More Than Just A High: Why Marijuana Is Scarier Than You Think
Passing the white cross on the side of the road, senior Jacob Smith* reflects on the life of his lost friend. Although marijuana wasn’t the cause of death, his friend was killed as a result of a drug deal gone wrong. While mourning his loss, Smith won’t let the situation change his lifestyle.
“I don’t think [losing my friend] will make me stop,” Smith said. “All it has done is make me want to speak more about the issues with the black market marijuana sales. If he wouldn’t have had to go to a drug dealer to get his weed then he wouldn’t have been hurt like this.”
Marijuana is a mixture of the dried stems, leaves and flowers of the cannabis sativa plant. When someone smokes marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, carrying the chemical to the brain and throughout the body producing a “high.” According to CNN, the average concentration of THC in marijuana has risen to above 10 percent, up from the under four percent reported in 1983. The increased potency carries risks of dysphoria, paranoia, and irritability for high-intake users.
However, having smoked marijuana almost everyday since the eighth grade, Smith believes it doesn’t hinder him in any way.
While Smith doesn’t believe marijuana has gotten more dangerous, he acknowledges it has become more available. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, marijuana’s availability has risen in part as a result of rising production in Mexico, having increased an estimated 59 percent overall since 2003.
“There’s no money in [dealing], but people think they can get all this money from it and that’s the problem,” Smith said.
Studies show someone who smokes five joints a week may take in as many carcinogenic chemicals as a person who smokes a pack of cigarettes every day. Despite the risks, research from the National Survery of Drug Use and Health shows teenagers consider marijuana use much less risky than other drugs, including smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Pediatrician Dr. Toribio Garcia believes students think smoking marijuana is the “in” thing to do, it’s an attention grabber.
“Marijuana is a gateway drug. It’s what they start off with,” Dr. Garcia said. “They feel that little bit of euphoria and want more. They’re really just reaching out, looking for love and attention they’re not getting elsewhere. They think it’ll make them feel comfortable, but it’s a false kind [of comfort].”
Marijuana overdoses occur when a person intakes too much of the drug, and may lead to paranoia and panic attacks, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, disorientation and increased heart rate. While overdosing on marijuana alone generally does not result in fatal symptoms, taking the drug in unison with other illegal substances can cause death. Thoughts of suicide, schizophrenia and depression have also been linked to marijuana use. Smith understands the consequences of overdoing the drug.
“There have been days where I was sitting on my couch and didn’t even know what I was doing,” he said. “There’s a fine line between enough and too much.”
Despite myths that marijuana doesn’t cause addiction, according to the government’s Drug Enforcement Administration, the number of teenagers admitted into substance abuse rehabilitation for marijuana use outweighs the amount for any other drug or alcohol, growing from 43 percent of all teenage admissions in 1994 to 64 percent in 1999.
“They need to get some help and just remove themselves from the influence,” Counselor Dana Vorsino said. “The worst thing parents and students can do is ignore it and think they don’t have a problem. The ones that have followed through with with counseling or treatment have made more progress than those that didn’t.”
Smith says the only issue with marijuana is black market sales. He believes his friend would not have died if marijuana sales weren’t so secretive.
However, Sgt. Greg Minter from the Mansfield ISD Police Department knows if an individual wants something bad enough, they will find a way to get it.
The school district does many things to prevent drug use and exchange on campus, such as the help of counselors, use of canines for random drug searches and programs students may go through regarding drug use.
“Sometimes it’s students and their parents coming in for counseling resources or coping skills and sometimes it students coming in by themselves,” Mrs. Vorsino said. “They know they need help, but they don’t know who to turn to.”
Senior Sara Jones* has an irregular heartbeat, a condition known as a cardiac arrhythmia. While under the influence of marijuana, Jones passed out for several seconds, as marijuana use increases heart rates by 20-100 percent, an effect which can last up to three hours after smoking. Marijuana also can cause arrhythmias and heart palpitations.
“Everyone is going through different situations, and we are all just human,” Jones said. “I would say if you are lost, the only answer is God, turn to him and you will find peace. The high of having a relationship with God is the best high I’ve ever felt. As for someone who has to seek treatment, all I have to say is good for them for getting help, and they are on the right track.”
Mrs. Vorsino advises students against keeping quiet if they notice their friends developing habits with dangerous substances. Former social worker Teri Garcia warns students about the potentially life-altering consequences of their actions.
“[Doing drugs] doesn’t mean you’re a bad kid, and it doesn’t mean you’re a dumb kid,” Mrs. Garcia said. “But in life you make a bad decision and it’s all over. When you’re young you think that you’re going to live forever, and you can do whatever you want. Unfortunately it’s not like that.”
*Names have been changed