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FIRST-PERSON: ‘Reefer Madness’

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–Often, we are asked for our opinions about marijuana. At times, these solicitations come from individuals seeking validation for their use of the drug. Unfortunately, there are many in our society who view “pot” as benign. But our own tragic experiences and a mountain of research indicate otherwise.

There are reasons why this drug is illegal and considered harmful. Even so, there remain those who ignore and even deny the legitimate dangers posed by this drug. This article is our attempt to shed light on some of the dangers.

One popular angle of opposition that we encounter is often articulated something like this: “Marijuana is a natural plant that God has created. Surely God has not provided for us something that is ultimately harmful and unhealthy.”

To this we respond by pointing out that hemlock also is a naturally occurring herb. It is a poisonous plant that can be fatal if ingested. In fact, both marijuana and hemlock are listed on the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine’s list of “Indiana Plants Poisonous to Livestock and Pets.” So, yes, marijuana is a natural plant, like hemlock. Simply because a plant occurs naturally does not legitimize its ingestion as a healthy activity.

Marijuana has long been referred to as a “gateway drug.” What this means is that its use has been known to lead to the use of other, even more harmful substances, such as cocaine. We have met thousands of drug addicts all across this country and have yet to meet anyone who began their addiction by shooting up a hundred dollars worth of heroin per day. We have never met an alcoholic who started off drinking a fifth of Jack Daniels per day. Every addict starts the same way, with the first joint or the first drink. That is where it all gets started. Statistically, the marijuana smoker is four times as likely to use cocaine as someone who has never smoked pot, this according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

This same agency has sponsored a recent advertisement that appears on billboards across the country. There are two pictures on the billboard. The first is of a lonely homeless addict on an urban sidewalk. The caption above the picture reads, “It doesn’t always end here.” The second picture is of a young boy taking his first hit off of a joint and the caption for this one reads, “But it does often start here.”

We have heard repeated many times the myth that marijuana is harmless. There are advocacy groups that convene regularly to actively propagate this straw man. However, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, since 1994, mentions of marijuana use in emergency room episodes have increased by 176 percent, surpassing those of heroin. In 2001, marijuana was a contributing factor in 110,000 emergency department visits in the United States.

An article appearing in the British Medical Journal in November 2002 exposes the psychological threats posed by marijuana. The article, titled “More evidence establishes clear link between use of cannabis and psychiatric illness,” cites schizophrenia and depression as two major mental illnesses either caused or exacerbated by the use of marijuana.

In addition, a December 2001 article from the American Journal of Psychiatry reported that those who use marijuana are fully four times more likely to have depressive symptoms — in particular, “suicidal ideation and anhedonia” — this according to a 15-year study of 1,920 conscripts.

In spite of so much evidence to the contrary, there are still those who consider marijuana harmless, which may provide further evidence of the brain-damaging potential of this drug.
The authors of this monthly column share their ministry in church pulpits and through articles and books. For further information or advice, you may contact them through Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, NC 27702, or you may call (919) 477-1581.

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  • Ted G. Stone & Philip Barber