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Does Smoking Marijuana Lead to Harder Drugs? Drug Treatment Arizona Weighs In

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Over the last decade, the US has undergone significant reform regarding legal uses for cannabis, or marijuana. The National Conference of state legislators reports that 38 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia allow medical use of marijuana.[1] If marijuana is legal throughout our country, is it safe? For some, especially those suffering from substance use disorders, the answer is more complex. Learn how drug treatment Arizona can help if someone you know is addicted to marijuana.

Does Smoking Marijuana Lead to Harder Drugs Drug Treatment Arizona Weighs In 1

Drug Treatment Arizona for Marijuana?

Marijuana is often referred to as a gateway drug. While it is considered one of the more harmless substances, it is that very idea that could lead to a greater degree of future substance abuse. Even though it’s legal and has some medical uses, it still carries a high potential for addiction and misuse.

Premier provider of drug treatment Arizona residents and adventurers trust, Desert Cove Recovery offers a few valuable insights into whether smoking marijuana could lead to harder drugs. 

Marijuana Drug Facts

Marijuana is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance that alters the mind. It is grown from the cannabis sativa plant and produces what’s known as THC, the primary addictive psychoactive ingredient. It is smoked as a cigarette, vapor, or blunt or baked into other foods like THC gummies, also known as edibles.

Immediate Effects of Marijuana Use

Marijuana smokers or users may experience a sense of relaxation, reduced inhibitions, and increased appetite (munchies). They may also experience impaired judgment, reduced problem-solving skills, distorted reality perception, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, confusion, and paranoia.[2]

Does Smoking Marijuana Lead to Harder Drugs Drug Treatment Arizona Weighs In 2

Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use

Official studies regarding the impact of marijuana on the brain have shown negative changes to cognitive function, learning abilities, memory, impulse control, and reduced IQ of six to eight points, which was unrecoverable in some cases.[3]

What Does It Mean That Marijuana Is the Gateway Drug?

Regarding brain chemistry, cannabis, and opioids interact with the reward system in the central nervous system similarly. Official studies report there are multiple mechanisms that indicate one substance (in this case, marijuana) could affect how users use another substance.

Frequent marijuana smokers are more likely to accelerate opioid use and are at higher risk of developing opioid use disorder. In addition to these troubling facts, marijuana can also increase mental health symptoms and outcomes, especially for depression and anxiety sufferers or those who experience episodes of psychosis.[4]

If someone is at increased risk of developing a substance or opioid use disorder due to family history, genetic predisposition, or other environmental factors, marijuana use can significantly increase their opioid use. Even if prescribed as a medical intervention, marijuana can lead to harder drugs like opioids or other illicit substances.

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Opioids and other more powerful and dangerous substances carry an even greater risk of harmful effects, long-term health risks, and overdose rates. What begins as a harmless curiosity about marijuana and moves into more potent substances could end in tragedy.

Other potential gateway substances, especially for teens and young adults, include vaping, nicotine, alcohol, and other forms of tobacco.

Marijuana Use In the US

The National Institute on drug abuse reports over 52 million people in the US reported using cannabis in the last 12 months. In 2021, over 16 million teenagers and adults over 12 reported having a cannabis use disorder. [5]

Does Smoking Marijuana Lead to Harder Drugs Drug Treatment Arizona Weighs In 4

Marijuana Addiction and Drug Treatment Arizona

Despite the social perception and legality of some approved marijuana uses, it is a mind-altering psychoactive substance that is addicting. The concentration of THC in the marijuana market today is three times more concentrated than a quarter of a century ago.[6] THC is the very element that increases the addictive properties and adverse effects on the brain, and it’s more present than ever.

Evidence-based and highly effective drug treatment Arizona residents trust incorporates holistic therapy interventions, medication-assisted treatment, and practical coping skill development. Together, these tactics form a strategy that supports lifelong recovery for substance use disorder sufferers.

Help For Marijuana and Substance Use Disorder with Drug Treatment Arizona

Whether you’re suffering from marijuana addiction or have begun incorporating harder substances, there is help and Hope on the other side of treatment. Desert Cove Recovery offers evidence-based solutions for practical treatment and long-term healing. Call today to learn more.


[1] https://www.ncsl.org/health/state-medical-cannabis-laws

[2] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states

[3] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-are-marijuanas-long-term-effects-brain

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359408/

[5] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states

[6] https://www.samhsa.gov/marijuana