Marijuana: A local addiction expert has answers to some popular questions

A local doctor has the answers to some questions regarding marijuana.

Posted: Apr 18, 2021 2:37 PM
Updated: Apr 18, 2021 8:26 PM

Utica, N.Y. - Now that it's legal to possess up to three ounces of marijuana in New York State, a local expert has some answers to some popular questions regarding cannabis.

First off, is it a gateway drug like so many people have said it is even before it became legal.

Dr. Ross Sullivan, Executive Medical Director at Helio Health on Court Street in Utica, one such place in our area where people go for help with addiction, says he doesn't believe marijuana is a gateway drug any more than any other legal drug, "That’s one of those questions which the answer is both yes and no. It is true, it’s been overstated, marijuana being a gateway drug, there’s really not a lot of credible evidence that marijuana leads to use of other drugs. It's where there is some concern, it’s just like any type of drug that has legality to it, something like alcohol or nicotine for instance, all of these things in excess amounts or too much can be a problem and also some concerns with especially among adolescents. You can become dependent or addicted to almost almost anything, marijuana seems to be actually less but again still concerns for adolescents. The same things could be said about tobacco and nicotine and alcohol. These things can have ramifications on the younger brain, things like mood instability, cognition problems, learning difficulties, some emotional up-and-downs."

Dr. Sullivan says legalizing marijuana may actually help people who may otherwise turn to opioids, "A lot of us believe, including myself, that introducing marijuana legally probably will have really no change or increase in opioid problems. We do know there are people who use opioids for pain, anxiety sometimes, to make themselves feel better, so certainly maybe with marijuana being legal, perhaps people will be able to use marijuana in a similar way and have a much safer outcome."

Some may wonder if there is as much a risk of cancer with marijuana as there is with cigarettes, "Anytime you light something on fire and you smoke it, there’s still going to be problems with those types of things. Certainly smoking anything can lead to lung problems, those who have asthma can have an exacerbation."

If you have tried marijuana before, or may soon try it for the first time, remember it is still illegal to drive in New York State under the influence of marijuana.

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