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The Effects of Chronic Marijuana Use among Young Adults

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Over the years, the number of young adult marijuana users has skyrocketed. Previous studies have shown, “Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug among Americans aged 12 and above, with 14.4 million past month users.” (as cited in SAMHSA, 2008, p. 995). Marijuana use starts in adolescence and spans young adulthood into middle adulthood. The numbers of young adult users are increasing. To understand the physiological, psychological, physiologically, cognitive and, behavioral adverse effects of chronic marijuana use among young adult, this paper analyzes the empirical evidence on the adverse health effects of marijuana use.

Early work in the marijuana field identified several common expectancies regarding marijuana, including cognitive/behavioral impairment, relaxation/tension reduction, and social/sexual facilitation (as cited by Schafer & Brown, 1991). Previous studies in the area of marijuana use examined neuro-cognitive dysfunction, psychological, and behavioral aspects as it relates to public the health effects of current and past regular use, and marijuana users and non users. Positive effects among users have influenced the degree of use when used for the first time.  Research conducted on chronic marijuana uses resulted with lower cognitive functioning, specifically if use begins before 16 years of age. TCH and nicotine are components of marijuana, and if young adults use marijuana on a consistent basis, can possibly lead to negative long-term effects biologically, socially, and cognitively.

The Effects of Chronic Marijuana Use among Young Adults

Marijuana has potentially negative effects upon the circulatory system as it triggers different kinds of cardiovascular problems. Recent studies have found marijuana as the causal factor of atrial fibrillation (AF) (Korantzopoulos, Papaioannides, and Goudevenos, 2007, p. 308). AF is one of the cardiovascular problems caused by consuming marijuana. “AF, even in its paroxysmal form, is no longer considered a ‘benign’ arrhythmia as it is independently associated with excessive cardiovascular morbidity and mortality” (Korantzopoulos, Papaioannides, and Goudevenos, 2007, p. 308). It is important for the physicians to know the relation between AF and marijuana so that patients suffering from palpitations, syncope, and dizziness because of consumption of marijuana can be carefully investigated. The exact clinical implications of the relation between consumption of marijuana and AF are not known, and its incidence among the public is underestimated. There needs to be conducted more research to reveal the pathophysiological , clinical, and epidemiological factors of AF. 

Low doses of marijuana are not much less harmful in effects upon health. When smoke in small doses, marijuana causes the blood pressure in the supine position to slightly increase while it undergoes a slight decline when the individual stands up. This causes the cardiac output to change. The increased heart rate induces increase in the cardiac output. The decrease in oxygen carrying capacity, along with these alterations, creates an imbalance in myocardial oxygen supply and demand. Angina attacks are more likely to occur as a result of this. Chronic cannabis syndrome is a possible detrimental health consequence of marijuana usage. Amotivational syndrome is another term for chronic cannabis syndrome. Chronic cannabis syndrome reduces a user’s ability to set goals for themselves and do what is necessary to achieve them. As a result, they are employed in occupations with minimal cognitive demands. During puberty, the brain’s neural development is completed.

The heterogeneity or homogeneity of young adult marijuana users is a matter of subjective opinion. There is also a vacuum in the research on the context in which marijuana is used, how it is used, and if it is taken with other drugs or alcohol, and if so, which substances (Bonn-Miller, and Zvolensky, 2009, p. 409). People who smoke cigarettes and use marijuana are at a much higher risk of suffering the negative psychological and physical effects of marijuana usage due to respiratory problems. Bonn-Miller and Zvolensky (2009) investigated the variations in marijuana usage among teenagers who rely on, use, or abuse the drug. Bonn-Miller and Zvolensky (2009) discovered a broad but non-uniform relationship between severe marijuana use and problematic use patterns, greater rates of drug addiction, and increased desire to use marijuana for various reasons as a consequence of their study.

