As marijuana is increasingly legalized for recreational and medicinal purposes throughout the United States, many Americans want to know: Is marijuana safe?
There is no simple answer to the question when it comes to the general public. Some people are able to safely use marijuana to effectively treat their pain while others may struggle with marijuana addiction. Nevertheless, the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, just made an announcement regarding marijuana use among children, teens and pregnant women: no amount of the drug is safe for these groups.
Marijuana Use on the Rise
While it might seem obvious that any substance would be harmful to pregnant women and developing children, there has long been a preconception that marijuana is not harmful. Researchers now know this is not the case and with the rise of marijuana use by both children and pregnant women, the surgeon general felt that it was necessary to make this statement clear.
There has been a rise in teen marijuana use in recent years. As weed has become increasingly more potent, it’s also become legal in many states — normalizing the drug and reducing the stigma around using the drug.
Perhaps this trend is why more pregnant women are using marijuana. In 2002, only about 5.7% of pregnant women reported using marijuana in the first trimester. By 2017, however, this number more than doubled to 12.7%.
Is Marijuana Safe for Children and Teens?
The human brain continues to develop even into the mid-20s and is vulnerable to the effects of addictive substances.
Studies have shown that frequent marijuana use can impair learning, reduce IQ and make changes in areas of the brain that are responsible for attention, memory, decision-making and motivation. Marijuana is also linked to the onset of psychotic disorders and is associated with the use of other addictive substances.
What about vaporizing marijuana? Is edible marijuana safe? Because these products still contain THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, the answer is the same: no amount of marijuana — regardless of the form — is safe for children, teens and young adults as they continue to develop.
Is Marijuana Safe During Pregnancy?
It’s commonly known that smoking is bad for the unborn baby, but many people perceive weed as being relatively harmless. Is marijuana safe during pregnancy? What about medical marijuana?
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, based on a wealth of research, no amount of marijuana is safe during pregnancy. Marijuana can affect the developing fetus, disrupting healthy brain development. Anything a mother consumes will enter her bloodstream and then travel to the unborn child. This means that no marijuana — regardless if it’s for medical purposes, vaped or an edible — is safe. Additionally, marijuana use should still be avoided after giving birth for mothers who breastfeed.
The Risk of Marijuana Addiction Is Growing
For a long time, people have perceived marijuana to be a safe drug and there is a myth that weed is not habit-forming. Today, we know better and it’s well established that marijuana is an addictive drug. About 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted to the drug, and that rate increases for people who began using as adolescents.
Marijuana, like any drug that can interact with and alter neurotransmitters in the brain, has addictive qualities. The rising potency of marijuana makes the problem of addiction and dependence to the drug more likely.
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Aubrey, Allison. “Surgeon General Sounds Alarm on Risk of Marijuana Addiction and Harm.” NPR News, August 29, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019.
Kounang, Nadia. “Overall teen drug use stable, but marijuana edging up, survey finds.” CNN, December 14, 2017. Accessed September 27, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Is marijuana addictive?” Accessed September 27, 2019.
U.S. Department of Human and Health Services. “U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain.” Accessed September 27, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Is it possible for someone to become addicted to marijuana?” Accessed September 27, 2019.