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The number of people enrolled in marijuana treatment and rehabilitation programs has surged, approximately tripling from 1992 to 2002. The government uses this statistic to argue marijuana is addictive and that current strains of the drug have become more potent. Proponents of marijuana legalization disagree, arguing that the rise in enrollment in these programs reflects people being forced into them by court rulings.
This controversy has rekindled debates as to whether marijuana is indeed addictive, and what effects it has on the body.
Marijuana, derived from the plant Cannabis sativa, gets most of its psychoactive potency from a compound called THC, which mimics a naturally occurring molecule called anandamide, a name derived from the Sanskrit word for 'bliss' because of its euphoric effects. THC acts on existing receptors in the brain, unlike cocaine, alcohol and other related drugs, which act by disrupting brain processes.
Minutes after the drug is ingested, THC molecules fit into these receptors and stimulate a genetic response in the body to make more receptors. This genetic component of marijuana use explains why different people experience different effects from marijuana, and why many users don't get "high" the first time they try it, but feel the effect becoming more pronounced with subsequent use.
But is marijuana addictive in the way, say, alcohol or cigarettes can be?
It would depend on your definition of addiction, said Charles Landry, UW-Madison assistant professor of psychiatry. Quoting the American Psychiatric Association, Landry said a person is defined as an addict when he feels compelled to take the drug, when he has trouble limiting his intake and when he suffers withdrawal symptoms without the drug.
Mark Marnocha, a UW-Madison clinician and consultant for alcohol and drug abuse treatment facilities, added, "The degree of addictiveness of marijuana or any other drug depends in part on the user's genetics and emotional state, and also upon how quickly and pleasurably the drug alters brain functions." The link between addiction and one's genes, specifically, has been demonstrated via twin studies where both siblings showed an affinity for marijuana and its specific effects on their bodies.
So, as with alcoholism, a person may be genetically predisposed to abuse marijuana. However, a marijuana user experiences less severe withdrawal symptoms than an alcoholic does during detoxification. The withdrawal effects of alcohol are potentially fatal. Defined by Marnocha as the "temporary and unpleasant destabilizing of the nervous system" that arises after ceasing use, marijuana withdrawal has some unpleasant effects, but is not life-threatening.
Once the withdrawal symptoms cease, Marnocha said, the marijuana craving "is generally more of a long-term problem. ... Craving is a result of memory and learning, and represents the strong anticipatory reactions set off by memories or reminders or rituals and situations which are associated with use."
While casual users can quit without much discomfort, heavy users that had highly euphoric and anxiety-reducing experiences with marijuana may be overwhelmed by this craving and relapse.
According to Marnocha, it does seem that most marijuana nowadays is stronger than was marijuana available in the 1960s. This could be, another potential cause for the increase in the number of people currently receiving treatment since those users "who find intense euphoria or pain reduction in marijuana use could progress more quickly to very high levels of marijuana ... more rapidly than earlier generations of users."
According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 57 percent of patients in treatment facilities were sent there by court orders in 1999, versus 48 percent in 1993.
oh for gods sake how many times can the scientists tell people that pot isnt addicting, at least not physically. The rise in "addicts" going to clinics is because A/ their parents/family forced them to go, or B/ a court did.
-------------------- "Religion without science is blind, Science without religion is lame." Albert Einstein
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