7 Things You Can Guarantee Will Happen On Christmas Day

1. Getting an unexpected gift and being forced to feign joy and excitement.

Maybe you get something you already have? Maybe you get given yet another generic shower gel package? Maybe you get given some piece of tat that there is no way in hell you would ever use? Whatever the case, this happens every year and let’s face it, you’ve become a bit of an expert at faking Christmas cheer at this point. The last thing you want to do is offend someone’s gift taste.

2. Eating yourself one roast potato away from a heart attack.

A loved relative knocks up a Christmas dinner of titanic proportions and you soldier through and eat every morsel you possibly can. You think you are going to combust but know that seconds are already on their way. You take a deep breath and prepare yourself. Refusing extra food is not an option. You can’t face seeing the look of disappointment on the cook’s face as you decline the festive dinner they slaved for hours over. By the time thirds are offered you have to accept defeat, justifying it by saying you are “saving yourself for dessert”; thereby reluctantly committing yourself to even…more…food…

3. Getting at least one gift that you can’t use because it doesn’t come with batteries.

This should be a criminal offence. Is there actually anything more disappointing? Your childhood is already scarred with memories of opening toys that didn’t come with batteries; yet you never learn.

4. A family feud over *insert trial reason here*

This could be about anything. What channel to put the TV on? What time to open presents? What flavour gateaux to have for dessert? Take your bets. Either way, brace yourself for a tense moment or two on this fine day.

5. Watching the same Christmas films you do every year.

Die Hard, check. Home Alone, check. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, check. Love Actually, check. You know these films like the back of your hand and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without them. But there’s always that one person who insists on talking through the film; who you will sit and internally rage against for the entirety of the movie.

6. Taking board games a bit too seriously.

Bitch please, no one knows Monopoly like you do. You are the Monopoly Grandmaster and no one will stand in your way – that includes your blood relatives and closest, longest friends. You will happily disown a loved if they lose your Pictionary team a point and you have no qualms about bending the rules slightly to keep your title.

7. Being hounded by personal questions from your loved ones.

Is any subject deemed too personal? No. Your love life, career plans and past mistakes could be brought up at any point. It is likely to hit you when you least expect it; but in the same way you have mastered the art of feigning joy, you’ve mastered the art of talking about your life as if you actually know where it’s going and what you’re doing.

Top 10 Black Friday Shopping Tips for 2017

Some of us wait all year for the Black Friday shopping season, our heads filled with the promise of scoring the best price of the year on a new TV, tablet, printer, or high-tech gadget. But don’t let all the Black Friday hype fool you. You might end up overpaying if you get taken in by so-so prices masquerading as fantastic bargains, and you can miss out on great deals because you didn’t do your research. (Check out the best Black Friday TV deals for 2017.)

No worries—Consumer Reports has been tracking Black Friday deals for years, so we’ve got you covered. Our top 10 Black Friday shopping tips below will help you get the best deal on the items you want and keep frustration—and overspending—to a minimum.

We are also tracking the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals we find on televisionslaptops and tablets, and smartphones.

1. Start early. Gone are the days when Black Friday simply meant checking the Sunday circulars to see which local retailers had the best deals. Black Friday has morphed into a whole month of deals and savings, and online retailers also regularly update prices throughout the event.

So to judge how good the actual sales really are once it’s crunch time, you’ll need to track the deals leading up to Black Friday. The same goes for Cyber Monday, which now stretches into a week of online specials.

2. Do your homework. Only rookies head out on Black Friday unprepared. Getting ready means studying the ads—in print and online—the weekend before Thanksgiving. CR has already weighed in on the Black Friday deals at Best BuyCostcoDellBJ’sTarget, and Walmart.

You’ll find tons of leaked Black Friday ad scans at bfads.netbestblackfriday.comdealnews.comgottadeal.com, and theblackfriday.com.

3. Compare prices. If you spot a great deal at one retailer, go to PriceGrabber.comPriceWatch.comShopping.com, or ShopZilla to make sure you can’t do better elsewhere. (Don’t forget Google Shopping and NexTag.com.) There are also a growing number of apps, such as ShopSavvy, Shopular, and BuyVia, that let you scan bar codes to compare prices, get discounts, and score coupons from local retailers. (See tip No. 6, below, for additional shopping apps.)

But remember, direct comparison shopping isn’t always easy. For instance, large retailers might apply their deepest discounts to TVs with a specific model number, which makes it difficult to be sure you’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison. In some cases, comparison shopping isn’t even possible.

