Length: 1785 words (5.1 double-spaced pages)
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My preliminary report will explain as much as possible about the characteristics of marijuana users and how these characteristics differ from nonusers of marijuana. I'm sure you are asking yourself "Why do people use marijuana in the first place?" This is a difficult question to answer in one sentence, but my report will simplify that question by explaining as much as possible about what motivates marijuana users to start and continue using the drug.
From my readings so far, there has been a continuing trend that marijuana users first turn on to the drug by tremendous pressure from their friends or peers. The peer group has a powerful influence on the nonuser because of the nonuser wanting to feel accepted by the "in" crowd. The trend of wanting to be "accepted" by a group of marijuana users is the major reason why marijuana use begins. Individuals usually find themselves in situations that promote marijuana use, such as parties, or within a group of acquaintances. The biggest age group that falls within these "acquaintances" seems to be from 18- 20 years old, but marijuana use falls sharply after the age of 22. Young people within the 18- 20 year old range seem to be looking for new and different experiences. The idea of being high also appeals to many young marijuana users- a temporary way to forget about the problems associated with youth.
Marijuana users tend to constitute a majority of the white, middle class community, which may be a shock to some Americans. My reading found in most cases that being black or oriental decreased the likelihood that a student would use marijuana. It seems that the sociocultural circumstances of the individual has a lot to do with marijuana use, not the race of the individual.
A great proportion of college students use marijuana, 25% of students or higher according to some findings. This may not be too much of a surprise to us. What I was surprised to find in my readings is that chronic marijuana users are, as a class and individually, high academic achievers. Furthermore, they are achievement- oriented and even some chronic marijuana users even intended to go on to graduate school at a higher rate than nonusers in a particular study I read about.
There were no differences from what I read, between marijuana users and nonusers, in the number of probations, suspensions, disciplinary actions, or expulsions from school.
Despite the perception of a marijuana user being a psychological profile of rebelliousness, risk taker, or stimulus seeking, the evidence revealed that disciplinary difficulty did not occur with greater frequency than that of the nonuser.
Marijuana use did not appear to effect any marital conflicts or problems. Ninety percent of all married, chronic users and 96% of all nonusers and occasional users had no history of extramarital sexual affairs. Marijuana use does, however, contribute to whether an individual chooses to get married or not. Both male and female users stated that they were very suspicious of marriage as if it seemed " unnatural or unnecessary."
The effect of marijuana on the particular individual using it brings euphoria, mellowness, decreased tension, and a sense of time passing slowly. Tastes and smells are intensified only somewhat less frequently. Users also experience noted increased sexual pleasure, increased appetite, sleepiness, thirst and a sense of increased creativity, awareness, and communications with others.
The effect of marijuana on the brain I found was pretty interesting. The effects can include profoundly pleasurable feelings when deep brain sites are electrically stimulated by the drug, whereas stimulation of certain other well- demarcated sites induces profoundly negative feelings, including anxiety and anger. Symptoms of marijuana use in the psychological mind include the " dropout" syndrome, abnormal irritability and hostility, abrupt mood swings, and impaired short term memory. Some patients studied had experienced panic reactions and paranoia. Clearly, marijuana use does have a negative effect on some people who use it.
Studies have shown that marijuana use and driving are a deadly combination. Seventy studies since 1971 have concluded in some respects, marijuana is even more impairing than alcohol. It may be coincidental, but highway deaths in the U.S. increased 45% between 1961 and 1971. This increased first appeared in college- aged persons, in later years spreading to younger and older age groups- which exactly correspond with the ages affected during that decade.
Marijuana is generally thought to hamper adaptation to college or in the military. Researchers have found, however, that marijuana use was unrelated to the length of military service, the highest grade or rank attained, or any history of military punishment or discipline. Pot smokers, considered as a group were able to perform as satisfactorily without detection, as their nonusing peers within the military. It has been concluded that the marijuana- using smoker is more likely to be a problem soldier because of his attitudes rather than his or her physical abilities.
