Marijuana studies have shown that the regular use of marijuana may play a role in cancer and problems of the respiratory, immune and reproductive systems. Heavy marijuana use can affect hormones in both males and females.
The Truth About Marijuana / Anti-Marijuana Educational Video
The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Department of Health and Human Services, has shown that since 1992, the rate of past month marijuana use among youth has more than doubled, going from 3.4 percent in 1992 to 7.1 percent in 1996. Similar trends are evident among both boys and girls; among whites, blacks and Hispanics; and in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas (SAMHSA 1997a).
Other studies have also shown a doubling of marijuana use between 1992 and 1995 among 8th graders, and significant increases among 10th and 12th graders (NIDA 1997). At the same time, the rate of 12 to 17 year olds perceiving great risk in using marijuana has decreased. In the 1992 NHSDA, 39 percent of youths reported that smoking marijuana once a month is of great risk to people compared with 33 percent in 1996. Similarly, in 1992, 64 percent of youths reported smoking marijuana once or twice a week was of great risk to people compared with 57 percent in 1996 (SAMHSA 1997b). The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported that marijuana can be harmful both from immediate effects and damage to health over time.
Specifically, studies have shown that marijuana can hinder the users' short term memory and ability to handle difficult tasks (Schwartz et al. 1989). Students may find it difficult to study and learn. While many of the long-term effects of marijuana use are not yet known, studies have shown that daily marijuana smokers who did not use tobacco had more sick days and doctor visits for respiratory problems than a similar group who did not smoke either substance. A person who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers have (Tashkin et al. 1987). Other studies have shown that the regular use of marijuana may play a role in cancer and problems of the respiratory, immune and reproductive systems. Heavy marijuana use can affect hormones in both males and females. Both animal and human studies have shown that marijuana impairs the ability of T-cells in the lungs' immune defense system to fight off some infections.
Because of the drug's effects on perceptions and reaction time, users could be involved in automobile accidents (NIDA 1995). According to the 1996 NHSDA, nearly one million 16-18 year olds (11 percent) reported driving at least once within two hours of using an illicit drug in the past year (most often marijuana) (SAMHSA 1998). Although it is not yet known how the use of marijuana relates to mental illness, some scientists maintain that regular marijuana use can lead to chronic anxiety, personality disturbances, and depression (NIDA 1995). Some frequent long-term marijuana users show signs of lack of motivation and tend to perform poorly in school (Pope 1996).
A recent study demonstrated similarities between marijuana's effect on the brain and those produced by such addictive drugs as cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and nicotine (Volkow 1996). There is substantial interest in the co-occurrence in the general population of illicit drug use with other kinds of behavioral patterns, mental syndromes, and psychiatric disorders (Bourden et al. 1992, Kandel et al. 1997, Kessler et al. 1996, SAMHSA 1996). A number of descriptive studies have demonstrated that people who use drugs are more likely to have mental disorders, physical health problems, and family problems (NIDA 1991). In addition, a recent study (Crowley 1998) was conducted with 165 boys and 64 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 who had been referred by social service or criminal justice agencies to a university-based treatment program for delinquent substance-involved adolescents.
Based on interviews, medical examinations, social history, and psychological evaluations, the study showed that marijuana use by teenagers who have prior serious antisocial problems can quickly lead to dependence on the drug. Most of the youths reported that their behavioral problems predated, and were not initially caused by, their drug use. The 1994, 1995, and 1996 NHSDA incorporated the widely used Youth Self-Report (YSR) Checklist which ranks adolescents on a variety of clinically validated scales of behavioral and emotional problem behaviors (Achenbach 1991). In this paper, the relationship between marijuana use among those age 12-17 and various problem measures, as reported on the YSR, is shown. This paper concentrates primarily on the reported frequency of marijuana use and its relationship with self-reported behaviors.