In November, a majority of Americans in several states voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Many others also see no harm in its use and negate any adverse effects of this ever more popular drug that revolutionized Western culture in the 1960s.
What are the facts about cannabis? Is it harmful? Does it lead to the use of stronger drugs? Does it affect character and personality? Can it be used in a proper way?
People have grown the Indian hemp plant, from which all cannabis products are made, for use as a hallucinogen for more than 2,000 years. The name “marijuana” comes from the Portuguese word maringuango, meaning “intoxicant.” The plant contains more than 400 known chemicals, many of which by nature are toxic to the human body. One compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (thc), produces psychoactive effects in the brain, usually called highs.
Collectively all drugs extracted from the Indian hemp are called cannabis. All forms of cannabis are hallucinogenic. This distortion of mental perception usually takes effect within minutes. Immediate sensations include increased heart rate, a slight rise in blood pressure, conjunctival vascular congestion, lessened coordination and balance, and a dreamy, unreal state of mind. These sensations peak within the first half hour, and usually wear off after a couple of hours, depending on the amount ingested and the potency of thc.
Unlike alcohol, which contains only one substance, ethanol, and which is eliminated within a few hours, marijuana residues can stay in the body for weeks after the drug is taken.
Today’s Marijuana Use
The real extent of marijuana use is unknown, but all authorities agree it is chronic and widespread. Ninety-five million Americans age 12 and over have experimented with marijuana at least once. In 2002, three out of four users of illicit drugs admitted using marijuana in the 30 days prior. In 2007, a survey showed that 14.4 million individuals in the United States alone had smoked marijuana in the previous 30 days.
Why is it so popular? Youths and even adults often claim that it is an adolescent rite of passage. Many others claim peer pressure as the main reason. One high school girl said she didn’t want her friends to think she was “scared or straight.” In almost all cases, it is a way to express rebellion against established societal norms.
Since the late 1960s, the average age of marijuana users has dropped from 19 to just over 17 at the turn of the century. Under-18 marijuana initiates now make up 67 percent.
A more worrying trend is the drug’s popularization. Marijuana crashed through cultural and moral barriers in the ’60s and continued to gain acceptance and popularity. Today, laudative marijuana myths and glamorization appear in movies, television, magazines and other entertainment. Negative consequences are ignored. Some claim the substance is not only harmless, but actually a good medicine.
Today’s marijuana is more potent than what was used by previous generations. The levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (thc) have increased from less than 1 percent in the mid-1970s to over 6 percent 30 years later. Sinsemilla potency—a form of cannabis produced from the smaller leaves and flowers of the Indian hemp, literally meaning, “without seeds”—increased in the past two decades from 6 percent to more than 13 percent. Some samples contained thc levels of up to 33 percent!
Charas, or hashish, another related form of cannabis made from the resins of the hemp plant, is five to eight times stronger than common marijuana.
A Harmless Herb?
A common claim is that cannabis use is not as harmful as tobacco; it is a comparatively benign natural herb. But cannabis contains many of the same cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco. The amount of tar and carbon-monoxide inhaled by those who smoke marijuana is three to five times greater than among tobacco smokers, regardless of the thc content.
Serious damage to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems can result, often manifested first in chronic coughing, wheezing, bronchitis and obstructed airways. Smoking a relatively small amount of marijuana has the same, if not greater, impact on the respiratory system as smoking 5 to 7 times the amount of cigarettes one after another.
There is no denying that cannabis affects the mind. That is its purpose. It has been directly linked to health, safety, social, behavioral and academic problems. Research has shown a causal relationship that affects concentration and thinking. Attention and learning can be affected for up to 24 hours after using the drug. A study at the University of Iowa showed that people who used marijuana frequently showed deficits in mathematical skills and verbal expression. They also showed selective impairments in memory-retrieval and mental aptitudes. Animals given marijuana in scientific studies have suffered structural damage to the brain.
Like other hallucinogens, cannabis disrupts the flow of chemical neurotransmitters. Its use can lead to increased anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other mental health issues. One study showed that children ages 12 to 17 who smoke marijuana weekly are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than non-users. Recent research showed how the risk of major depression quadruples through cannabis use, and Swedish scientists found a link between marijuana use and an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.
An increasing risk to cannabis users, and the rest of society, is that of driving under the influence. Blood analysis shows 15 percent of trauma patients, injured while driving a car or motorcycle, had smoked marijuana. Another 17 percent had both alcohol and thc in their blood.