4. Be loyal. Stores often have loyalty programs that offer sales and promotions to their members first, then let them earn rewards on what they buy. Signing up for Black Friday shopping alerts will get you the early word on promotions, coupons, and discounts. In some cases, you can even find out whether the products you want are in stock or eligible for a buy online/pick up at the store option that saves you on shipping.

5. Get social. The Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite retailers are a great way to find out about deals and promotions. Retailers will often reward customers who like or follow them with special alerts to Black Friday discounts and incentives. And of course texts, tweets, and social media posts are an easy way to share Black Friday shopping intel with your friends.

6. Phone it in. Before you head out to a store, make sure your smartphone is fully charged and loaded with a few of the comparison-shopping apps mentioned above, or Flipp, RetailMeNot, Shopkick, and SlickDeals. In addition to providing pricing info, they can often be used to place orders or monitor items via a personal watch list.

Many include a bar-code scanner to help you compare prices and a QR-code reader for coupon codes and special deals. The aforementioned Black Friday sites may also have their own shopping apps, as do the major retailers, such as Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Amazon’s Mobile app, for example, lets you use a smartphone camera to scan products and price-shop online, and Walmart’s uses geolocation, so if you’ve ordered online, it will start getting your order ready the second it detects you’re in the store. But as the The Washington PostThe New York Times, and other news outlets reported last year, be on the lookout for fake apps that masquerade as well-known retailer apps.

7. Create a budget—and stick to it. Yes, this sounds simple. But Black Friday sales, especially the doorbuster specials available in limited quantities, are designed to get you into a store so that the retailer can sell you something else.

Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend on your Black Friday shopping spree, and do your best to resist impulse buying, especially if you’re not sure how good a specific deal is. If you find that you’re too free with your charge cards, try buying with cash this year and see whether you have better self-control. But if you are sufficiently disciplined, buy with a credit card that doubles the manufacturer’s warranty and then pay it off before any interest accrues.

8. Check all store policies in advance. It’s always good to know a store’s price-match and return policies. As noted in our Black Friday 2017 TV predictions article, we expect more retailers to price-match specific online and in-store deals this year. Almost all of the major retailers have some form of price-match policy, and they’ve been expanding them almost every year. But some stores might suspend their price-match guarantees during the Black Friday weekend on certain items, so read the fine print. Check the return and exchange policies for Black Friday sales to make sure that the store won’t charge a restocking fee for any item you bring back.

9. Avoid pricey accessories. You’ve just scored an awesome giant-screen 4K TV at an all-time low price, so don’t blow your savings by splurging on pricey accessories or extended warranties. (This is where retailers make their money, hence the hard sell.) If you know you’ll need an HDMI cable, buy it in advance from an online retailer such as monoprice.com or bluejeanscable.com. That way you won’t be pressed into overpaying at the store, where you might pay $35 for a 6-foot HDMI cable that performs similarly to a cable you can buy for less than $3 online.

10. The cheapest TVs aren’t always the best deals.Doorbuster specials draw people in with visions of savings, but they might not offer the best product for their needs. This is especially true for big-ticket items such as TVs. Just remember that you’ll probably be watching that TV for a number of years; if you’re not happy with its features or picture quality, you’ll wind up spending that time regretting the fact that spending an extra $100 could have gotten you a set you’d be happier with. Also, those loss-leader TVs are usually at their rock-bottom price. A retailer may have more wiggle room on a step-up model or flagship model, so during your Black Friday shopping don’t be afraid to ask for a better price on the TV you’d really like to own. (Read “Haggling Really Works When You Buy a New TV, Laptop, or Other Device” for more details.)

By James K. Willcox

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Why Millions of Americans Never Finish College

How can millions of Americans be out of work or stuck in low-wage jobs, while employers leave millions of jobs unfilled each year? A big reason is the nation’s college completion crisis—something that is just beginning to get the national attention it deserves. In fact, less than half of America’s college students ever graduate. And the numbers are worse at community colleges, which are the primary providers of education and training for the 29 million middle-skill jobs that pay middle-class wages.

This isn’t only a problem for the individuals who don’t graduate. It’s a problem for all of us. Without decent jobs with decent pay, people remain trapped in poverty, income inequality persists, and the American promise of opportunity for all can’t be fulfilled.