The sexual habits of marijuana users are clearly less conservative than nonusers from what I found. Marijuana users tend to start their sexual behavior earlier. Twice as many users as nonusers had their first intercourse between the ages of 13 and 15. By the age of 18, half of all the users of marijuana have had their first intercourse, compared to only 30% of the nonusers. And by age 19, 48% of the nonusers were still virgin, compared to only 28% of the users. The more rebellious, unconventional personalties of those who start their marijuana use early will also lend themselves to early sexual experimentation. Many marijuana users have the characteristic of being more accepting of sexuality and seem to use the intoxication to loosen their moral structures in many instances.
The lives of many marijuana users are very mobile and unstable according to my research. Marijuana users live in rented houses eight times more often than nonusers. This is likely associated with the fact that 8% of all chronic users live communally with two or more members of both sexes. Only 8% of the nonusers had lived in as many as five dwellings in the last five years, compared to 16% and 29% of the occasional and chronic- user groups. Nonusers tended to stay in one city, unlike users. Marijuana users change dwellings frequently and are much more mobile from city to city than are nonusers. Users express an orientation toward exploration, tempestuousness, and an intolerance of routine.
The social life of the marijuana user is not a kept secret from the rest of society. Marijuana is used at social occasions and often in public. I read that 64% of the occasional users occasionally or frequently went out into public places while high; 99% of the chronic users reported being intoxicated in public more than occasionally. Of the two types of users, 86 and 96% reported that they principally used marijuana at home with their friends. An interesting point is that a large percentage of users will use the drug in anticipation of venturing outdoors, so that the event will be enjoyed while expressly also experiencing the specific effects of the drug.
Social scientists believe that our laws about marijuana are changing less because of the nature of the drug than because the characteristics of the offenders. Now that the drug has entered white and middle to upper- class communities, including those of noted politicians, the push has been to reduce penalties. Lawyers contend that the punishment for marijuana offenses is a matter of who you are. Chief factors in sentencing marijuana users seem to be their political activism, social background, and courtroom attitude rather than the amount of marijuana found on them by the police.
Marijuana has traditionally been equated in the law with the opiates, but the characteristics of the two have almost nothing in common. The opiates produce physical dependence, marijuana does not. A withdraw sickness appears when use of opiates is discontinued, but no such symptoms are associated with marijuana. Both opiates and marijuana can lead to emotional dependence, but so can anything that alters the state of consciousness, such as alcohol.
Many people wonder if marijuana can have any medical uses. From what my research has revealed, many cancer patients find some relief from the nausea and vomiting from their chemotherapy treatments by smoking small amounts of marijuana. I'm not saying that you should go out and smoke a blunt every time you feel nauseated, but the research has found in some cases it helps cancer patients. There also have been well- substantiated reports that smoking marijuana can lower intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma ( an eye disease characterized by increased pressure within the eye and progressive damage to the optic nerve, which impairs vision and can lead to blindness.
Marijuana and the effects on a developing baby proved to be disturbing to me when I read that marijuana seems to effect the nervous system of the developing baby. Babies born to marijuana- using mothers tend to have a slow response time to visual stimuli, tremors of the body (in some cases) and exaggerated startles. There was a higher percentage of abnormal fetal heart rate among babies born to marijuana- using women, than nonusing women. The pot- smokers babies were also more likely to be sedated, and in need of oxygen at the time of birth; 41% required resuscitation, versus 21% of babies among nonusers. Researchers have also found traces of marijuana in the umbilical cord blood of the babies of marijuana- using mothers that needed resuscitation.
Marijuana - experienced students and those having no experience differ significantly with respect to several social variables. Marijuana use is more prevalent among males, among students in the social sciences, and among students from larger communities. Marijuana use also tends to occur more often among students who have had little interest in religion. I have also discovered that marijuana use is more likely to occur among students having both parents dead, and marijuana use is less likely to occur among students who have been raised for most of their lives with both parents.
I sure hope that I was able to answer many of the common questions asked about marijuana. My research has proved to be informative and interesting and I really don't want to take a stand whether marijuana is healthy or not, but I do believe that the question of legalization will become even more controversial than it is today because of marijuana becoming more common in America. I give my best wishes to both marijuana smokers and nonsmokers and recommend that it's up to you if you choose to smoke marijuana or not.