Marijuana is the most frequently used substance among Americans aged 12 and above (Hayaki at al., 2010, p. 997). The majority of drug experimentation does not lead to addiction, but long-term marijuana use causes a slew of mental and physical health issues among users (Pujazon-Zazik and Park, 2009, p. 265). There is a difference in the start of experimenting between males and girls. Males begin experimenting considerably sooner than females, according to the 2007 YRBSS study (Pujazon-Zazik and Park, 2009, p. 265). 33 per cent of the male students in the 9th grade have tried marijuana whereas the percentage of female students in the same grade in 22. Likewise, 11 per cent of the male students of high school give marijuana a try before turning 13, whereas the percentage of female students of high school that do the same is 5.2 (Pujazon-Zazik and Park, 2009, p. 265). Anderson et al. (2010) conducted research to assess the effects of acute use of marijuana on the cognition of 35 women and 35 men. They found a greater willingness among the women to quite using marijuana as compared to men. Also, the effects of marijuana on the cognition of women were found to be more pronounced as compared to men. This suggests that women generally have a lower tendency to use marijuana as compared to men, though the effects on women are more severe than men.

There are many negative effects of use of marijuana on an individual’s psychology. Psychological effects of marijuana include but are not limited to anxiety and depression, anger, irritation, agitation, and social exclusion. (Hayatbakhsh et al., 2007) conducted a research to find the association between frequency of use or the age of first consumption of cannabis and anxiety and depression. To achieve this, (Hayatbakhsh et al., 2007) included 3239 Australian young adults in a cohort study ranged over 21 years starting from the birth. The researchers measured the confounding factors first at the birth of the children and later when they reached 14 years of age. The researchers found increase in the likelihood of reporting the symptoms of anxiety and depression in the early adulthood in the research participants who had started using cannabis before turning 15 and had continued to consume it at the age of 21 years, when the confounding factors were controlled for.  The risk was found to be equally significant for the research participants who had only consumed cannabis and others who had consumed it with some illicit drugs. This led to the conclusion that there is no effect of family or background upon the development of symptoms of anxiety and depression in young adults, though early-onset and continued consumption of cannabis is definitely related to the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Hayaki et al. (2010) conducted a research to find the link between the frequency and severity of the marijuana use and its endorsement expectancies. To achieve this, the researchers included experienced and current consumers of marijuana who had no intention of leaving marijuana. The association between the endorsement expectancies of marijuana and its frequency and severity of use was also studied in young females. The research was conducted upon women between 18 and 24 years of age from primary care clinics, community health centers, community businesses, and college campuses. As a result of their research, Hayaki et al. (2010) found that marijuana users who have particular views about marijuana use are increasingly at the risk of developing clinically significant problems related to the use of marijuana. This may be due to the fact that marijuana users who have strong opinions about the drug tend to overestimate its negative health consequences. Young individuals, particularly young women, are a particularly high-risk category of marijuana users.

Lee, Neighbors, and Woods (2007) attempted to recognize the motives behind the use of marijuana from the perspectives of high school graduates that used marijuana. The intention of the researchers was to examine the self-generated reasons for the use of marijuana among the high school graduates so that the link between those motives and the use of marijuana and it consequences could be assessed. In total, six motives were included in the research. It was found that sex or ethnicity do not account for any unique variance upon the motives. The largest unique variance proportion was found to be experimentation, followed by “coping, habit, altered perception, enjoyment, and activity enhancement” (Lee, Neighbors, and Woods, 2007, p. 5). A vast majority of the research participants expressed such reasons for using marijuana as fun, enjoyment, social inclusion, experimentation, reducing boredom, conformity, and regulating anxiety. Lee, Neighbors, and Woods (2007) found a disparity in the frequency and severity of problems arising from the use of marijuana for experimentation and for other purposes including for enjoyment, and social inclusion. More severe problems arose when marijuana was consumed for reasons other than experimentation. This can be attributed to the fact that an individual does not consume marijuana as frequently when the intention is just to experiment than when the intention of the user is to enjoy it.