Well-paying jobs that require only a high school diploma have largely disappeared as automation and globalization continue to transform the economy. By 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require at least some postsecondary education. Community colleges serve close to half of all American students, enrolling 10 million students each year, but just under 20 percent earn an associate’s degree within three years.

Dismal as these numbers are, they don’t reflect the full extent of the problem, since the statistics exclude students enrolled part-time and those who “stop out”—take a break from school to work or care for family and later return to college. There is anecdotal evidence that completion rates for these students are even lower. This means that a large swath of America’s potential workforce isn’t getting the education and training they need to support themselves and their families and climb into the middle class.

There are two central reasons that students don’t complete college, and they typically operate in tandem: inadequate preparation and difficulty navigating college.

High school graduates from high-poverty areas are generally not well prepared for college-level work, so they get assigned to “developmental” (remedial) courses in math and English. Working adults who enroll in community college in an effort to advance their careers face similar hurdles, as their academic skills are typically rusty.

Students may be required to take anywhere from one to three developmental courses, which must be taken sequentially and don’t confer college credit. The delay costs students both time and money—developmental courses use up financial aid, which has a lifetime limit, and don’t count toward a degree—and produces frustration and discouragement. Seventy percent of students assigned to developmental courses never complete college.

The second reason students don’t earn a degree is the difficulty of combining college with other commitments or navigating the higher education system. Close to two-thirds of community college students work to support themselves and their families while in school, and they may be facing homelessness and hunger. Many are single parents, and more than a third are the first in their families to attend college—both factors that can pose major obstacles to graduation.

Because many community college students have had little prior exposure to higher education, they often struggle with all the moving parts that go into completing college successfully: choosing courses that lead to a degree, applying for financial aid, obtaining tutoring or other academic supports, and balancing work and school.

This is not a new problem; it’s been on the radar of educators and policymakers for decades. Our organization, Jobs for the Future (JFF), and its partners have developed some solutions to improve college completion rates nationwide:

Redesigning remedial education

New approaches aim to shorten the time a student spends doing remedial work and make that work relevant to the student’s career goals. Whenever possible, developmental education courses become credit-bearing, speeding the student’s progress toward a degree.

Colleges are also looking for more effective ways to measure academic readiness. Instead of relying on standardized test scores to determine which students need remediation, colleges are using multiple measures, including high school transcripts, teacher evaluations, and conversations between students and advisors.

JFF has worked with Florida, West Virginia, Ohio, and other states to lead a national movement to reform developmental education.

Guided pathways through college

A course catalogue is not unlike an all-you-can-eat buffet: It presents students with a dizzying array of appealing options but provides little guidance on choosing the right courses, in the right order. With only minimal advising available, college students frequently make poor choices and end up with a disjointed collection of credits instead of a degree or the right credits to transfer to a four-year school.

The solution, called “guided pathways,” is like a prix fixe menu. The universe of choices is narrowed and organized into sequences that help a student get and stay on a path to completing a certificate or degree. Guided pathways also include intensive advising and other supports to help students navigate all aspects of college life. JFF provides expertise to institutions and policymakers to promote policies and programs that support guided pathways.

Early college high school

Early college high school prepares low-income students academically and gives them the knowledge and confidence they need to navigate college. Students in these programs take college courses, for credit, in high school, so they reach college academically prepared instead of requiring remediation. Extensive support from teachers and counselors, and lots of exposure to college campuses, culture, and expectations, gives even the most vulnerable students an opportunity to complete college.

Most students (94 percent) in these programs graduate from high school with some college credit, and a third earn an associate’s degree by graduation, allowing them to enroll directly in a four-year college. JFF and our partners have helped start or redesign more than 280 early college schools that currently serve more than 80,000 students nationwide.

Developing these solutions requires a great deal of thoughtful, collaborative effort. Each has taken years—often decades—to develop, and all are works in progress that require significant investment to sustain. Improving college completion rates is slow and costly, but the cost of leaving large swaths of the population behind is far higher.

Most of The World Could Be 100% Powered With Renewables by 2050

Almost three quarters of the world’s countries could be powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2050 – if we want it badly enough, that is.

That’s according to an ambitious new 2050 roadmap that calculates a move to an emissions-free future would create millions of jobs, cut trillions in health and climate costs, and help save the planet from global warming.

The estimates, produced by a team of almost 30 scientists, are based on an assessment of the capabilities of 139 countries to transition to 100 percent wind, water, and solar power in the next three and a bit decades.

