By Daniel M Manson
While most people know that street drugs like cocaine, heroin and meth can kill you, many also think that marijuana is a "safe drug" and it really isn't a big deal if you use it. For years, the greatest threat from marijuana was perceived to be its tendency to be a "gateway drug." According to Dictionary.com, gateway drugs change your mood and bring about a high, but they don't cause physical dependence. Recent studies have shown that, while marijuana may not cause a physical dependence, it can harmfully affect your body.
Studies on Marijuana Safety
For example, studies by the British Lung Foundation show that smoking cannabis brings four times more tar into yourlungs than smoking regular tobacco cigarettes does. Smoking a single joint every day for a year is approximately equal to smoking twenty cigarettes every day for the same length of time. To simplify this, you are twenty times more likely to get lung cancer from smoking marijuana than you are to get it from smoking cigarettes.
Furthermore, marijuana can be harmful to our youth. The brain does not stop developing when you hit puberty or graduate high school. It continues to grow and develop well into your twenties, according to BBC News in a study on cannabis health risks. The lack of physical dependence does not reflect on the mental dependence upon the drug. Researchers studied over 120 people and how cannabis affects their brains. The results: the drug can develop a tendency for addictive behavior later in life.
How Marijuana Works in the Brain
Here's how it works: marijuana, like any drug, interacts with the brain. The specific receptors in the brain that marijuana interacts with are designed to help you learn, manage things, control your body, etc. Your brain mimics your body in that it grows a lot during your adolescence. It is developing the patterns and functionality that you will have for life. When drugs interact with your brain, they alter the natural design of brain development. Marijuana is no exception. When you abuse a substance, it makes an observable difference in how your brain develops, in this case increasing addictive tendencies.
Can Marijuana Still Be a Gateway
Of course, all of this proof of the physical problems cannabis causes does not negate the fact that it is still a gateway drug. The downside of using marijuana is not so rapidly or visibly apparent as heroin or cocaine, which will leave you looking older, bags under your eyes, spots on your skin, teeth often falling apart or rotting in your mouth. So people still consider it to be "safe" for them to use. Once they realize that this drug, which the government and so many other people are so clearly against, isn't really that harmful, they may be tempted to try other drugs. After all, a drug is a drug, and an addiction is an addiction. The craving wants to be satisfied, it doesn't care what it takes.
Before taking any substance into your body, you should do the research to find out how it will truly affect you. Do the research. Know what your body will have to go through as a result of what you take into your system.
If you have already started to use any drug, don't listen to people that try to tell you that it's safe. The facts are that almost all of these drugs can harm you-if not now, they will eventually.
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