Marijuana Myths and Cannabis Facts
I think it’s time for us to finally dispel some of that bad information we hear from people every day. In this day and age where information is readily available at our fingertips, I find it a little amusing that people still hold on to the lies that they’ve been told rather than doing the research themselves. This is my attempt at educating people about cannabis by separating the myths from facts.
Marijuana Myth #1 – Marijuana kills brain cells
Cannabis Fact #1 – Studies have shown quite the opposite, in fact: Cannabis actually promotes the growth and development of new brain cells. No other class of compounds has demonstrated the neuroprotective effects that cannabis has. Promising animal studies show that treating brain injuries, including newborn babies lacking oxygen, victims of stroke, and head trauma, all sustain less damage and heal faster if they are given cannabinoids, the substances found in cannabis, or their synthetic counterparts.
Cannabinoids also protect the brain from slower-forming injuries, like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis, particularly when used in the correct dosage. While cannabis can cause some temporary cognitive changes such as a decrease in short term memory, these changes are reversible when an adult stops using cannabis.
Marijuana Myth #2 – Marijuana makes you stoned or high
Cannabis Fact #2 – Smoking or ingesting cannabis can cause a psychoactive effect, which most people describe as a pleasant euphoria and enhancement of the senses. However, it can also include somewhat less desirable side effects, such as sedation and paranoia. Pleasant or uncomfortable, a growing number of patients want the medical benefits of cannabis without any intoxication or impairment in function. These individuals want to use it while working, safely driving, and more. This is both possible and practical.
After decades of selective breeding to produce the most intoxicating strains of cannabis, sought after by recreational users and dealers in the underground market, medical cannabis breeders are now producing strains that emphasize the health benefits and reduce or eliminate the psychoactivity.
Marijuana Myth #3 – Smoking marijuana causes cancer
Cannabis Fact #3 – A large study in 2006 showed that heavy cannabis users have an equal or lower rate of lung and respiratory tract cancers than non-users, even though cannabis smoke has been proven to contain cancer-causing products of combustion. How is this possible? The therapeutic substances in cannabis actually have strong anti-cancer properties.
This has been known since the 1970’s but more recently cannabinoids have become a major focus of the pharmaceutical industry’s anti-cancer drug development. While smoking cannabis is unlikely to cause cancer, it can irritate the respiratory tract, especially in sensitive individuals.
Most patients and responsible adult cannabis users are turning to non-smokable delivery methods: vaporizers allow users to inhale the medicinal component of the herb without any smoke; tinctures and liquid extracts are safe and convenient, and topically applied cannabis salves are reported to reduce pain and inflammation.
Marijuana Myth #4 – Marijuana is addictive and is a gateway drug
Cannabis Fact #4 – Cannabis dependence does exist, but it is not common. One study found that only 9% of those who try cannabis develop dependence compared to, for example, 24% of those who try heroin. Furthermore, marijuana dependence is much safer – the withdrawal effects are mild and similar in intensity to caffeine withdrawal.
Most people don’t have any trouble stopping cannabis usage, if and when they need to. Recent research demonstrates that cannabis actually serves as an exit drug, not a gateway drug. One study of 350 medical cannabis users in California found 40% percent of the subjects used cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 26% as a substitute for illicit drugs and 66% as a substitute for prescription drugs. Any time a person can replace a safer substance, like cannabis, for a more harmful substance, such as alcohol, it is a step in the right direction.
Marijuana Myth #5 – Marijuana makes people hungry and fat
Cannabis Fact #5 – We’ve all heard that cannabis causes “the munchies,” and it’s widely known that cannabis can help AIDS and cancer patients reduce nausea and promote appetite, to their great benefit. Most users report enhanced taste and pleasure while eating under the influence of cannabis.
Surprisingly, a 2011 study of 52,000 participants in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed people who smoke cannabis at least three times a week, compared with those who don’t use it at all, are one third less likely to be obese. While cannabinoids affect brain centers related to pleasure and eating, they also affect the hormones of metabolism, and if used correctly, can potentially restore balance to individuals who are both underweight and overweight.
Marijuana Myth #6 – Marijuana makes people mentally unstable
Cannabis Fact #6 – Some evidence associates marijuana use with the onset of psychosis or schizophrenia, with the highest risk group being young men. However, statistics show that to prevent one case of psychosis, 2,000 young men would need to stop using cannabis.
While scientists debate whether or not cannabis can actually cause or trigger the onset of mental illness, if it does, it’s extremely rare. It is much more common for cannabis to actually help mental illness such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar, and even schizophrenia, especially when used appropriately under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
I will be debunking more myths in the future. Our work here is just beginning. People need to better understand this miracle plant called cannabis.
Green Health Docs provides guidance on the use of medical cannabis to treat many different ailments and conditions. Our educational sessions on YouTube and Facebook. For more information or to learn how to become a legal medical cannabis patient, call or text us at 240-356-1000