Marijuana is the most popular illicit drug in the United States. Conversations involving marijuana often lead to fervent debates about the safety, science and legalization of the substance. But these debates often include both truths and misconceptions.
Some people say that a plant cannot be addictive, while others point out the negative effects the active ingredient THC can have on the brain. Many believe that the legalization of the drug can help reduce deaths caused by the U.S. opioid crisis, although some research contradicts this claim.
A host of misconceptions about marijuana exist, and it may be difficult to differentiate truths from fallacies. Here is a list of common myths associated with cannabis and the facts that prove them incorrect.
Although it comes from a plant, cannabis can lead to physical, psychological and behavioral health problems. The mind-altering chemical THC produces marijuana’s euphoric effects. But THC can also lead to harmful reactions.
Marijuana can cause breathing problems, pregnancy complications, anxiety, hallucinations and delusions. In some instances, marijuana can worsen mental health disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.
Cannabis has long-term effects on the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some studies have shown that marijuana use during adolescence can lead to problems with learning, memory and impulse control later in life.
Research shows that marijuana is addictive. The substance causes people to compulsively seek the drug despite the health, social and legal consequences. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, up to 30 percent of marijuana users develop a substance use disorder.
Additionally, people who use marijuana before adulthood are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder. Those who are addicted to marijuana and try to quit can experience withdrawal symptoms, including sleeplessness, drug cravings and anxiety.
Many people believe that medical marijuana can replace opioids in treating chronic pain. But American, Australian and British researchers have found little evidence to confirm that increased access to medical cannabis results in any measurable reduction in deaths from opioid abuse.
In a 2018 study published in the journal Addiction, researchers said that it would be premature to recommend the expansion of access to medical marijuana in the United States and Canada as a way to reduce the risk for opioid overdose.
Lead author Wayne Hall said, “There is very weak evidence to support the claim that expanding access to medical cannabis will reduce opioid overdose deaths in the United States.”
Inhaling smoke harms the lungs. Smoking cannabis can lead to lung complications, including breathing problems. According to the American Lung Association, marijuana actually contains some of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens that are found in tobacco smoke.
In some cases, marijuana can be more harmful than tobacco because cannabis smokers inhale the drug more deeply and hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers. This increases lung exposure to the toxins found in marijuana.
Both smoking marijuana and drinking affect driving. Cannabis severely impairs coordination, judgement and reaction time — factors that influence the ability to drive. Studies have also identified a relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving.
Among all illicit drugs, marijuana is most frequently found in the blood of drivers involved in vehicular accidents. In fact, European researchers have found that drivers with THC in their blood were about twice as likely as drivers with no drugs or alcohol in their system to be responsible for a fatal crash.
Additionally, studies have found that the risk of being involved in a vehicular accident increases after using marijuana. In some instances, the risk of being involved in a crash after smoking cannabis more than doubled.
Despite reports and opinions stating otherwise, marijuana is dangerous. It can cause myriad health, social and legal problems. Many myths about cannabis portray the plant as harmless, but it is important to know the risks of using the drug.
If you are interested in learning more about the effects of cannabis, call a marijuana hotline. A host of 24-hour helplines can provide you with information about the dangers of marijuana and connect you with a nearby treatment center if you need help.
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