this may mean for future generations.
The scientists are concerned that even when the user does not develop an illness from gene mutations associated with cannabis use, they can pass the mutation on to their children and grandchildren.
“Even if a mother has never used cannabis in her life, the mutations passed on by a father’s sperm can cause serious and fatal illnesses in their children,” Mr. Reece said in a University of Western Australia media statement on May 24, 2016.
“The parents may not realise that they are carrying these mutations, which can lie dormant and may only affect generations down the track, which is the most alarming aspect.”
Beyond Marijuana: A Spectrum of Risks
Marijuana is just one example of a legal intoxicant with hidden dangers. Other substances, like synthetic cannabinoids and kratom (an opioid substitute), can also pose significant health risks, leading to addiction, organ damage, and even death. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 100,000 emergency department visits related to synthetic cannabinoids, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that kratom can cause seizures, liver damage, and even death.
Detrimental Effects of Marijuana and Derivatives on Memory and Cognitive Ability
The potential negative impacts of marijuana and its derivatives on memory and cognitive ability are a growing concern, particularly with their increasing legalization and decriminalization. Here’s a breakdown of the current research and findings:
- Impaired Short-Term Memory: Studies show that even a single dose of marijuana can impair short-term memory, making it difficult to recall things learned or experienced shortly before.
- Reduced Attention and Processing Speed: Marijuana can affect the brain’s frontal lobe, which is crucial for attention, executive function, and processing speed. This can lead to difficulty focusing, completing tasks efficiently, and making quick decisions.
- Impaired Learning and Consolidation: THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana, can disrupt the brain’s ability to consolidate information into long-term memory, hindering learning and recall.
- Long-Term Cognitive Decline: Regular marijuana use, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood, has been linked to lower IQ scores, poorer academic performance, and cognitive decline in later life.
- Structural Brain Changes: Chronic marijuana use may lead to changes in the brain’s structure, particularly in areas related to memory, learning, and executive function. These changes may persist even after stopping use.
- Increased Risk of Psychosis: In individuals with a pre-existing vulnerability, heavy marijuana use can increase the risk of developing psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.
- Synthetic Cannabinoids: These man-made compounds, often much stronger than THC in marijuana, pose even greater risks to cognitive function, potentially causing severe memory impairment, confusion, and hallucinations.
Moving Forward with Awareness About “Legal Intoxicants”:
Legalization does not imply safety. It’s crucial to approach all intoxicants, legal or not, with caution and informed awareness. Open conversations about the potential dangers, particularly with young people, are essential.
Among modern would-be yogis there is often a casual approach to intoxicants. We hope this is an alarm to warn spiritual aspirants from such dissipation.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- European Respiratory Journal
- The Epoch Times