While such a far-reaching overhaul of existing energy infrastructure goes beyond what the UN’s Paris climate agreement (COP21) actually calls for, the researchers say there are compelling reasons for going all in sooner rather than later.

“Our findings suggest that the benefits are so great that we should accelerate the transition to wind, water, and solar, as fast as possible,” says one of the team, Mark Delucchi from the University of California, Berkeley, “by retiring fossil-fuel systems early wherever we can.”

That’s because doing so wouldn’t just create new jobs in renewables – a net increase of more than 24 million full-time positions is anticipated – it would also make us healthier sooner, with less fossil fuel emissions polluting the atmosphere.

The team says that reduction alone could cut deaths due to air pollution by as much as 4.6 million premature fatalities annually.

But perhaps even more importantly in the long run, making the switch could lock in COP21’s goal of keeping the rise in global temperatures to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The research, which in an earlier form was initially presented to world leaders at COP21 in 2015, builds upon a previous US-only roadmap that showed how the 50 US states could make the same kind of renewables transition by 2050.

Both studies were spearheaded by Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson – a co-founder of US non-profit The Solutions Project.

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“What I find most exciting about the results of this study is that every country that we examined has sufficient resources to power itself,” he told Charles Q. Choi at IEEE Spectrum.

“[A]lthough in the case of a couple of tiny countries with very high populations, this might require either importing energy from their neighbor or using an unusually high amount of offshore energy.”

That’s because larger countries with more landmass respective to the size of their populations enjoy greater flexibility in finding appropriate sites for solar, wind, and hydropower facilities.

While the 139-country roadmap has been a massive undertaking, the team don’t intend to stop there.

“We are next developing roadmaps for individual cities to go to 100 percent clean, renewable energy,” Jacobson said.

While thousands of the world’s cities are already doing an amazing job of independently crushing their carbon emission targets, more localized and granular roadmaps could only help the world to go emissions-free.

As awesome as the rapid uptake of renewables has been in recent times, from where we stand right now we’ve still got a long way to go to get to 100 percent – but we’ve got a roadmap, people, and we know which way to head.

The findings are reported in Joule.

How Millennials Are Killing Businesses and Things We Love

With smartphones in their hands and bloodlust in their hearts, millennials are dealing death blows to businesses, products, and even concepts right and left — at least, according to Twitter.

According to analysis released Monday by Brandwatch, users have tweeted that “millennials are killing” something over 1,500 times since the beginning of 2017. Topping the list of millennial victims is “chain(s),” which presumably refers to chain stores and restaurants, at a little over 450 mentions. Famous chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebees also receive specific shoutouts.

And can it be mere coincidence that Nasdaq published an article advising stockholders to sell their shares in Buffalo Wild Wings on Tuesday, the day after this Twitter data was compiled and released?

This reporter thinks not.

According to these rankings, millennials are also killing diamonds, malls, and lunch. Brandwatch touches on the reason for this in their analysis: “It would be great to buy homes or eat out every night but financial hardship means they can’t.” Millennials are not in the market for diamonds because millennials sometimes spend an extra five minutes in CVS wondering if body wash is actuallyworth it.

Beer also comes in surprisingly high on the list of things that millennials are killing, due to both their preference for wine and their search for “quality, authenticity, and new experiences” outside of large beer brands like Anheuser-Busch and Pabst.

And, by the way, millennials are killing this stuff, too

In the past couple years, the millennial generation has been accused of killing off the entire golf industry, the concept of work/life balance, traditional marketing tactics like focus groups, and dinner dates.

But there’s more: millennials also have blood on their hands regarding paper napkinsrunning for sportbars of soapin-person conversations, sex, marriage, monogamy, “safe sex,” and cheating on one’s spouse.

Millennials also reportedly hate vacations, wine bottles they can’t twist open, like Philistines, the oil industry, traditionally owning a carHarley-Davidson bikeslife insurancefabric softenerthe lotterycerealcable channelsBig Macs, and cruise ships. Oh, and the generation also hates guns that aren’t in video games and hiring a good old-fashioned stripper for their buddy’s bachelor party.

But, ultimately, as most analysis concludes, this millennial murder spree is nothing new — it’s just the market talking, baby! And as millennials come of age and begin earning their own capital, it’s about time that companies start listening.

