When it comes to cannabis, there is a lot of misinformation floating around. As is often the case with things we don’t fully understand, there are plenty of myths and legends swirling around cannabis, its health effects, and its benefits and drawbacks.
The Truth About Cannabis—Myths Debunked
Once classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, cannabis has come a long way since the days of the War on Drugs. While it’s still highly regulated in many states and entirely illegal in others, new testing and research about cannabis are being published every day. Let’s unpack some of the most common beliefs and myths surrounding cannabis.
Belief: Cannabis is a Gateway Drug
Every teenager has been warned about the dangers of cannabis at least once in their lives. We’re often told that it is a ‘gateway drug’ – that people who use cannabis are more likely to engage in risky behaviors and use harder drugs. However, this myth is much more nuanced than you might think.
Cannabis may be considered a gateway drug because some who use it do go on to use heavier drugs. However, this isn’t because of the cannabis itself, but because those individuals are already psychologically predisposed to risky behaviors, including drug use. This can be attributed—at least in part—to social, behavioral, and environmental conditions.
Certain traits and behaviors may make some individuals more likely to use drugs of all kinds. Smoking the occasional joint won’t compel you to use heroin, but people who use heroin are much more likely also to use cannabis.
Belief: Cannabis is Highly Addictive
Cannabis is not highly addictive especially when under medical supervision. Only 5% of people surveyed used it regularly.Research suggests that about 9% of Marijuana users become clinically dependent at some point (reference: Clinical Relevance of Cannabis Tolerance and Dependence. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology) when compared to Tobacco 32%.However, it may be habit-forming through extended periods of regular use. Consider taking a break one to two days a week if you are a daily user and you feel tolerance building.Again get guidance from your health care provider/physician.However, a one-time use, or even semi-regular use, is not enough to elicit physical addiction symptoms. Individuals who use cannabis regularly may experience some mild withdrawal symptoms upon cessation, like difficulty sleeping, irritation, or nervousness, depression within one week of cessation of use. However, these often go away within a few days to two weeks. Studies indicate that cannabis is less physically addictive than caffeine.However ,Marijuana Use Disorder is defined as recurrent use o Marijuana which causes clinically and functional impairment at work, home or school. Symptoms of Marijuana use disorder includes disruption in functioning, Marijuana tolerance ,Cravings for Cannabis, development of withdrawal symptoms .Please always consult your health care provider.
Belief: Cannabis Kills Brain Cells
While cannabis use can cause some memory loss, cognitive impairment, and apathy, these side effects are temporary and typically go away after a period of cessation. The one exception is for adolescents who use cannabis. Studies report that individuals under 25 who use cannabis heavily can experience adverse cognitive effects in the long term. Use of Cannabis before the age 18 lowered IQ 20 years later.Youth’s brains are not fully developed until their mid-20s, so drug use can affect them differently than it would an adult.
Belief: Cannabis Causes Memory Loss
Similar to the last point, cannabis use can cause some minor memory impairment, but it is usually temporary and can revert to normal levels after cessation. Some evidence shows minor cognitive differences between users and non-users, but the effects are minimal and are not permanently harmful.
Belief: Cannabis Kills Motivation
While cannabis users may experience a sense of calm, relaxation, and even apathy while under the influence, there is no evidence that it causes a permanent loss of drive.
Belief: Cannabis Causes Lung Cancer
New research shows that cannabis smoke does contain similar chemical compounds as tobacco smoke. These compounds are only released during combustion (when cannabis is smoked) and have been linked to cellular damage of the lungs. Long-term smokers may be more likely to experience respiratory issues such as airway inflammation and chronic bronchitis than non-smokers - though these conditions often go away with cessation. However, there is no definitive data linking cannabis smoke to lung cancer.
Belief: Cannabis Causes Paranoia and Psychosis
Status: Mixed results
Cannabis can indeed cause incidences of paranoia and psychosis. However, this typically occurs in individuals with pre-existing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or when users take excessively high doses of THC. CBD, the other chemical component of cannabis, produces anxiolytic effects. Studies on depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among teens are mixed, though we already know that the developing brains of adolescents are particularly susceptible to the effects of cannabis.
Belief: Cannabis Overdose Can Lead to Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)
Prolonged/chronic use of cannabis can result in abdominal pain and vomiting, known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS. This condition is also called a cannabis overdose but is different from ‘greening out’ (consuming too much cannabis in a single sitting). It can result in tachycardia, lethargy, cardiovascular symptoms, and even coma. This mainly occurs with unintentional overconsumption of CBD beverages, gummies, candies, or children’s accidental ingestion.
When using any kind of substance, it is vital to know the facts. Now that we’ve cleared up the myths and misconceptions surrounding cannabis, you can confidently make the decision that’s right for you.