Marijuana users must be aware of effects

Benroy Chan

Marijuana use for recreational purposes has become less stigmatized in recent years. Currently, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug, and an increasing amount of people are viewing it as less harmful than it is.

Many information streams uphold marijuana as a drug incapable of producing serious harm, but students shouldn’t accept these evaluations at face value. Although the negative effects of marijuana may not be as severe as those of other drugs, students should still note them.

Individuals use marijuana for the effects of its main ingredient: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), THC goes from the lungs to the bloodstream and overly stimulates certain brain receptors, leading to an induced “high.”

NIDA reports negative health effects from marijuana use, such as increased cough, phlegm and heart rate, but evidence still hasn’t proven the drug to cause cancer.

The physical effects of THC may pale in comparison to legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol, but students shouldn’t use this as a justification. Additionally, smoking marijuana involves the inhalation of carbon monoxide, which interferes with the body’s normal use of oxygen.

Hemoglobin, a protein molecule in red blood cells, carries oxygen to other parts of the body. Carbon monoxide interferes with this process, according to chemistry lecturer Kate Biberdorf.

“This is a big problem because the hemoglobin maintains the bond with the oxygen instead of releasing the oxygen to the desired location,” Biberdorf said.

But marijuana isn’t limited to physical harm.

According to Jessica Wagner, manager of the Health Promotion Research Center, marijuana use may cause a lasting, negative effect on cognitive function — an important tool for a student’s academic success.

“Occasional users experience effects on cognitive functioning, including memory, for up to 48 hours after smoking,” Wagner said. “Habitual users experience ongoing impaired ability to learn new information, which continues for up to several weeks after quitting use.”

Mechanical engineering freshman Robyn Richmond also opposes recreational use of marijuana. Like Wagner, she notes the mental effects.

“I think marijuana lessens your motivation to work hard toward your goals,” Richmond said. “It triggers your reward system by releasing dopamine, so everyday activities seem less appealing and less rewarding [when sober.]”

Marijuana use is definitely present at our school as 19.1 percent of students reported using the drug within the last 30 days. The effects of the drug may not seem as “bad” as others, but this doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Students need to take this into account when deciding whether to use marijuana.

Chan is a journalism freshman from Sugar Land. Follow him on Twitter @BenroyChan.