Confederate Monuments Are Coming Down All Over the Place

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville “”Unite the Right” rally that left many wounded and resulted in multiple deaths, cities across America aren’t delaying any longer. Several cities have just decided to go ahead and remove their confederate monuments, rather than continuing to delay the inevitable. This weekend’s rally exposed the inherent racism and high tensions behind many of these statues, and several Southern cities would rather get ahead of things and remove them before any more controversy is conjured up.




… And several other cities across America are trying to handle protesters for and against removal of Confederate statues and monuments, as well. It’s a tricky situation, but one that’s likely best handled with expediency.

U.S. Hate Map Sees Renewed Interest After Violence in Charlottesville

The Southern Poverty Law Center has long kept track of hate group mobilization across the United States, and a map released in February is seeing renewed interest this weekend after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in terrifying images and a mainstreaming of bigotry at the so-called “Unite the Right” rally. As of Sunday, three people have died. The map made the rounds on Twitter and was featured on the Meet the Press on Sunday morning.

The SPLC released its annual census of hate groups in the Spring 2017 issue of its Intelligence Report. It includes an interactive map that marked the location of recognized hate groups all across the United States.

How the hate group map was compiled

The map was made “using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports. Groups that appear in the center of states represent statewide groups.” The SPLC classifies a “hate group” as one that includes “criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.”

A rising tide of hate

The increase in terrorism began soon after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, who was elected on the strength of the so-called “white, working-class” voter base.

It began with dozens of different bomb threats phoned into various Jewish community centers and synagogues around the country, and two Muslim mosques burned to the ground in the month of his inauguration (the one in Victoria, Texas, burned just a couple of hours after the Trump administration announced the executive order that initiated the so-called Muslim ban).

“I don’t think I’m telling anybody something they don’t know when I say that Trump’s election has been absolutely electrifying to the radical right,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, about the map.

The interactive graphic of America’s hate groups is available on the SPLC website, where visitors can click on different icons to get more information about the organizations.

The roundup includes all sorts of intolerant organizations, including anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigration, white supremacy groups, and more. The SPLC used hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources, and news reports to compile the list of groups.

Data collected also shows that hate group activity was declining between 2011 and 2014. But once presidential candidates began their campaigns for the 2016 election, high-profile extremist ideas helped lead to the proliferation of hate groups.

More information about the rise of hate group activity and the election of Trump’s effects on this trend can be found on the SPLC website.

University of Florida Rated Best College In The State By TIME Magazine

The University of Florida is the best college in the Sunshine State, according to TIME magazine.

TIME released rankings Thursday breaking down the best schools state by state. Colleges are judged on a range of factors including academics, cost of tuition and student life.

The report described Florida as one of the “best bargains,” citing its low price of attendance and the overwhelming majority of undergraduates who receive state or grant funding to defray some of the costs.

Another selling point? Athletics: “The Gators, of course, are one of the strongest college sports franchises in the country. The football team routinely wins a bowl berth, but athletic success is widespread,” the report said.

The “Hot Water Challenge” Has Kids Assaulting Each Other For Likes

Though it sounds like a plot element jacked from Clockwork Orange-esque dystopian novel, recent footage has surfaced online of teens participating in the “Hot Water Challenge,” in which they film themselves throwing boiling water on an unsuspecting victim, or pouring it on themselves.

If you are a teen reading this: do not do this. Please, seriously, do not inflict serious harm to yourself or others, especially not for the sake of viral content.

Reports of children being injured on the receiving end of the Hot Water Challenge have begun to crop up, with one girl even succumbing to injuries she endured after she was dared to drink boiling water through a straw. The girl, Ki’ari Pope, was 8 years old when she died.

This video, which apparently shows someone participating in the Hot Water Challenge, has made rounds across Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, where it was first shared a year ago.

Most recently, an 11-year-old girl from the Bronx was hospitalized after hot water was poured on her face while she slept early Monday morning. A 12-year-old girl is being charged in connection to the incident. Below is a news report with images of the girl’s injuries, which are definitely disturbing.

The challenge harkens back to another trend that involves young participants self-harming: the Blue Whale Challenge. Like the Hot Water Challenge, the Blue Whale Challenge spread through the internet and has already claimed lives.

According to the Burn Foundation, it only takes three second for water heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit to induce a third-degree burn. Water’s boiling point is 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

One can only hope that increased awareness can help parents prevent kids from participating in the Hot Water Challenge. Because, again, it is so patently bad and nobody should be doing it.

