CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There are five basic categories of psychoactive substances: Stimulants, such as nicotine, cocaine and caffeine; depressants, including sedatives, anxiety reducing drugs, alcohol, sleeping pills and opioid pain killers; psychedelics, such as LSD; psychiatric medications, such as anti-depressants; and cannabis, or marijuana.
Marijuana, is a good place to start. It is called devil's weed for good reason. At first it is fun. You laugh. You get the munchies. It is not an aphrodisiac.
The problem with addiction is whatever it was that made us feel good stops and makes us hurt. As you continue to smoke you become paranoid; you're always watching your back; afraid people are out to get you. It becomes a regular part of your daily life, and it is a gateway drug.
"Pot might be the most dangerous drug our society will ever have to deal with," according to Dr. David L. Ohms. But it does contain a psychoactive chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and nicotine, both very addicting and dangerous.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon widely known from CNN, said in Time Magazine: "I'm here to tell you as a doctor that despite all the talk about the medical benefits of marijuana, smoking the stuff is not going to do your health any good." Every major health organization rejects smoking marijuana.
* The heart. It beats more rapidly and blood pressure drops within a few minutes of smoking marijuana. The heartbeat increases 20 to 50 beats per minute. It increases more if other drugs are used simultaneously. Risk of heart attack is four times greater within the first hour after smoking.
* The brain. Distorted perceptions (sights, touch, time, and sounds) sometimes occur. Some people have problems with memory and learning. There is an increased heart rate and reduced blood pressure, which can cause fear, anxiety, panic and distrust. There is loss of coordination. There is also trouble with problem solving and cognitive behavior. Cannabinoid receptors in parts of the brain affect thought, memory, concentration, pressure, coordinated movement, and sensory and time perception. When eaten in food, rather than smoked, or when higher doses are used, people have hallucinations, impaired memory, delusions and disorientation.
* The lungs. Heavy coughing, burning and stinging of the mouth and throat can all happen. If you smoke regularly, there can be daily cough and phlegm production, obstructive airways, increased risk of lung infections and acute chest illnesses. There are fewer carcinogenic hydrocarbons in tobacco smoke than in marijuana, and smokers are exposed to carcinogenic properties longer because they hold the marijuana smoke down longer. THC, which is a psychoactive chemical in marijuana, impairs the body's immune system, so it can't fight disease as well. It also increases the risk of bacterial infections and tumors.
Smoking a joint is equivalent to 20 cigarettes in lung cancer risk, New Zealand scientists have found. They warn of an epidemic of lung cancers linked to cannabis, according to the Los Angeles Times. Marijuana remains the most widely used drug among high school students, according to USA Today.
Even after all of this is taken into consideration, California still attempted to legalize marijuana for personal use in 2010. The proposition failed. Marijuana use is now legal in Washington and Colorado for people 21 and older. Marijuana use is now ahead of cigarette smoking on some measures due to decreases in smoking and increases in marijuana use. In 2010, 21.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the last 30 days, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Maddox is president and founder of Drug and Alcohol Presentations Inc. of Charleston,drugandalcoholpresentations.com.