The decriminalization of marijuana has been a slow uphill battle for proponents of legalization, but it appears to be paying off. After last week’s elections, there are now 10 American states that allow recreational use of marijuana and 33 states that have legalized medicinal use.
At the federal level, marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance, on the list alongside heroin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), and peyote. While the FDA has shown no signs of legalizing marijuana, many are asking the question of whether or not the U.S. will follow Canada’s lead in decriminalizing marijuana usage, either for recreational or medicinal uses.
Proponents often cite a lack of physically addictive properties present in marijuana and relatively low risk of other side-effects associated with its use. But according to a recent report from NBC News, marijuana may have worse consequences for users than initially thought. While marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, experts are warning that its consumption is not without consequences.
According to recent polls, more than half of Americans have at least tried marijuana at some point in their lives, with around 35 million people considering themselves regular users. Experts say such regular usage may be associated with more serious withdrawal symptoms and addictive properties than originally believed.
NBC’s report points to a data analyst from the Mayo Clinic named Nathaniel Warner who dealt with marijuana addiction for years before seeking help. According to him, the effects of regular marijuana usage were much more debilitating than what is commonly associated with the drug.
“I was hopeless. I realized that this lifestyle of being miserable and getting high was never going to change. I didn’t want to go through a 30- to 40-year cycle of going to work and coming home and getting high. I didn’t see an escape from that. That kind of shook me.”
Drug policy researcher Jonathan Caulkins is also a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and says Warner’s experience isn’t all that uncommon and is associated with “marijuana use disorder.”
“Marijuana — at least as now used in the United States — creates higher rates of behavioral problems, including dependence, among all its users.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that around 30 percent of marijuana users have dependencies concurrent with marijuana use disorder and research is showing that evidence of addiction to marijuana, while not a devastating as addiction to opiates or alcohol, is becoming more prominent as studies continue.