There is lack of abilities within the relevant cognitive domains before the use of marijuana while determining its effects on neurocognition. Fried and Gray (2004) conducted a research to investigate the effects of past and present marijuana use in the young adult research participants for whom, the performance before use of marijuana was ascertained longitudinally. The researchers categorized the users into current, former, and regular users. Urinalysis and self-report suggested the categorization of the current and former users as light and heavy, whereas half of the regular users of marijuana were found to be heavy. The researchers assessed the users for IQ, processing speed, attention, vocabulary, memory, and abstract reasoning ability. Fried and Gray (2004) found that the current regular heavy users of marijuana had a significantly low IQ, memory, and processing speed. On the other hand, no cognitive impairments were noticed among the former users of marijuana. This led the researchers to the conclusion that the residual effects of use of marijuana are evident in the current heavy users beyond the acute period of intoxication after the consideration of the pre-drug performance. However, the deficits were found to recede after the regular use of marijuana was terminated for at least three months. This speaks of the fact that it is possible to improve the symptoms of conditions resulting from the marijuana use if its use is terminated. Fried and Gray (2004) did not notice the negative impact of marijuana use among its former heavy users as much as they were evident in the current users of marijuana. Findings of the research conducted by Fried and Gray (2004) compliment those drawn by several researchers including (Pujazon-Zazik and Park, 2009) and (Hayatbakhsh et. Al, 2007) who have emphasized upon the intensity of negative health effects of marijuana use at a younger age than at the later stages in life. “The existence of these relationships between adolescent use and psychosocial outcomes remain contentious because of the possibility that the associations are due to residual confounding rather than cannabis use” (Hall and Lynskey, 2009, p. 59).

There is a lot of epidemiological evidence that emphasizes upon the tendency of cannabis to increase the risk of getting caught in road accidents for the drivers if they are intoxicated during driving. Haul and Linskey (2009) have discussed a whole range of biological effects of marijuana use, which include cannabis dependence syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases. The effects of use of marijuana also depend upon the frequency and duration of smoking.  Regulars smokers of marijuana suffer from impaired respiratory function. People who smoke marijuana on the daily basis for a fairly long period of time increase their susceptibility to acquiring respiratory cancer. Heavy users of marijuana are exposed to the risk of developing the psychotic symptoms, particularly if they have a family history of such conditions. Cannabis is known to be a causal factor of a whole range of diseases that include but are not limited to psychotic symptoms, respiratory disorders, dependence and addiction, and psychological disorders particularly in the young adults (Haul and Linskey, 2009, p. 258). Academic performance of the adolescent and young adult users of marijuana declines and their susceptibility to taking other kinds of illicit drugs is increased manifolds.

Concluding, marijuana use has a lot of biological, physical, psychological, and social impacts on the life of users, and almost all the effects are negative. The years of adolescence and young adulthood make the most critical period for the prevention of marijuana use by means of intervention since the level of experimentation during these years is generally high. Marijuana usage has been linked to a variety of unfavorable outcomes in adolescents and adults, according to a growing body of research. An early onset of marijuana use has more long-lasting effects on an individual’s life as compared to its use in the later stages in life. Marijuana use increases the risk of a whole range of disorders and diseases including the chronic cannabis syndrome and neuropsychiatric disorders. Boys start taking marijuana earlier than girls in general. Although there have been few studies on the effects of marijuana upon the members of different gender, yet there have been limitations. There is generally a gap in the literature regarding the effects of marijuana upon the members of different genders. The research to date generally speaks of a higher tendency among boys to use marijuana at early stages in life than girls. To date, most of the researches related to the chronic effects of the use of marijuana upon health have made use of adult subjects or animal models. In the future research, more emphasis needs to be placed upon the gender differences while studying the effects of marijuana use. The definitions of the different levels of use need to be more consistent. Research in this area would be enhanced a lot with longitudinal studies that aim at recognizing the trajectories of marijuana use which are immensely harmful for the physical, social, and psychological well-being of the users. Prohibition of cannabis has been commented upon by the critics who draw the attention of the regulatory bodies and law enforcing agencies towards the economic costs incurred in the process of illegalizing marijuana, and the failures of such prohibitions in the past to reduce the use of marijuana. Despite all the laws and illegal status of cannabis, it has conventionally generated a black market, and has increased the risk of exposure of the users to other illicit drugs. Future research needs to identify the factors that have conventionally caused the drug traffickers to escape the hold of the law enforcing agencies. Also, more research needs to be conducted to compare the benefits and risks of illegalizing or legalizing marijuana.

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