An honest look at the ways women are taking care of their minds and bodies in 2018.

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More and more American women are using marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes as weed is increasingly accepted by society and the letter of the law. With pot on our minds more than ever, some people worry that we could have the makings of a new, nationwide addiction on our hands.

marijuana joint

In a new article published in the Atlantic, contributing editor Annie Lowrey writes that the number of people who are using weed on a daily or near-daily basis is going up, which is cause for alarm among some public health experts. According to Lowrey, these medical professionals 鈥渁rgue that state and local governments are setting up legal regimes without sufficient public-health protection.鈥 These concerned experts worry that the switch from treating cannabis as a threat on par with heroin to acting as if it鈥檚 鈥渁s benign as kombucha鈥 is setting potential cannabis users up for addiction.

So, is weed addiction really something we should be worried about?

Despite what your skater ex-boyfriend may have told you, marijuana can be addictive. In fact, Dr. Diana Martinez, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University鈥檚 Irving Medical Center, tells us that researchers have known this for years.

Martinez explains that studies from the last few decades show that the number of adult marijuana users who become addicted has remained at about nine percent. Compared with the roughly 25 percent of adult heroin users and 34 percent of tobacco users who will become addicted, a nine percent addiction rate may seem tame. But Martinez stresses that for the people who do wind up becoming addicted to pot, the situation is 鈥渘ot good.鈥

鈥淎ddiction is a difficult disorder to treat,鈥 she tells us.

Though there has definitely been a rise in the total number of adults using cannabis, research suggests that legalization isn鈥檛 necessarily the cause for the uptick in usage but, rather, that widespread pot legalization is the result of people being less freaked out by weed in general. Surprisingly, a 2017 study from the Public Health Institute鈥檚 Alcohol Research Group found 鈥渘o significant relationship between marijuana legalization in some states and higher rates of its use,鈥 according to a press release for the report.

鈥淥ur findings suggest that US society has become more tolerant and accepting of marijuana use and less concerned with risks, which has led to broader use,鈥 said Dr. William C. Kerr, a senior scientist with the Alcohol Research Group and the principal investigator. 鈥淲hile it is still too early to judge the impacts of recreational marijuana legalization, it appears that the passage of these policies reflects changing attitudes towards marijuana use, rather than the other way around.鈥

marijuana scientist

Though cannabis has gotten more potent over the years, changes in the plant itself don鈥檛 seem to have had a measurable effect on how many people are addicted. Research shows that it鈥檚 extremely difficult to overdose on marijuana, and there鈥檚 no evidence to definitively link marijuana use with chronic lung diseases such as cancer. For medicinal purposes, cannabis is very promising in the treatment of some conditions, including seizure disorders and anxiety.

But weed isn鈥檛 harmless. Among people with heart conditions, smoking weed can create a higher risk for heart attacks. And there鈥檚 still a lot we don鈥檛 know about weed, largely because of the drug鈥檚 ongoing federal classification as a Schedule I substance.

鈥淲e need a lot more data to know what [marijuana] is useful for,鈥 says Martinez. 鈥淲e need a lot of placebo-controlled studies. We need to know what it works for and what it鈥檚 useful for.鈥

As far as public health concerns, Martinez says that because rates of marijuana addiction have stayed about the same over recent decades, there鈥檚 no crisis looming. However, she says that it is a 鈥減ublic health failure鈥 to continue imprisoning people on marijuana charges, given that it doesn鈥檛 deter drug use.

Martinez says that it鈥檚 up to each adult to do their research, know their own risks, and use responsibly.

鈥淎s we barrel ahead with legalization, we need to know that yes, marijuana has risks,鈥 Martinez says. 鈥淏ut those don鈥檛 negate the benefits.鈥

What do you think? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.

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