Today while attempting to read the NYT I was distrated by an Anti-Marajuana commercial. And so I read their little blurb about the harmful affects of Marajuana and now I take issue with it. (Suprise!)
Research of the affects of illegal drugs is difficult because the drugs are illegal, so to conduct a controlle experiment is rare and difficult (okay impossible) to get approval for. Especially if one wanted to study the long term affects of marajuana smoking. (We'd like you to smoke 1 joint a day for the next year, and then come back and we'll study you. Uhhh..... SWEET!) So, while I am going to be highly critical of the following research we must understand that these individuals are doing the best they can.
I am going to ignore the first two parts of this blurb as I have no "studies" or information to refute and google is yeilding nothing, so I will skip to the last bit
"Effects of Heavy Marijuana Use on Learning and Social Behavior. A study of college students has shown that critical skills related to attention, memory, and learning are impaired among people who use marijuana heavily, even after discontinuing its use for at least 24 hours. Researchers compared 65 "heavy users," who had smoked marijuana a median of 29 of the past 30 days, and 64 "light users," who had smoked a median of 1 of the past 30 days. After a closely monitored 19- to 24-hour period of abstinence from marijuana and other illicit drugs and alcohol, the undergraduates were given several standard tests measuring aspects of attention, memory, and learning. Compared to the light users, heavy marijuana users made more errors and had more difficulty sustaining attention, shifting attention to meet the demands of changes in the environment, and in registering, processing, and using information. The findings suggest that the greater impairment among heavy users is likely due to an alteration of brain activity produced by marijuana.
Longitudinal research on marijuana use among young people below college age indicates those who used have lower achievement than the non-users, more acceptance of deviant behavior, more delinquent behavior and aggression, greater rebelliousness, poorer relationships with parents, and more associations with delinquent and drug-using friends"
Reading this, it seems pretty convincing, people who use marajuana heavily have attention problems and issues with processing, and that people who use marajuana long term have behavioral problems. HOWEVER! The actual relationship between these is yet to be determined.
This article does not state that marajuana causes these problems, and they are right not to say this. These studies do not prove a causal relationship.
To take the first issue, attention problems and processing issues. It is possible that individuals with attention disorders gravitate towards marajuana use because it allows an indivdual to relax and can aid focus. (.... so I've heard) So marajuana does not necessarily CAUSE these problems. Though the statements about the findings suggests that it changes brain chemsitry, there is no evidence of this or that the change is permanant. (By the way, smoking pot 29 out of 30 days is just a little much, moderation people, moderation.)
Also, the second paragraph which cites "those who used have lower achievement than the non-users, more acceptance of deviant behavior." Again, a worried parent might take this to mean that marajuana use can lead to lower acheive ment and deviant friends. But it is equally as likely that an individual who is prone to be accepting of deviant behavior is more likely to smoke marajuana. In fact, any of the listed "problems" could actually be factors contributing to the use of marajuana.
An older study that is still frequently cited "proved" that marajuana was a gateway drug. In this study they surveyed some heroin addicts and asked if they had ever smoked pot. Guess what, They have!!! But do you think that smoking pot caused them to do heroine? Maybe, in their search for heroine all they could afford was pot. A better study would be to ask pot smokers if they have or ever will do heroine. But that would be considerably harder.
Please Note, this blogger does not advocate the use of illegal drugs, merely the use of accurate information to support claims about the dangers of drug use.