Dr Oz: Effects Of Marijuana On The Brain
Dr. Oz tackled a very controversial topic today: legalizing marijuana. Thus far, 21 states have legalized medical marijuana, and two states have legalized the drug for recreational use. However, the myths and rumors surrounding marijuana use can make it very difficult to choose a side on the issue of legalization. What are the effects of marijuana on the brain? Is it really a “gateway” drug? And finally, is marijuana addictive?
According to Dr. Oz, 111 million people have tried marijuana at least once, 31 million people have used it in the past year, and 19 million people admit to using marijuana regularly. These are staggering numbers, but we still don’t know much about the science surrounding marijuana use.
Marijuana contains THC, a substance that targets many different areas of the brain: reward, memory, concentration, coordination, and time perception. When someone smokes weed, their airways become inflamed and blood vessels dilate, raising their heart rate (that’s why users will often have bloodshot eyes).
Dr Oz: Is Smoking Weed Addictive?
So, the question remains: Is smoking weed addictive? To help sort fact from fiction, Dr. Oz invited two experts on opposing sides of the issue. Psychologist Dr. Carl Hart has been studying the effects of marijuana use for 15 years, and doesn’t believe that marijuana use is dangerous, especially when compared to other more harmful substances that are legal. Dr. Paula Riggs, director of Division of Substance Dependance at the University of Colorado, believes that marijuana can have many negative effects on the brain and body, particularly in young people.
Dr. Hart made some interesting points about addiction as a whole. Substances like caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol are extremely addictive, yet we don’t ban these substances. In high doses, tobacco and alcohol are certainly deadly. So while marijuana may be potentially addictive, the drug will never be as harmful as these other legal substances.
Dr Oz: Marijuana Withdrawal
Dr. Riggs said that chronic pot users will experience anxiety, difficulty sleeping, stomach problems, and decreased appetite if they stop using the drug. However, Dr. Hart pointed out that withdrawal from marijuana is not life-threatening, while withdrawal from alcohol can be.
Dr. Oz spoke with an audience member, Christina, who began smoking pot at the age of 16. After finding that her drug use started interfering with her daily life, she entered rehab voluntarily. When she got there, no one took her addiction seriously, because they didn’t believe it was possible to be addicted to marijuana.
Dr. Riggs jumped in and said that in young adults, especially, there are many negative neurological effects associated with marijuana. There’s a 6-8 point reduction in IQ as an adult, which doesn’t ever go away.
On the flip side, Dr. Hart claimed that anything in high doses is going to be bad for you. Tobacco, alcohol, and even aspirin are all toxic substances when taken too frequently. If his sons wanted to smoke pot, he said he wouldn’t be too concerned about the drug use. What’s more important is making sure they reached their goals of getting into college and becoming responsible members of society.
Dr Oz: Final Thoughts on Marijuana
Dr. Oz offered a balanced view on this issue. As a physician, he knows that medical marijuana plays a valuable therapeutic role. However, he does believe that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction, but also recognizes that caffeine and tobacco addiction are also harmful. Dr. Oz suggests that everyone be aware of both the potential risks and benefits of marijuana.