Long-term consequences of cannabis use include a tripled risk of illicit drug dependence or abuse, poor job performance, increased absences from work or school, cognitive deficits and lung damage. Lesions to the brain and other brain abnormalities, similar to those caused by long-term abuse of other major drugs, have also been linked to marijuana use.
Many people believe that cannabis use is not addictive. But use indeed can lead to dependency, and heavy users have shown withdrawal symptoms when they have not used the drug for a period of time. Withdrawal symptoms include increased aggression, irritability, anxiety and insomnia.
The releasing of a person’s inhibitions—a scientific expression to describe the loss of control over one’s mind—also leads to increased risky sexual behavior. This indirect consequence of cannabis use causes a host of problems for individuals and society. These ramifications have been linked directly to the age of initiation. The younger the age of initiation of a cannabis user, the more likely he or she will suffer these long-term consequences.
Marijuana use can cause temporary sterility in men, altering the structure of sperm cells, deforming them. It can also upset a woman’s menstrual cycle. Cannabis is one of the few drugs that causes abnormal cell division, which can cause severe hereditary defects.
Use of this drug drastically affects the immune system, reducing resistance to common illnesses.
A Growing Problem
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 40 percent of adult males arrested for crimes tested positive for cannabis at the time of their arrest.
Among adults 26 and older who have used cannabis prior to age 15, 62 percent went on to use cocaine at some point in their lives. Nine percent went on to use heroin at least once, and 54 percent made some non-medical use of mind-altering prescription drugs.
Of all teens entering drug treatment, nearly two thirds are dependent on cannabis. More young people enter with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.
Rather than making people mellow, users showed a four-fold increase in violent and aggressive behavior. Disobedience to authority and destruction of personal or public property can also be directly related to cannabis use.
People take drugs to rid themselves of unwanted situations or feelings. Drugs don’t remove these unwanted conditions—they simply mask the problem for a while. But when the high wears off, their problems reappear, more intensely than before. This often causes users to turn to stronger drugs, since cannabis no longer works.
While providing a short-term escape from pain or reality, the long-term consequences are a poisoning of the body without treating the cause or relieving any of the pain or problems.
Does It Harm?
Intense national and international debate centers around whether marijuana can provide relief for people with certain medical conditions. Yet, as a smoked product, cannabis has never been proven to be medically beneficial, and is, in fact, more likely to harm one’s health than it is to benefit.
The vast majority of scientific studies into the medicinal use of marijuana have been relatively short-term projects aimed at narrow objectives in an attempt to obtain quick results. The medicinal studies look at the treatment (or rather the suppression) of existing conditions or other side-effects often engendered by other synthetic drugs. By definition, a medicinal substance is to have healing properties, but cannabis has never been proven to possess any such properties.
As with any drug, the person who uses a small amount of marijuana may profess an increased sense of well-being in a dreamy, carefree state of relaxation. Cannabis distorts reality and fools the brain into believing it is operating normally, or better, when the opposite is true. Nearly all who use marijuana describe the usual effects in largely pleasurable terms. But the pleasure only lasts until the immediate effects have worn off. The long-term physical and psychological results are not so dreamy or predictable. They differ from person to person with the same amount of the drug and even from occasion to occasion in the same individual.
No matter what dosage is used, this drug is far from a harmless high. Evidence continues to mount on the harmful physical and psychological long-term effects of this pernicious substance.
When taken in stronger doses, marijuana can precipitate psychosis. More than a mere “personality disorder,” psychosis is severe mental derangement.
Why Go to Pot?
What is the reason and missing key-ingredient that has turned so many from living happy, healthy and productive lives to the perceived need to escape reality? We have touched on some supposed reasons why people claim they use cannabis—none of which consider the dulling of their ability to think, however.
Why stick your head in the sand? Blowing your mind through cannabis use has never solved anything. Why should you hurt your body and mind—your most priceless possession?
The answer to why so many turn to marijuana lies in the fundamental principle that mankind has been subjected to Satan’s broadcast of selfishness. Whether admitted or not, human nature is only concerned with what can be done for the self. Such reasoning is an expression of a growing lack of concern for others—or for God.
No matter who unveils the dangers of cannabis, or whatever new facts are uncovered, people will continue to reject any information that takes away this self-pleasure.
Rather than focus on individual liberties, those who voted in favor of legalization should have considered how the use of cannabis affects society, how it shows a lack of concern for others, how it sets a wrong example for younger generations, how it will surge health-care costs.
It is time to quit making excuses and to face reality.