Marijuana’s Popularity Among US Adults Continues to Grow. Here’s Why

Marijuana’s popularity among American adults is on the rise — and use of the recreational drug is expected to continue to increase, according to several surveys.

The increase in popularity, along with more permissive attitudes toward marijuana use, may be due in part to its changing legalization status in many parts of the country, experts say.

Forty-five percent of adults in the U.S. have used marijuana at least once in their lives, according to a Gallup poll released in mid-July — the all-time highest percentage in the 48-year history of Gallup asking Americans this question.

Trying marijuana at least once as an adult isn’t the same as being a user of the drug, but the percentage of current smokers is on the rise as well: The same Gallup poll revealed that 12 percent of U.S. adults — 1 in 8 — said they use marijuana, up from 7 percent in 2013.

Meanwhile, data from two large national surveys done by the federal government also finds increasing rates of marijuana use among adults. (Gallup does its poll by telephone interviews, while federal surveys conduct face-to-face interviews. An in-person interview could possibly influence results because marijuana is still illegal in most states and people may be hesitant to admit they use it.)

One of these large surveys, published in 2015 in JAMA Psychiatry, found that the prevalence of marijuana use in the United States more than doubled over a decade. After interviewing about 36,000 people, ages 18 and older, the researchers found that the percentage of adults who reported using marijuana in the past year jumped from 4.1 percent in 2001–2002 to 9.5 percent in 2012-2013.

The data showed that marijuana use was increasing in males and females in many age groups, although it was increasing a little faster in young adults, ages 18 to 29, and in males, said Deborah Hasin, one of the study authors and a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. The rates of use were also increasing among middle-age and older adults, she said.

But the trends in increasing use appear to be limited to adults: Marijuana use is not increasing among teenagers, Hasin said. Two major studies have shown that marijuana use has been relatively stable in adolescents over the last few years, she said.

The top four reasons people give for using marijuana are to relax, to relieve pain, to have fun and to help them be social, according to a survey by Yahoo News/Marist College done in March.Unwinding and fitting in may explain why many people decide to smoke pot, but what are some reasons for its rising popularity among adults?

One explanation is the growing perception that marijuana has few risks, Hasin told Live Science. In the 1960s and ’70s, scare tactics were used to discourage young people from smoking pot, and there was a perception that marijuana could lead to a person becoming addicted to heroin, she said.

These days, teens and adults increasingly see marijuana as a natural substance that’s basically safe, Hasin said. However, one of the known risks of immediate use of the drug is impaired driving ability, she said.

Many people probably consider smoking marijuana as less likely to lead to drug dependence than using other illegal substances. But many of the studies that concluded marijuana may be less addictive than other drugs were done 25 years ago when marijuana was less potent than it is now, Hasin said.

And not only are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, higher now than in the past, but people may be using these more potent forms in different ways, such as vaping or consuming them as edibles. Researchers don’t truly know yet how higherpotencies and newer delivery methods will affect marijuana use disorders, Hasin said.

The changing legal status of marijuana in many states may also be responsible for shifting attitudes toward its use and perceived dangers. Twenty-nine states have passed medical marijuana laws, and voters in eight states have approved limited recreational use in adults, Hasin said.

There is some evidence from states that have passed medical marijuana laws that shows faster increases in overall marijuana use in adults, compared with states without medical marijuana laws, Hasin said.

Data from California and Colorado, two early adopters of medical marijuana laws, has shown that increased availability of marijuana has led to more overall acceptability of marijuana use, in general, as well increasing perceptions of the drug’s safety, Hasin said. All of these factors seem to increase recreational use of marijuana by adults within these two states, she said.

Marijuana’s popularity can also be explained by a simpler factor: Many people find the drug enjoyable to use.

When a person gets high, marijuana has the same effect on the release of the brain chemical dopamine as other psychoactive substances, such as cocaine or heroin, said Francesca Filbey, the director of Cognitive Neuroscience Research in Addictive Disorders at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas.

THC binds to cannabinoid receptors, which are found all over the brain, Filbey told Live Science. When THC binds to the receptors, it stimulates the increased release of dopamine, which activates the brain’s reward system and contributes to marijuana’s pleasurable effects, she said.

But marijuana doesn’t only affect areas of the brain involved in feeling good. THC can also attach to receptors in the brain that play a role in modulating other types of behavior, Filbey said. It works like volume control, “turning down” areas of the brain that influence memory, concentration, decision-making, movement and pain perception, she said.

Originally published on Live Science.