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Docs Warn Against Effects of Pot

Before lighting up your legal pot, experts warn of potential side effects like memory loss and addiction.

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By Valerie Tejeda

12/07/12

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Pot is now legal in Washington and Colorado, but doctors are warning people to consider the potential health consequences before toking up without abandon. "Daily use increases the risk of becoming dependent," says Roger Roffman, a professor at the University of Washington's School of Social Work. Although he supports state-regulated legalization (in effect as of yesterday), Roffman cautions users to be wary of the drug's potentially dangerous side effects, which can include increased heart rate, memory loss, addiction and impaired judgment. "It's fairly common for people who are using marijuana regularly to complain that their ability to think clearly is impaired—to remember, to organize their thoughts, to follow through with multitasking," he says. Effects of pot vary from person-to-person, and scientists are not yet able to determine which users will experience memory loss, but they believe teens may face a greater risk. "One of the main contributors to worse outcomes (of marijuana use) is the age at which you start," says Ruben Baler, a neuroscientist with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). "So we are particularly worried about young people who are using the drug." Studies have shown that chronic marijuana users score lower in academic and job performance, and overall life satisfaction. "It's difficult to understand why kids working so hard on their education would engage in an act that would lower their chance of success," says Baler. In 2010, more than 29 million Americans over the age of 12 (11.5%) reported using marijuana.

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