There is a way to face your problems and the realities of this world without the mind-dulling effects of marijuana. If you are willing, you can solve your problems and live a happy life of radiant vitality and purpose. But it requires that you use your mind.
Recognize and understand that there is a cause for every effect. By addressing the cause of every problem and undesirable effect, rather than merely treating the symptoms, you can reap tremendous blessings and rewards.
Many have spoken out against the evils of society, but few have been willing to change their ways, their outlook, values, thoughts and actions to align with God’s. A disposition to help solve society’s problems must begin with your willingness to change and to embrace a totally selfless concern, love and respect for fellow human beings. It must include a crushing of any rebellious spirit.
God is looking for individuals who will cope with any problem by using their minds, combined with the Spirit only He provides, to understand His permanent solutions. That is a mindset that does not run from reality, a spirit that does not fear (Romans 8:15). Will you be a leader whom God can use?
A Physical and Spiritual Sin
Our physical bodies and minds, Scripture reveals, are not our own to abuse as we see fit, or as pleases us. A true Christian is commanded to “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). The physical body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (verse 19). That is the purpose for which God created the human body.
The Bible reveals man’s incredible potential to develop the mind and character of God, with His help. To those who will allow themselves to be molded in that fashion, God promises eternal rulership over His vast creation. Such an almost incomprehensible reward pales into insignificance the fleeting “pleasures of sin” that society offers (Hebrews 11:25).
The power to change the human mind toward this awesome goal comes from God’s Holy Spirit, which God freely gives to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).
Each individual will be rewarded according to how he develops his natural and God-given talents and abilities and how he overcomes sinful pulls (Luke 19:12-27; Revelation 2:26). However, God’s Word also plainly states that drunkards will never enter God’s Kingdom unless they repent (1 Corinthians 6:10). Thayer’s Lexicon renders the Greek word used here as “intoxicated.” Intoxication can result from many other debilitating substances besides alcohol. Those who seek after the mind-altering effects of cannabis, or any other drug, are willfully searching for that intoxication.
Distortion of reality, or the dulling of our motivation or attention, never solves your problems or glorifies God. Instead, mind-altering drugs only destroy human potential.
The yearning for the escape that cannabis provides breaks the Tenth Commandment—it is a lust, a gratifying of the senses and the desires of the flesh. God tells us that the lust of the flesh is sin (Galatians 5:16; 1 John 2:16). As a matter of fact, any wrong desire of the mind is sin. Like with any of the ways of the world, true Christians are not to conform to using this drug (Romans 12:2).
Giving in to lusts never expands our human potential, but destroys it. Calling on God for help in time of need does, and is a real and lasting solution by which we can face any trial (Philippians 4:13).
The Apostle Paul also stated: “… knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:11-14).
This warning urges us to lay aside all forms of intoxication (drunkenness) or unbridled lusts (wantonness), because these prevent entry to God’s Kingdom. Don’t try to slowly reduce your intake. Lay it aside! Throw away all that is related to this vice and never look back.
Conquering existing habits or addictions is no easy feat. The best solution is to never allow yourself to be tempted by these habit-forming vices. But for those who have, and now find themselves unable to stop indulging, remember the power of the spiritual side of problem-solving. Everyone needs God’s help—we all make mistakes (Romans 3:23). Where do we find such help? The Bible tells us to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). You need God’s help to face reality and to vanquish your problems!
Paul knew that every man has a fierce battle with his own nature, society and the powers of Satan. He said that no true Christian had “yet resisted unto blood,striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). Yes, overcoming sin is a struggle; it requires individuals to strive against the pulls of the flesh—to not give in. With God’s help, you can be successful!
God placed mankind on Earth for a fantastic purpose. Drugs like cannabis obliterate the possibility of achieving that full purpose and of glorifying God in your body and mind, which are God’s—not yours! He wants your mind to be free from those debilitating effects so you can have far, far greater experiences!
Sidebar: Pot Today
There are some significant differences between marijuana use of teens and young adults today and that of their parents.
The levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (thc) have increased from less than 1 percent in the mid-1970s, to over 6 percent 30 years later.
The potency of sinsemilla—a form of cannabis produced from the smaller leaves and flowers of the Indian hemp, literally meaning, “without seeds”—increased in the past two decades from 6 percent to more than 13 percent. Some samples contained THC levels of up to 33 percent!
Charas, or hashish, another related form of cannabis made from the resins of the hemp plant is five to eight times stronger than common marijuana.