The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Once considered a fringe recreational drug, marijuana is now legal in several U.S. states and is increasingly used in medical treatment for glaucoma, nausea associated with cancer treatment, and other conditions. But do these recent developments suggest that marijuana is a safe drug? Can it be used safely without any negative impact on work performance? Since marijuana is among the most popular drugs in the world, this is a concern that we cannot afford to downplay. Here’s what to know about the various uses of marijuana and the drug’s impact on work performance.
The wave of marijuana legalization across the country is causing some workplaces to ask questions that would have been irrelevant only a few years ago. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that employers are now wondering how things like medical marijuana conflict with long-standing drug policies or what protocols to take for companies that use machinery operation and vehicle delivery services.
Legalization is also prompting interesting studies in places like Colorado. Heading into the close of 2021, the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) began a new study that examines marijuana use and exercise. The study highlights one ultramarathon runner who runs up to 100 miles a week—while under the influence of marijuana. The study’s researchers hope to provide data that clarify marijuana’s psychological effects and whether it should be considered a performance-enhancing drug in professional competitions.
Marijuana is even becoming a popular alternative for those who have anxiety but don’t want to continue using prescription benzodiazepine medication, such as Xanax. Instead of these medications, people are using cannabidiol oil, which is known as CBD. CBD is made from marijuana plants but does not contain the active ingredient that produces a high. This is contrasted with hemp-based oils, which contain small amounts of the high-inducing chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Despite this renaissance of marijuana use trending here, there, and everywhere, this does not eclipse what we know about the trouble of marijuana use. We have a range of data showing how marijuana use is associated with a significant increase in accidents, injuries, and absenteeism rates. As the running study was willing to point out, marijuana use does not always positively affect its users either. While some people are motivated to run and enjoy the scenery of nature when under the influence of marijuana, others experience negative effects. This includes those who turn to marijuana for alternative treatment for anxiety. Some users experience severe panic attacks, and the drug only worsens their anxiety.
Because of the way marijuana interacts with the brain’s reward system, it is no less dangerous than other drugs when it comes to the potential of habit-forming use that eventually leads to addiction. THC modulates the neurotransmitters in the brain, changing things like movement, feelings, pain, pleasure, and memory. If these changes are received positively, the body’s reward system begins to crave marijuana more and more. While not as common, there are instances where ongoing use of marijuana becomes detrimental to the brain, causing symptoms of psychosis.
Based on the research available, marijuana is quite a polarizing drug. While many institutions and medical professionals are working to uncover how normal and even universal the uses of marijuana can become, others are sticking with the known negative impact of marijuana as an incentive to stay away from it. While some suggest that marijuana use is more responsible when it is legalized, the fact remains that the more marijuana is used, the higher the risk for abuse and addiction.
Since everyone is different and the effects of marijuana vary from person to person, it cannot be argued that there is no negative impact on work performance when marijuana is used. The chemical dependence of marijuana might be weaker or stronger from person to person as well, which means addiction can happen even when someone initially intends to use marijuana for very limited uses.
While it’s certainly the case that marijuana use can negatively impact some job situations more than others, what remains true is the potential for big problems if someone addicted to marijuana tries to stop taking the drug immediately or without professional help. Various physical and emotional side effects can occur when trying to stop marijuana cold turkey, which can severely and negatively impact one’s work performance. While marijuana has some noted differences compared to other drugs, trying to come off the drug requires the same kind of support system that other drug detoxes do.
If you or someone you know is struggling with marijuana addiction, it’s important to find professional help that can serve as a way to avoid negative impacts at work. And if you’ve considered making marijuana a part of your motivation for work, it’s important to stop and think about how addictive and destructive the drug can be regardless of its legal status.
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Colorado University Boulder. (2021, November, 29). New Take on Runner’s High: Study Explores how Marijuana Affects Workouts. Retrieved https://www.colorado.edu/today/2021/11/29/new-take-runners-high-study-explores-how-marijuana-affects-workouts
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