The rise of daily marijuana smokers has some people worried.

First, alcohol was a “sin drug” in America, so much so that there was a Constitutional amendment at one time that banned commercial sale and import of alcohol in the country. The speakeasies and Al Capone were born.

Later, the risk was the nicotine in cigarettes.  Cigarettes were glamorized in the movies in the 1930s through 1970s, and only when there was a health craze and long-term effects of cigarette smoking were emblazoned on our television screens for all to see in graphic detail, did some behaviors change.

Now marijuana may be starting a new health crisis. What are the characteristics that these three have in common?  As their use became legal, regulated and more prevalent, the health crisis and public health concerns rose to epidemic levels.

Are problems with Marijuana on Rise?

In nearly 25 states, marijuana use of some kind (whether for medical or recreational reasons) is being allowed. And there are more states every year that are considering legalization on a ballot measure.   As more of these states take up the question of legalization of marijuana, there is mounting research that suggests marijuana, while “not as harmful” as other drugs, including nicotine and alcohol, may still have addictive qualities that could lead to dependence.

As more people smoke weed, more people are going to become addicted and need to learn how to quit.

It’s About Volume

Those who advocate for the legalization of marijuana love to use the statistic that only about 9 percent of people who use marijuana will actually develop an addiction or dependence on it. Maybe if only 100 people used, and about nine of them get addicted, that might not be a big deal.  The number jumps up to 1 in 6 people who start smoking as adolescents or before their brains are fully developed.

But here we are talking about scale. Imagine 9 percent of 10 million users, or 9 percent of 100 million users. Do you think that having 900,000 addicts or 9 million addicts is not a big deal? As marijuana gets legalized, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be more people who struggle with their marijuana use but can’t find a way to quit or can’t get through their withdrawal symptoms.

As the marijuana industry matures and spends its profits on marketing and advertising, it will reach new users who have the potential to become addicted.



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