You see it all the time in movies, TV shows, music videos, and even in your community. Some states have even legalized it. Someone lights up a joint and appears to be having a great time, so you think, ‘Weed is so popular, it can’t be that bad.’
I hate to burst your bubble, but it is.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. It is a tricky substance in that it is deceptively dangerous.
Below are some common myths about marijuana that have been around for basically forever. Keep in mind that we’re in the days of the internet (obviously, that’s where you’re reading this blog on) and there are a lot of people with polarizing views on this topic. You can search google for all of these myths and you’ll find blog upon blog that will try to convince you that marijuana is a weak drug and is safe to try and use. They may even have facts and statistics to back up their claims, but I challenge you to critically think about the source of this information you find to determine if it is a credible, trustworthy, reliable source backed by extensive scientific data and free from bias.
Dr. Nora Volkow, the director at the National Institute of Drug Abuse, made this statement about marijuana in March: “Whether smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana has therapeutic benefits that outweigh its health risks is still an open question that science has not resolved. Although many states now permit dispensing marijuana for medicinal purposes and there is mounting anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of marijuana-derived compounds, there are currently no FDA-approved indications for ‘medical marijuana.’”
Myth: Marijuana is not addictive.
I’ve had numerous discussions with people who have tried to tell me marijuana isn’t addicting because they could stop at any time. For some people who use it sparingly, this may be 100 percent true. But it can be addicting for those who are regular users.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) created by the American Psychiatric Association “substance dependence includes tolerance (needing more of the substance to achieve the same effects); withdrawal symptoms; using a drug in the presence of adverse effects; and giving up social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.”
The presence of adverse effects is already there in the form of felony and misdemeanor charges for anyone who uses weed in Indiana. Do you know of anyone who has had to increase their marijuana use because they weren’t getting the same high? I know I do. I also know people who have put their entire life on hold because they’re too busy smoking weed and start to not care about other responsibilities such as school and work.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, young adults and teens are three times more likely to become dependent on marijuana than adults. In fact, almost 2/3 of teens in a drug treatment program are there because of a marijuana dependence.
MYTH: Marijuana has never killed anyone.
For a long time it was believed you couldn’t overdose on marijuana, but a 2014 German study identified instances where two seemingly healthy young men died as a direct result of using weed. There are numerous occasions where people have had weed in their system and killed someone else, or themselves. The most common ways are by driving under the influence, which can double your risk of a car crash, or by committing suicide.
Don’t believe me? Watch this video from Kevin Sabet, a former drug advisor for Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, and he’ll convince you in 1 minute.
MYTH: There are no negative side effects. You’ll just get hungry and feel really relaxed.
While marijuana can make you relax and give you the munchies, it can also do a lot of other really bad things to your body. I’ve had several people who have tried weed tell me they felt extremely paranoid and nervous after the fact or while they experience their high. According to the ONDCP, regular usage of marijuana can also make you more aggressive than non-users. Aggression is never a good thing since it can lead to violence which can lead to even more issues with those you care about and the law.
ONDCP also says that short-term effects will probably include memory loss, anxiety, and trouble problem-solving. Continued use can lead to issues with learning and brain development, which makes it hard to do well in school and keeps you from reaching your full potential. It can also lead to panic attacks, depression, schizophrenia, insomnia, thoughts of suicide, and lung damage.
MYTH: Smoking weed doesn’t cause cancer like tobacco does.
This is a gray area, mainly because marijuana has been illegal up until recently, and researchers haven’t been able to fully conclude if there is a link between marijuana and lung cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that “in studies that looked at past marijuana use in people who had lung cancer, most of the marijuana smokers also smoked cigarettes.” This make it hard to determine exactly if the marijuana use or the tobacco use is what caused the cancer.
There are definitely some solid reasons to believe marijuana causes cancer though. Marijuana smoke contains tar and other dangerous chemicals, just like cigarettes. In addition to this, joints are typically smoked all the way to the end, and are inhaled deeply and held in the lungs for longer, “which gives cancer-causing substances more opportunity to deposit in the lungs” (ACS).
MYTH: Everyone’s doing it.
Also, not true. DrugAbuse.gov reports that 21.3 percent of high school seniors, the group in high school that uses weed the most, have smoked weed in the past month. That’s barely 1/5, which is a far cry from the majority. It also means that four out of five people haven’t smoked weed in the last month. So if you’re really trying to fit in with the cool crowd, be one of the four.
I’ve just touched on a few of the most popular preconceived notions surrounding marijuana, but there are a number of others. I invite you to check out the ONDCP’s publication Marijuana Myths and Facts to learn even more.