Marijuana stories and myths are often thrown around in debate as fact, usually by people who haven’t researched the subject themselves. Below is a list of common marijuana myths and misconceptions, as well as referenced explanations as to why these are only myths, and nothing more than that.
- Marijuana causes lung disease & is worse for you than tobacco.
- Kaufman, Marc (2006-05-26). “Study Finds No Cancer-Marijuana Connection”.
- WebMD (23 May 2006). “Pot Smoking Not Linked to Lung Cancer”
- Sarafian TA, Kouyoumjian S, Tashkin D, Roth MD (July 2002). “Synergistic cytotoxicity of Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol and butylated hydroxyanisole”
- Marijuana kills brain cells.
- Heath, R.G., et al. “Cannabis Sativa: Effects on Brain Function and Ultrastructure in Rhesus Monkeys.”Biological Psychiatry 15 (1980): 657-690.
- THC Marijuana helps cure cancer – Harvard
- Cannabis Sativa : Effects on brain function & ultrastructure in Rhesus Monkeys
- 1974: “Cannabis Causes Brain Damage”
- White matter integrity in adolescents with histories of marijuana use and binge drinking
- Marijuana boosts brain cell growth
- Marijuana might cause new cell growth in the brain
- Heavy marijuana use doesn’t cause brain damage
- Marijuana is stronger today than in the past.
- Cannabis 1988, Old Drug New Dangers, The Potency Question – by Tod H Mikuriya, M.D. and Michael Aldrich, Ph.D., Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, ibid.
- Marijuana has no medical value.
- Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence. By Drs. Lynn Zimmer and John Morgan. New York: The Lindesmith Center, 1997.
- Marijuana is addictive.
- Marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs.
- Marijuana causes road accidents.
The risk of developing lung diseases, such as lung cancer, black lung and emphysema, from smoking marijuana is often said to be equal to or greater than that of smoking tobacco.
Since 1982, UCLA researchers have evaluated bronchial cell characteristics in marijuana-only smokers, tobacco-only smokers, smokers of both, and non-smokers. Although they have found changes in marijuana-only smokers, the changes are much less pronounced than those found in tobacco smokers.
The nature of the marijuana-induced changes were also different, occurring primarily in the lung’s large airways – not the small peripheral airways affected by tobacco smoke. Since it is small-airway inflammation that causes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, marijuana smokers may not develop these diseases.
There is also no clinical data suggesting that marijuana-only smokers develop lung cancer. However, since some bronchial cell changes appear to be pre-cancerous, an increased risk of cancer among frequent marijuana smokers is possible. Except for their psychoactive ingredients, marijuana and tobacco smoke are nearly identical. However, tobacco is grown with radio-active fertilizer; radio activity is proven to cause cancer.
Smoking is harmful due to the properties of smoke itself, therefore the more one smokes, the more harm one does to their lungs. Most tobacco smokers smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day, with heavy users smoking upwards of 40 (2 boxes or more). The average marijuana smoker smokes far less, averaging anywhere from 1-10 joints per day (10 being on the high end of the scale).
Marijuana smokers also have the option of different methods for ingesting the herb, which eliminates many of risks associated with smoking. Pulmonary risk might be reduced if marijuana were smoked in water pipes rather than cigarettes. Using a vapourizer or cooking with cannabis eliminate the risks associated with smoking entirely. And if you consider yourself a “chronnoisseur”, pulmonary risk is further reduced due to smoking stronger, high-quality weed, as less smoking is required to achieve the desired effects.
Contrary to what you’ve been taught at school and by your parents, marijuana does not kill brain cells. There is no evidence that marijuana users—even long term users—suffer permanent impairment. Numerous studies comparing chronic marijuana users with non-users have found no significant differences in learning, memory recall or other cognitive functions.
This myth has been preached as truth for about 30 years, after some “scientific” studies were conducted on monkeys, who apparently experienced heavy brain cell damage after being ingested with cannabis smoke.
After years of requests about how the study was conducted, the methods of the study were eventually released. Researches administered 63 joints worth of marijuana in five minutes to the monkeys through gas masks, with no air in take in-between. This resulted in a lack of oxygen to the brain. In reality, they suffocated the monkeys. The monkeys lungs began to collapse after 90 days.
Many people still go on to claim marijuana kills brain cells as fact, not knowing the origins of the study.
In fact, recent studies that have been conducted have not shown any signs of marijuana killing brain cells, but instead has been proven to cause regeneration of brain cells, which in it self was previously thought impossible. These studies have not seen the same amount of attention.
The findings from the monkey studies in the 70’s have not yet been duplicated, and have actually been disproved by a more recent study: Rhesus monkeys were exposed through face-mask inhalation to the smoke equivalent of four to five joints per day for one year. When sacrificed seven months later, there was no observed alteration of hippocampal architecture, cell size, cell number, or synaptic configuration. The authors conclude:
“While behavioral and neuroendocrinal effects are observed during marijuana smoke exposure in the monkey, residual neuropathological and neurochemical effects of marijuana exposure were not observed seven months after the year-long marijuana smoke regimen.”
Thus, 20 years after the first report of brain damage in two marijuana-exposed monkeys, the claim of damage to brain cells has been effectively disproven. Here are some more studies disproving brain cell damage due to marijuana use:
This myth is the result of bad data. The researchers who made the claim of increased potency used as their baseline the THC content of marijuana seized by police in the early 1970s and 1980s, and compared it to indoor, high-grade marijuana seized today. Independent assays of unseized “street” marijuana from the early 1970s showed a potency equivalent to that of modern “street” marijuana.
