There is a huge amount of fake news swirling around out there about Marijuana and its effects. The discussion around legalizing marijuana can get emotions running high, with people standing stridently on one side or the other. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the most common myths wafting around about cannabis products and clear the haze to reveal the reality.
“Marijuana is a Gateway Drug”
The idea that Marijuana use can lead to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin is prevalent. Although many users of illicit ‘class A’ drugs have previously used marijuana (probably because it is widely available) that certainly doesn’t mean that it causes the use of harder drugs. Correlation is not causality. A report by the institute of medicine actually stated that “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”
Because underage smoking and alcohol use tend to precede marijuana use, marijuana can’t be seen as the first or most common “gateway” to illicit drug use. Marijuana has also been found to be much less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, not to mention harder drugs; you can’t overdose on it and it doesn’t have the toxicity of alcohol and other substances. So, just to be clear, you don’t need to worry about that spliff leading you down a dark road to meth addiction.
“Marijuana is addictive”
Firstly, let’s look at what addiction actually means. Addiction is defined by the NIH (National Institute on Drug Abuse) as ‘a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain’.
Now, although there has been some evidence of dependence on cannabis in certain frequent, long-term users, casual use is certainly not going to lead to addiction. When you consider the fact that many pot smokers are not actually heavy users, the idea of addiction becomes even less viable. Measured against other drugs, research has suggested that about 9 percent of marijuana products users become dependent compared to 15 percent of cocaine users and 24 percent of heroin users. Most cannabis users can stop smoking when they want to (unlike cigarette smokers) and they don’t have a compulsive drive to use the drug. It’s also important to note that people who use medical marijuana for chronic health issues typically use it for long-term symptom management, and this should never be mistaken for addiction.
“Marijuana kills brain cells”
Ever walk into a room and wonder what you’re doing there? Well, rest assured that it isn’t blazing up that has given you temporary amnesia. There is intense discussion over the neurological effects of marijuana, and the anti-cannabis brigade would have you believe that a single toke will make you forget where you live. However, evidence from several scientific studies seems to suggest otherwise.
Some studies have shown that when adolescents are exposed to very high levels of THC–the psychoactive component of marijuana–it can cause changes in cognition, but this is probably because of the malleability of the brain at this stage of life. In contrast, a study by researchers at the University of Bonn actually showed that small, daily doses of THC in the elderly improved cognitive health and reversed brain aging. CBD compounds have actually been found to be neuroprotective and can be beneficial for issues like epilepsy and MS, and some studies have even shown cannabis to be neuroregenerative—meaning rather than killing brain cells, it can actually help you to build new ones!
Although the evidence about the exact effects of cannabis on the brain is inconclusive, there is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that it kills brain cells.
“Medical Cannabis is a Myth”
This myth is completely false and extremely detrimental to the work of medical professionals and the health and wellbeing of people being successfully treated with medical cannabis.
Some people argue that marijuana has no medicinal uses, is no different from recreational cannabis and that it shouldn’t be legally accessible. However, in the US, more than 2.5 million patients use medical marijuana, and it has been shown to have some incredible benefits, particularly in easing patient’s suffering with chronic pain (a huge problem in the US). THC is known to relieve nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and there is also evidence that CBD compounds have positive effects on relaxing muscles in conditions including MS, Parkinson’s and epilepsy, with the FDA recently approving Epidiolex (cannabidiol) for the treatment of seizures. There is also evidence that Marijuana can treat certain mental disorders, most notably in veterans with PTSD, with 16 states now legalizing its use for that purpose.
We hope this post has vaporized some of the most persistent and prevalent myths about cannabis in our society.