It seems like marijuana use is everywhere you look today. It’s on television and in movies, as the focal point of discussions about legalization and legally used in more homes than ever before. And not only is it being talked about more, but it’s also gained a more widespread level of acceptance than in the past. This raises the question: How does the media influence drug use?
In this piece, we’ll discuss the changing trends of the last decade on marijuana acceptance and how public perceptions of the drug have changed. There certainly are consequences to this shift — both positive and negative. How does the acceptance of “weed culture” affect the rates of abuse and the number of people who develop health issues as a result of this behavior?
How Attitudes About Marijuana Use Have Shifted
Our knowledge and perception of marijuana have changed dramatically over the past few decades. In the 60s and 70s, it was part of a social movement, but it was still very much associated with a cultural minority. In the decades that followed, the focus on weed faded with the advent of much harder drugs — cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and opioid pain medications — and in the face of all this, cultural views of marijuana became more positive in comparison.
Today, there are countless news stories, threads on social media and articles about marijuana showing it not as a danger but as a part of daily life in many places across the United States. And, as an example of media influence on drugs and alcohol, this exposure has led to marijuana use seeming more “normal” than ever before.
Weed Culture Has Become a Demographic
With the recent change in perception, people who engage in “weed culture” now have enough visibility to become a marketable group. Dispensaries actively advertise in states where the drug is medically or recreationally legal. Billboards, magazines, websites and newspapers market different strains for certain purposes and varieties of experience.
The rise of marijuana users as a demographic has given even more credibility and acceptance to the behavior. This does have it benefits, but it’s not without potential drawbacks.
One of the primary benefits of decriminalization is fewer incarcerations for drug use. According to the ACLU, 8.2 million people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2010. People who abuse marijuana need help, not prison time.
Additionally, marijuana does have a therapeutic application for certain conditions. A study cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) showed that states where patients can legally use marijuana for pain experienced lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.
There are also negative issues that emerge when a drug becomes normalized. First, when access to a substance increases, so does use in populations with a higher potential for abuse.
For example, it’s likely that unsafe teen marijuana use will continue to increase. Teen drug use statistics from the CDC show links between weed consumption and low performance in school, along with higher rates of mental health issues and addiction.
As another consequence of normalizing weed culture, publicized information and warnings about the risks of abuse tend to decrease. For example, many people are unaware of the potential for dependence or the hazards that may arise when marijuana is combined with other substances.
Plus, there’s less shame associated with using marijuana because it’s treated as safe. Instead, the shame falls on people who need help as a result of their marijuana abuse because legal and normalized substance use is thought of as harmless.
Factors to Consider About Acceptance
There are some critical issues to keep mind when considering how the media influences drug use.
Weed Is Getting Progressively More Potent
When marijuana first became popular in American society in the 1960s, it was much less potent than what’s available today. It contained a lower concentration of psychoactive molecules, so it had less of an impact on certain users.
Today, marijuana isn’t harmful per se, but it is much stronger. This means anyone prone to having issues with substance abuse and addiction can be triggered by smaller amounts of the substance.
Marijuana Use Disorder
You may have been told that marijuana isn’t addictive. This is only partially accurate, and it’s a potentially harmful claim.
Just because weed isn’t considered addictive in the traditional sense doesn’t mean you can’t become addicted to the way it makes you feel. This is what we call a behavioral addiction — like sex and gambling, using marijuana can cause a rush of pleasurable feelings you can become dependent on very easily. The increased potency of modern marijuana strains likely enhances this effect.
This condition is called marijuana use disorder, or MUD. People struggling with MUD often need to use the drug to feel normal and balanced mentally and emotionally. This means they likely stay under the influence for a major portion of the day, which can affect motivation and the ability to maintain a healthy routine.
While this doesn’t apply to everyone who uses marijuana, habitual users tend to be less able to hold a job and are more likely to experience financial insecurity and certain mental health issues.
These are the potential dangers we worry may be overlooked as weed use becomes more normalized.
When to Get Help
So how does the media influence drug use, and how can you be aware of this effect so you don’t fall prey to the risks of marijuana abuse? It’s important to understand that while the drug has been shown to have merits for some people, it’s not necessarily harmless.
With legalization and decriminalization becoming increasingly widespread, it’s likely that more first-time users will try marijuana without being prepared to handle the potential consequences. This makes it important that weed is still dealt with in a serious way, like alcohol. Just because something is legal and available, it doesn’t mean you can be overly casual with your habits.
If you or a loved one are using marijuana and you’re unable to stop, you may have developed a dependency. Contact FHE Health today and learn about your options to get the help you need.