As marijuana stigma drops, addiction rates will rise

Legalizing marijuana for adults will leave more teens at risk for addiction

By Leila Salam

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W

ith the 2020 presidential campaigns fully underway, each candidate is showcasing their brand-new shiny policy plans. Some of the most controversial plans concern federal legalization of marijuana.

While there are many benefits to legalization, we should not forget: marijuana is a drug. Just like any other drug, it is harmful to young and developing brains and can be extremely addictive.

Illustration by Leila Salam
California has openly embraced the legalization of marijuana through the use of ads and billboards; is federal legalization next?

It is dangerous to assume that legalization will not come with its consequences. According to surveys done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, making marijuana legal will only make the drug more available to teens who are the most vulnerable to its harmful effects.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most commonly used drug after alcohol in the United States, by both teens and adults. 

Approximately 23 percent of twelfth graders use the drug, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These numbers are only expected to increase if marijuana is legalized nationwide.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, teens argue that using the drug is okay because it is “natural.” However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, not all natural plant substances are good for you. 

Many highly addictive and even deadly substances such as heroin and cocaine also come from plants. Some of the dangerous effects of this “natural” drug include: difficulty in thinking and problem solving, problems with memory and learning, impaired coordination and difficulty maintaining attention. 

Smoking marijuana can lead to a decline in school performance, an increased risk of mental health issues as well as impaired driving. These effects can really take a toll on the lives of teens.

The biggest risk when using marijuana, however, is the possibility of addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teens are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a drug problem.

The biggest problem is that teens no longer view marijuana as the dangerous drug that it is. As the stigma around marijuana use reduces, more teens in this country will become addicted.

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