Marijuana Is a Controlled Substance…Lacking in Controlled, Scientific Research
Before we start, we should note that a whole lot more research needs to be
done in this area. Although marijuana has been used for centuries as a medicine
and as an inebriant (it’s even mentioned in the Old Testament several times as “kaneh-bosem”), we don’t know a great deal about the health effects of using it. That’s because there haven’t been many controlled studies on it, due to the way marijuana is classified by the federal government
The Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug
defined as the most dangerous of all drug schedules, with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” (Fun fact: heroin, ecstasy, and LSD
are also Schedule I drugs, but cocaine and meth are considered less dangerous Schedule II drugs.) As such, to do clinical research with marijuana, you need a license from the DEA and your study approved by the FDA, and to obtain research-grade marijuana, you have to go through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Popu;ar science explains Otherwise, since it’s federally illegal to have it (even in states that have legalized marijuana), researchers working in hospitals, colleges, or other institutions that receive federal funding risk losing their funds
to do this research.
There have long been movements to reclassify it and open up the
doors for more studies, but, for now, here’s what we do know about it
and our health.
Marijuana Doesn’t Seem to Have a Long-Term Effect on Memory and Concentration
The short-term effects of marijuana are generally felt within a few minutes,
peak within 30 minutes, and wear off after about two or three hours. The bigger question is: what happens if we use it more regularly, or are occasional
but heavy users? Are there permanent cognitive and other health changes? Do
we all turn into The Dude from the Big Lebowski?
Working memory: Several studies likewise found no residual or long-term effects
on working memory. A 2002 study for example, tested 77 heavy smokers for days after abstaining from smoking pot. Memory impairment was found for heavy users
up to 7 days after using marijuana, but by day 28 their memory test results didn’t differ significantly from control subjects. In other words, even if your memory is affected when you smoke up, after you stop it will likely go back to normal with time.
It Is More Dangerous for Teens
The chances of getting addicted to marijuana increase if you’re a daily user or
if you start when you’re a teen. According to the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, its addiction goes up to about 17 percent in those who start
using young (in their teens) and to 25 to 50 percent among daily users.