June 25th, 2008
11:15 AM ET

Reefer madness?

By Melanie Diaz
CNN Medical intern

Halfway through my undergraduate years, I think I can say I’ve been through enough to help me figure a few things out. But still, the college craze of cannabis continues to astound me. Oh, you know, marijuana, pot, ganja. If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the terms.

My generation grew up with parents who were at Woodstock - hippies who believed in freedom on many levels. Freeing your mind was just one reason to smoke.

And now, we’re going through it too. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug on college campuses today. While this isn’t anything new, it’s still something to consider, especially when short-term effects of smoking include distorted perceptions, difficulty solving problems and complications with learning and memory.

But still, some of my classmates claim they can write more profound papers and engage in better conversations when high on marijuana. Others say they hit the pipe nearly every day and can still pull high GPAs. They say it’s just a phase.

Knowing this, it struck me when the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse recently released a study on marijuana. It supports my thoughts that marijuana might be more dangerous than we realize.

According to CASA, in the ‘70s, the chemical that determines the drug’s strength, THC, was at less than 1 percent of potency.

Now, potency levels are up to 8.8 percent in seized samples.

In addition, the study shows that abuse or dependency on the drug is up fivefold.

And finally, the findings reveal a 136 percent increase in the number of ER visits caused by marijuana.

These numbers are huge. This isn’t “Dazed and Confused”; it’s real life.

The facts suggest we’re getting higher than ever before, more people are getting hooked on the drug and more are going to the hospital because of marijuana.

What do you think? Is smoking marijuana now more a gamble with your health? Or is it just a phase that college students go through?

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