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Marijuana continues to be the most commonly abused drug in the United States amongst youth and adults alike. About 42% of American adults report using it, and it remains the most prevalent drug for which individuals are arrested for possession.

Sadly, a great majority of youth mistake marijuana as a safe, natural and even inevitable part of life. While it may be going overboard to say that marijuana itself is deadly, the epidemic of drug abuse impacts Americans in a very serious way every year. Marijuana’s active role in the United States as a prominent gateway drug makes this substance relevant to the nationwide substance abuse problem.

Marijuana Myths vs. Facts

According to Live Science, popular misconceptions about marijuana are what fuel new and continued cannabis abuse. Rumors swirl that this “natural” drug is harmless, when science has proven otherwise.

When ingested over an extended period of time, marijuana has proven negative effects on memory impairment and produces difficulty learning and perceiving. Many marijuana users also report a loss of motivation, slowed response time and loss of coordination or decreased motor skills.

The existence of marijuana in nature alone does not classify the drug as safe or harmless. There are many toxic substances and chemicals that are found to exist naturally amongst plants and flowers (such as poppies or the coca plant, the natural derivitives of opium and cocaine) but which are dangerous for consumption. When one smokes marijuana, he/she is smoking the dried leaves of the cannabis plant which, in itself, contains over 400 toxic chemicals—including tetrahydrocannabinol, the leading psychoactive ingredient in pot which makes a user feel high.

Thousands of Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year, adding to the list of dangers and potential risks of this popular drug. Law enforcement takes cannabis offenses very seriously because of the widespread epidemic and the perceived future repercussions of marijuana on the drug epidemic.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

One of the most dominant myths about marijuana is the idea that the substance itself isn’t habit-forming or that you can’t become addicted to marijuana. Of course, this is false. Thousands of substance abusers in the US are currently addicted to marijuana, and many enter treatment for their abuse problem each year. Like many other substances, marijuana produces the phenomena of tolerance in the abuser’s physiological system. In other words, a person who smokes marijuana over time may find he/she gradually needs to smoke more and more of it to feel the same effect or the same degree of “high.”

In addition to this, daily marijuana use can push the body to lean on marijuana consumption for normal operation in a stage known as dependency. In this situation, mild withdrawal symptoms may present themselves in the form of depression, sickness, anxiety or headaches, when a person stops smoking marijuana for too long. These two stages can rapidly progress to an addiction, which is treatable by individualized drug rehabilitation.

The steps to treating a marijuana addiction begin with addressing the biological or biophysical dependency—the physical addiction. This is best done through detoxifying the cells of any marijuana residuals, and further by replenishing nutritional levels which have become depleted.

To further address marijuana addiction, the underlying causes for substance abuse must be addressed as a fundamental part of treatment. Reasons for substance abuse can vary widely—illnesses, injuries, social anxiety, depression, wanting to fit in, boredom, etc.—but all share the common denominator of using marijuana as a means to escape unwanted feelings. Lasting recovery from cannabis abuse and dependency is possible through the rehabilitation of an individual’s life skills, long-term goals and objectives.