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Did you know that the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. #1 among 17 European and North American countries for its use of marijuana. Not a placement to be proud of, but this is where we are. The National Institute on Drug Abuse 2009 national survey reported that more than 104 million Americans over the age of 12 had tried it at least once. And, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, 38% of Americans admitted to having tried the drug. Now that Colorado and Washington have paved the way to making it legal, American tolerance for it seems to spreading.

Advocates for marijuana use rally behind its medicinal affects. It is known to stimulate a person’s appetite, which helps patients with AIDS and cancer regain the desire to eat. It also helps to alleviate the nausea and vomiting that comes along with chemotherapy treatments, helping to keep weight on during a time when many people drop pounds. It’s also known to decrease pressure in the eyes, which is a benefit to glaucoma patients and calms down tremors and spasticity in individuals with muscle issues. And, the overall benefit that consumers across the board report is that it helps to treat all kinds of pain. Marijuana supporters claim it is a healthier and less addictive way to alleviate back or joint pain then taking prescription medicine like Oxycontin.

Because of the partial legalization, there is a huge perception, especially amongst teens, that marijuana is a safe and enjoyable way to relax without any harm. This is especially true in the Washington and Colorado where it’s not uncommon to for young people to see adults over the age of 21 smoking it legally at home. A friend living in Lakewood, Colorado has told us numerous stories about his 15-year-old daughter going over to friend’s houses to study or hang out and being exposed to the parent’s partaking in it as a way to unwind after work.

The truth is that smoking marijuana is not safe for young people. The brain isn’t fully matured until around the age of 25 and up until this time, marijuana usage can have detrimental affects on the brain’s development. Studies show that teens that use marijuana have lower IQ scores and that it impairs critical thinks for multiple days after use. So, if a teenager uses it on the weekend, the repercussions can hurt test scores and productivity at school until mid-week. The New England Journal of Medicine also reports that the earlier someone begins to smoke, the higher the risk for overall addiction. The risk of addiction goes from about 1 in 11 who try it as adults, to about 1 in 6 who begin as teens.

Both teens and adults feel other negative effects of marijuana like impaired decision making skills, which can lead to unsafe sex, speeding or indulging in other risky behaviors. It slows motor skills and makes you more uncoordinated so if you get behind the wheel of a car you more than double your risk of getting into an accident. And, its bad for the lungs and frequent users can experience an increase in respiratory problems. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse some research shows that marijuana smoke contains about 70% more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke.

While it might relax you in the short-run, in the long run it contributes to apathy, sleepiness, inability to focus, trouble learning and retaining new information and an overall lack of motivation. This is a recipe for disaster that no healthy, successful person should follow. With this knowledge, if you know anyone who is headed this direction, the earlier you seek help, the better.

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