Are Marijuana Users Bad At Tracking How Much They Smoke?
Marijuana is a plant-based drug known for its potential to produce physical/mental dependence and other significant health issues when used repeatedly over extended periods of time. Generally speaking, health risks associated with marijuana use are linked to such factors as consumption level and the potency of any given batch of the drug. In a study published in October 2013 in the journal Addiction, a multi-institution Dutch research team sought to determine whether young adult users can accurately gauge their level of marijuana consumption or the potency of the marijuana they smoke or ingest. These researchers concluded that young adults generally do a poor job of accurately tracking their marijuana usage.
Effects And Health Consequences Of Marijuana
Marijuana is the most readily available form of a plant-based drug called cannabis, which has a chief active ingredient called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). When THC molecules enter the bloodstream, they attach themselves to nerve cells inside the brain and trigger a form of mind alteration classically associated with effects such as heightened pleasure levels, reduced body coordination and substantial changes in normal thought and perception. In controlled circumstances, marijuana use is now legal in certain jurisdictions across the U.S. However, most states still consider marijuana use illegal, and federal statutes also prohibit use of the drug.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use is associated with mental and physical health risks that include learning and memory deficits during adolescence, lowered IQ scores during adulthood, temporary heart rate increases, heartbeat irregularities, impaired judgment and decision-making, impaired memory functions, a reduced ability to control body movements, the same types of lung-related ailments that commonly affect cigarette smokers and temporary bouts of psychosis (a mental health term for hallucinations and/or delusional thinking). In addition, habitual smokers of the drug have heightened risks for developing longer-term forms of psychosis that persist over time.
Marijuana Addiction Risks
Marijuana has a relatively benign reputation when compared to other powerful, illicit or illegal substances such as amphetamine/methamphetamine, cocaine or opioid narcotics. Despite this reputation, current scientific evidence indicates that all habitual marijuana users run a considerable risk of becoming physically dependent on the drug and subsequently developing the drug-oriented personal and social behaviors classically associated with the presence of addiction. Roughly 17 percent of individuals who start marijuana use before reaching adulthood become addicted, while anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of all everyday users develop an addiction. Part of the addiction risk associated with the drug stems from a rise in marijuana potency over the last several decades. While some sources report a 3,000 percent increase in the drug’s potency in that timespan, more reliable estimates place the increase in strength at anywhere from 200 percent to 600 percent.
Marijuana Smoker’s Estimates Of Usage
In the study published in Addiction, researchers from three Dutch institutions sought to determine how accurately habitual marijuana users can track their intake of the drug. To a certain extent, accurate tracking could potentially reduce the risks for the onset of addiction by allowing users to gauge their level of involvement in drug use and curb that level when necessary. The researchers made the first part of their assessment by asking 106 young adults to estimate their level of marijuana use, as well as their level of intoxication and the relative potency of the marijuana they consumed. Next, the researchers compared the participants’ estimates to objectively verifiable measurements of these same factors.
The authors of the study found that, by objective measurement, the amount of marijuana used by an individual in any given situation varies considerably, as does the potency of any given marijuana batch. However, they also concluded, marijuana users typically do a bad to mediocre job tracking these changes in potency and amount. As a result, marijuana users tend to have only a partially reliable ability to understand and monitor their true level of marijuana use.
Significance And Conclusions Of Marijuana-Use Study
The authors of the study in Addiction did not specifically associate a limited ability to track marijuana usage with increased risks for physical dependence and addiction. However, by logical inference, people who don’t know how much marijuana they use or how strongly that marijuana affects them may fail to notice key physical and mental changes that signal the onset of dependence- and addiction-related problems. Subsequently, they may fail to take critical steps necessary to prevent the onset of dependence or addiction. The study’s authors note that young adult marijuana users don’t entirely fail to track their marijuana intake; instead, they simply track their intake too poorly to make reliable estimates.