Investigating the Relationship Between State Marijuana Legalization and Addiction

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State marijuana legalization has led to the study of marijuana dependence and addiction. Many researchers are curious about whether marijuana use leads to dependence and addiction. There is a huge public perception that marijuana is safe and harmless. The goal of these studies is to figure out how true that conception really is. These studies are important because little is known about the role of macro-level factors.

Many studies have found that states with medical marijuana laws had higher odds of marijuana use. Residences in these states were more open to using and trying medical marijuana. Many of them had a prescription for the substance and were obtaining it through legal means. In these states, marijuana addiction and dependence were more prevalent. This shows that state marijuana legalization may lead to an increase in marijuana addiction and dependence. In short, lax laws lead to higher addiction rates.

To lower marijuana dependence in these states, each state may have to introduce more laws and regulations. The prescription of marijuana may need to be more strictly restricted. The risk of addiction should also be brought to the attention of the general public. Since marijuana is a gateway drug, it may encourage residences to try other substances. Addiction can also completely rewire a person’s brain making them more susceptible to addiction and dependence.

What’s the Difference Between Legal Medical and Recreational Use?

medical marijuana

While marijuana is illegal under federal law, different states have different marijuana laws. Some have decided to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes only, while others have decided to legalize it for recreational use as well. The legal status of cannabis varies from state to state. Within each state, the city or county laws can also vary.

The legalization of marijuana for medical purposes allows residences to use, carry and even grow marijuana if they have a medical license. To obtain a medical license, residences must have a legitimate prescription from doctors. They must be assessed by a physician first. If they have one of the many diseases that are treatable with medical cannabis, they can get a prescription. This gives them the ability to buy marijuana at a dispensary, grow it at home or use it on private property.

Medicinal cannabis can treat a wide variety of conditions. It can treat Alzheimer’s Disease, appetite loss, Chron’s disease, mental health conditions, pain and more. It’s an effective drug that comes with little side effects in comparison to other options.

Recreational marijuana legalization, on the other hand, permits all residences to use marijuana. They do not need to have a license or anything. Much like with alcohol and tobacco, they do have to be of a certain age. The age limit is usually 21. There isn’t really an age limit for medical marijuana use. Some children may be prescribed marijuana depending on their condition.

Which States Have Legalized Marijuana?

Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and in Washington, D.C. All of these states have decriminalized possession and allow for possession of small amounts. They, each, have different laws and rules. For example, some states allow for residences to grow five plants whereas others may only allow residences to grow six plants.

Of the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana use, only 9 states have cannabis laws for recreational use. States that have legalized recreational marijuana include:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington State

Many other states are looking at law reform to legalize marijuana. Why is that? Well, the public opinion of marijuana is pretty positive. Many people consider it a better alternative to more dangerous options. They’d rather consume or smoke marijuana to treat their conditions. Marijuana use typically results in fewer side effects.

In addition, marijuana can pull in quite a substantial amount of money. For example, Alaska’s legalization of recreational marijuana use attracted more than 2 million tourists. Marijuana generated more than $2 billion for the state in tax revenues and marijuana sales. Marijuana legalization has been quite profitable for states that have legalized it.

State Legalization of Marijuana Drove Dependence and Addiction

marijuana addiction

The exact relationship between legalization and addiction has not been worked out yet. With that said, higher marijuana use is seen in each state that legalizes medical marijuana. Cannabis use is highest in each state that legalizes recreational marijuana use. Cannabis production in these states is also higher.

Studies have merely observed that higher use leads to higher rates of abuse and dependence. This is true even in states that legalize marijuana for medical purposes only.

So, what does this necessarily mean? Why are these studies important?

It shows that more effort needs to be put into legalizing and regulating marijuana use. It’s clear that many patients are misusing the drug. It may also show that long-term medical marijuana use can lead to dependence. In this case, states that legalize medical marijuana use must funnel more resources into addiction treatment. It should also draw public attention to this issue. Shatter the misconception that marijuana is safe and harmless. Those who try marijuana, whether for medical or recreational purposes, should be aware of the risks.

Signs of a Marijuana Use Disorder

 The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has released the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) to help diagnose addiction. To be diagnosed with a cannabis use disorder, patients must exhibit 2 of the 11 symptoms within a 12-month timeframe. Some of the signs and symptoms of a cannabis use disorder include:

  • An inability to quit. Addicts are unable to stop their cannabis use for good or for long periods of time.
  • Cravings. Marijuana users crave the drug. The intensity of the cravings will vary from person to person.
  • Engaging in risky behavior. Cannabis addicts are more likely to engage in risky behavior. Their behaviors change over time.
  • Loss of control. Addicts are unable to control their actions.
  • Social isolation. Marijuana users may choose to disengage socially. They may avoid attending events or spending time with family and friends.
  • Tolerance. Drug users need larger and larger amounts of marijuana to achieve the same results.
  • Withdrawals. When quitting, marijuana users may experience a wide array of withdrawal symptoms. The intensity of the symptoms will also vary.

A physician will need to assess each patient to determine whether they meet the diagnostic criteria for an addiction. Those who are addicted to marijuana should stop using the substance and should seek addiction treatment at a rehab center.

Bring Attention to the Fact that Misuse or Abuse Can Lead to Dependence

Although medical marijuana can treat a wide variety of problems, marijuana use can lead to dependence. It’s vital that each state that has legalized marijuana is made aware of this fact. Marijuana users should also understand the potential dangers involved with marijuana abuse. After all, many people assume that medical marijuana is completely safe. They don’t realize that this substance has addictive properties States need to try to regulate marijuana use and prescription to prevent higher incidences of addiction. This will help with harm reduction and with America’s war on drugs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is a gateway drug. It usually precedes the use of other substances. Those who get hooked on marijuana are much more likely to try other substances.

If you’ve been using marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, it’s time to re-evaluate your situation. Consider whether you may have developed a dependence on the drug. When you try to quit, are you able to? Do you experience cravings or any withdrawal symptoms? If you find that you have difficulties quitting, you might have an addiction. Getting clean can be difficult. Luckily, with the help of an addiction treatment center, like Amethyst Recovery, you’ll sober up in no time.

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