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Portrait of sad, depressed woman sitting alone in the forestMarijuana, a common illicit drug used among all age groups, has increasingly been linked to hard drug abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “more than half of new illicit drug users begin with marijuana.” Illicit drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, are extremely dangerous and powerful substances that can lead to debilitating addiction if you do not seek effective treatment. Understanding how marijuana can create a lifelong dependence on “hard drugs” is an essential component in being proactive against hard drug abuse.

‘Gateway drug’ is a phrase that typically refers to a drug that leads to more harmful uses of illicit substances, such as cocaine or heroin. Although marijuana is not as addictive as other illicit drugs, it has increasingly become evident that dependence on marijuana can lead to hard drug abuse.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is an illicit drug that when smoked, may have harmful effects on an individual’s memory, thinking, and behavior. Marijuana can cause a multitude of health problems that include an increased heart rate, impaired movements and learning, and if chronically smoked, can cause bronchitis and an increased risk for other types of drug and alcohol addictions.

When smoked, marijuana releases THC that acts on multiple cell receptors in the brain that are responsible for normal brain functioning. In recent years, THC has increased in marijuana leaves, from a range of 1%-4% to 7%. These increased levels of THC may make it easier for individuals to become addicted to the drug.

Research indicates that “marijuana smoke also contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke and produces high levels of an enzyme that converts certain hydrocarbons into malignant cells.”

It is evident that the use of marijuana is linked to multiple health problems and may increase a person’s risk of getting cancer. With higher THC levels and an array of health-related issues, marijuana is increasingly becoming a dangerous gateway drug.

Marijuana leads to hard drug abuse

Marijuana has become readily available to all age groups. Research has shown that marijuana is the most widely-used illicit drug in the United States, especially among adolescents. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, “more teens are in treatment for marijuana dependence than alcohol or other illegal drugs combined.” Adolescents often use marijuana as a way to cope with everyday stress from school and to fit in with peers at social events.

According to researchers at Columbia University, teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who use gateways drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana are 266 times more likely to use cocaine than those who do not use gateway drugs. This astonishing figure shows that gateway drugs are extremely harmful and can lead to an intense addiction to hard drugs. Adolescents are easily influenced by their peers and may choose to try more illicit drugs when they are under pressure to ‘fit in’ with their particular social group.

Research has indicated that the younger the individuals are when they begin using marijuana, the more likely they will become addicted to hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. These findings lead to the conclusion that although marijuana is not the most addictive or harmful drug, it often times leads to addiction on a more destructive substance.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, law enforcement officials have found that most heroin and cocaine addicts have often started their initial drug use with marijuana.

As the data has shown, marijuana is disproportionately used by young people and needs to be identified as a serious addiction that needs immediate treatment. This devastating information makes it evident that seeking early treatment for marijuana use is essential in stopping the epidemic surrounding hard drug abuse.

Seeking Early Treatment

Seeking early treatment is a proactive solution towards helping individuals understand their addiction towards marijuana and focus on a recovery plan before it leads to a lifelong dependence. Many people use marijuana as a self-medicating tool to cope with mental health related illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, or to escape from painful emotions. Helping individuals overcome their struggling thoughts and behaviors without the use of drugs is an essential component in addiction recovery treatment programs.

The professionally trained staff at Covenant Hills is highly experienced in a wide-range of addiction cases. Whether patients solely abuse marijuana, have a co-occurring disorder, or have hard drug addiction, the devoted staff is fully equipped in helping restore faith and health in every individual.

Covenant Hills focuses on a Christian-based treatment plan that is individually designed to meet the needs of all patients. If you or someone you love is using marijuana and is showing signs of mental health related problems or hard drug use and addiction, it is absolutely vital to seek immediate treatment.

The dedicated staff at Covenant Hills is determined to detoxify the mind, body, and soul of all harmful toxins and restore the individual’s trust in God in order to live a healthy life again.They understand the multitude of factors that contribute to drug addiction and find personalized coping mechanisms to help patients understand their disease and restore faith in themselves and in God.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, call Covenant Hills treatment specialists today at (800) 662-2873 for a free and confidential assessment.