Pier 21 column: How normal is regular marijuana use?

Bush, dope, draw, gage, ganja, grass, hemp, herb, Jane, joint, Mary, Mexican green, Panama Red, pot, puff, reefer, roach, smoke, Texas tea. What do all of these names have in common? They stand for the same thing: Marijuana.

Introduced into pop culture in the 1960s, the drug continues to be used and abused by many. Use is especially prominent on college campuses where it stands as the second drug of choice, behind alcohol, for students. Although it’s not the hardest or most addictive drug out there, its use can have a detrimental impact on your health.

First, regular marijuana users suffer from a condition called “amotivational syndrome” which means a person’s lack of interest in doing well in school, and pursuing a successful career. Additionally, the drug affects your lungs much like cigarettes do. One joint is the equivalent to smoking four cigarettes in terms of carbon monoxide, and five cigarettes in terms of tar in the lungs. Marijuana also weakens your immune system, and hence your ability to fight off disease. This is why regular users can catch a cold and keep it for weeks.

The drug can even affect your sex life! Users of the drug report a decrease in sexual desire. Marijuana (in large and frequent doses) can also kill a woman’s eggs and damage a man’s sperm. Doesn’t this information just make you want to light up?!

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana use among college students is not commonplace. Nationally, only 20 percent of college students used the drug in the past month.  Even at colleges with the highest reported marijuana use, no more than 15 percent of students reported using the drug on a regular basis.

Furthermore, depending on which campus you are on, it has been reported that between 20-40 percent of college students tried marijuana at least once last year, and between 8-15 percent are regular users. In sum, marijuana use isn’t as “normal” as everyone thinks.

Gabriela Halder is a graduate student at the Miller School of Medicine and a peer educator for Pier 21 and the Sandler Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education. She may be contacted at ghalder@themiamihurricane.com.