Surgeon General: ‘False Perception Marijuana Not as Harmful as Other Drugs’

Surgeon General Jerome Adams (R) speaks watched by Health and Human Services Secretary Ale

The surgeon general of the United States warned Americans about the dangers of marijuana use, particularly noting its effects on the developing brain in young people and pregnant women.

“There is a false perception that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs,” said Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams Thursday in a press statement released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “I want to be very clear – no amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe.”

According to an advisory from the Office of the Surgeon General, marijuana, or cannabis, is “the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.”

The substance in the drug, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), HHS continued, “binds to receptors in the brain, producing euphoria and a variety of potentially harmful effects, including intoxication and memory and motor impairments.”

“Newer strains of marijuana have also shown to be increasingly more potent, leading to other risks like anxiety, agitation, paranoia and psychosis,” the department warned, adding that pregnant women use cannabis more than any other illegal drug.

“This historic Surgeon General’s advisory is focused on the risks marijuana poses for [young people and pregnant women], which have been well-established by scientific evidence,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “As indicated by President Trump’s generous donation of his salary to support this advisory, the Trump Administration is committed to fighting substance abuse of all kinds, and that means continuing research, education, and prevention efforts around the risks of marijuana use.”

Cannabis also continues to be a widely used drug among young people, second only to alcohol. This extensive use adds to concerns about higher THC concentration in newer strains of the drug. When younger people begin using cannabis, they risk physical dependence, addiction, and other consequences.

According to HHS, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health data demonstrated marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illegal drug.

“In 2017 alone, approximately 9.2 million youth aged 12 to 25 reported using marijuana in the past month and 29% more young adults aged 18 to 25 started using the substance,” the department said.

HHS also warned frequent use of the drug, in both adolescents aged 12-17 and young adults, “appears to be associated with risks for opioid use, heavy alcohol use and major depressive episodes.”

The advisory noted teens aged 12-17 reporting frequent cannabis use showed a 130 percent greater likelihood of abusing opioids.

“No amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe,” warned the advisory. “Until and unless more is known about the long-term impact, the safest choice for pregnant women and adolescents is not to use marijuana.”


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