Of course the THC content will be higher today. Growers have perfected the art and have new nutrients and new technology. There has always been a range in THC levels between strains and grows, but now that seeds and information are readily available online, everyone has access to growing high quality marijuana.
There is also no medical evidence that shows that higher potency marijuana is more harmful than low-potency marijuana. Marijuana is one of the least toxic substances known to man. In fact, high-potency cannabis is preferred as it generally means it is grown in better and cleaner conditions. You also have to consume less of it to get the desired effect; thereby reducing the amount of smoke that enteres the lungs and lowering the risk for any respiratory health hazards.
Marijuana has been shown to be effective in reducing the nausea induced by cancer chemotherapy, stimulating appetite in AIDS patients, and reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. There is also appreciable evidence that marijuana reduces muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders. A synthetic capsule (Marinol, which contains a synthetic version of THC, the main chemical ingredient in marijuana) is available by prescription, but it is not as effective as smoked marijuana for many patients. Pure THC may also produce more unpleasant psychoactive side effects than smoked marijuana. Many people use marijuana as a medicine today, despite its illegality. In doing so, they risk arrest and imprisonment.
Countries such as America and Canada have already legalized medical marijuana in certain areas. In America, medical marijuana is legal in the states of California, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Nevada and New Jersey just to name a few. Germany is also currently in talks about legalizing medical marijuana.
First, lets define what physical addiction is; A substance that when taken for long enough produces gross physiogical changes in the way the body works, so that normal operation of the body is impossible without that substance being injested.
Marijuana is not physically addictive, meaning there are no physical withdrawal symptoms when one stops smoking, as there are with drugs like cigarettes and cocaine. However, marijuana use can become habitual. However in saying this, there are many people who have used marijuana casually for years and have not gotten into the habit of smoking it regularly. And for those who do, if they were to stop smoking over night, the physical effects on the body would be non-existant, besides the craving to smoke and get high which they have since become used to.
It is true that there are more children in addiction clinics for marijuana than ever before, therefore marijuana must be addictive, right? What they don’t tell you is why this statistic is true. In a country where marijuana is illegal, and you get arrested for possession, you will need to go to court and plead your case. You won’t necessarily be thrown straight into jail, but instead you might be given the option to attend a treatment center. The government then gets to use this statistic to back up their claim that marijuana is addictive.
Dopamine, a neurochemical produced in the central cortex of the brain, is thought to provide the brain’s “reward system.” Interference with dopamine production is considered a major symptom of biochemical addiction. While two studies alleged a minor link between THC and dopamine production in the brains of rats, these were refuted by several subsequent studies showing that cannabis does not radically affect dopamine levels. Even so, minor evidence of dopamine activity is not the sole indicator of addiction. If it were, than all pleasurable activities would be defined as addictive.
Compared to drugs such as caffeine, alcohol, heroin, cocaine and nicotine, marijuana sits right at the bottom of the list when it comes to addiction.
In conclusion, if there are no physiological withdrawal symptoms; there is no addiction. Any substance, whether it be food or television can become habituating. This is no indication for addiction.
This is a myth that has been drilled into us since we were children. The gateway theory suggests that if one uses marijuana, you are at risk of experimenting with harder drugs.
Many studies have been done, and all show that there is nothing in marijuana that makes one want to try harder drugs. However, the studies do suggest that one’s environment plays the most important role in determining what drugs a person decides to take. I.e. if it’s easier for a kid to get his hands on some weed than it is to buy beer or cigarettes, then he’ll be more likely to smoke pot.
In essence, the gateway theory does hold some truth. Because marijuana is an illegal substance and is controlled by drug dealers, children are more likely to experiment with hard drugs because dealers often have these hard drugs on offer.
So yes, one can see some truth in the gateway theory. However, the gateway to hard drugs is not caused by marijuana, but instead caused by the prohibition of marijuana and the blending of the hard and soft drug markets.
Driving under the influence of anything is always a touchy subject. It is clear as to the effect that alcohol has on ones driving, with empirical evidence linking drunk driving to directly to car crashes and a loss in psychomotor skills. However, linking marijuana to such claims is a lot less convincing. Driving under the influence of marijuana has been studied extensively over the last 20 years and has shown that marijuana has little to no effect on driving capabilities.
Weed smokers are “aware of their impairment”, which is a decline in “psychomotor skills” such as slower reaction times and eye movement. This means, that while drinkers will tend to overestimate their driving skills, smokers underestimate their capabilities. They are more likely to refuse to drive in the first place, but can also become all the more aware of their actions and more cautious on the road. Although, that’s not to say their driving isn’t slightly impaired.
Nevertheless, this impairment does not appear to play a significant role in on-road traffic accidents. A 2002 review of seven separate studies involving 7,934 drivers reported, “Crash culpability studies have failed to demonstrate that drivers with cannabinoids in the blood are significantly more likely than drug-free drivers to be culpable in road crashes.” This result is likely because subject under the influence of marijuana are aware of their impairment and compensate for it accordingly, such as by slowing down and by focusing their attention when they know a response will be required.
It’s important to remember that anything can be abused if used too much. Use marijuana responsibly; if you have important things to do which you shouldn’t be high for, don’t get high!
Feel free to suggests more myths to bust.
About the Author: Sticky Scissors
Co-founder and editor of Below The Lion. Hippie with a haircut. Appreciator of fine herbs and spices. Nature lover. Animal Lover. Skateboarding is not a crime. Proudly South African.