9 Myths About Marijuana Harm

Marijuana is not for medicinal purposes comic

Efforts to expand the legalization of recreational marijuana use in the US and abroad is increasing interest in marijuana, and stoking myths about its use.

This article originally appeared on the Prevention Plus Wellness website.

Because these myths paint marijuana in a favorable light, they could influence marijuana consumption among children, adolescents and young adults.  This may be shown in the lessening of perceived risks of using marijuana among American adolescents, reported in the Monitoring the Future Study: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends.

For this reason, it is important to correct false marijuana claims, particularly the bedrock myth that marijuana use is harmless.

Below are 9 common myths about marijuana, and the myth-busting reality.

  1. Marijuana is harmless.

The truth is that marijuana, like all drugs, poses both short and long-term risks.  This is the case whether the drug is “natural” like alcohol or tobacco, or completely artificial like synthetic marijuana – Spice/K2.  Negative effects of marijuana use for youth involve physical and mental health and social problems.  These include, for example, vomiting, arguments with parents and trouble with the law, anxiety and depression, paranoia and hallucinations, poorer school performance, other drug use, accidental injury and death, and physical and psychological dependence.  For more information, here is an article discussing recent research examining marijuana use harm among youth: http://preventionpluswellness.com/2016/10/research-youth-marijuana-harm/.

  1. Marijuana is not addictive.

Marijuana, like all psychoactive substances, can be addictive.  Marijuana use can result in psychological dependence resulting in it interfering with one’s daily life.  The term “pothead” is a slang term used to describe a person who uses marijuana habitually, even daily, and when a person’s life becomes centered around his or her marijuana use.  In addition, marijuana can result in physical addiction in which unpleasant withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, sleeplessness, fatigue, slow motor skills, and depression may result when an individual tries to abruptly stop using it.

  1. It is safer to drive after using marijuana than after drinking alcohol.

Comparisons between marijuana and other substances, particularly alcohol, are usually presented by marijuana industry supporters to show cannabis is less risky or better than other drugs in some way.  A more helpful question is does marijuana pose an increased risk for traffic and other accidents?  Since marijuana slows reaction times, increases disorientation and preoccupation with surrounding stimuli, and affects decision-making, the answer is unquestionably yes.  In addition, marijuana is not metabolized in the body as quickly as alcohol, so it’s effects on driving performance are likely last longer than those for alcohol.

  1. Marijuana is medicine, so it must be good for you.

Any drug, prescription or over the counter, isn’t good for everyone just because it has medicinal effects for some individuals.  In fact, when medicines are used for non-intended purposes, they can be dangerous and even deadly.  Take, for example, the recreational misuse of prescription pain medicines which have resulted in numerous recent accidental deaths throughout the country.

  1. If my parents used or currently use marijuana, it should be okay for me to use.

The reason marijuana remains illegal for young people, even if you live in a region where it is legal for adults, is because it is particularly dangerous for young developing brains, and has potential for serious, life-changing negative effects on a young person’s life.  In addition, today’s marijuana is much more potent than in the past, and therefore is more likely to result in physical and mental harm.  For more information, here are 10 tips to help parents reduce the risk of marijuana harm for their kids: http://preventionpluswellness.com/2016/10/10-tips-parents-use-marijuana/.

  1. Smoking marijuana is not as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

This is another false comparison usually presented by the marijuana industry to mislead youth and adults that marijuana use is harmless.  The truth is that marijuana smoke, like tobacco smoke, contains carcinogens, and regular marijuana use has been shown to increase lung-related health problems.

  1. Marijuana is a good way to “chill out.”

The use of any drug to relax is an unhealthy way to cope with stress.  It is much healthier and more effective to use holistic, non-drug approaches to address life stress.  These include getting regular physical activity and participating in sports, eating healthy foods, getting adequate sleep, and practicing relaxation strategies like deep breathing, meditation or prayer.  Marijuana use can actually increase anxiety, along with other mental and physical health problems and social troubles, adding stress for youth and young adults.

  1. Everyone is using marijuana.

Even if you live in an area where marijuana is legal for adult use, cannabis is only used by a small minority of people.  Research has proven that most adults and young people do not regularly use marijuana.  In addition, nearly all adults, including parents, believe that youth should not use marijuana until much later in life, if at all.  Even most young people believe that using marijuana is not a good idea while young.

  1. Marijuana is cool.

Here is what young people think is cool.  Feeling and looking good, confident, fit, strong, energetic, and successful.  These types of results don’t come from using any drug.  They come as a natural result of getting regular exercise, and participating in other healthy habits every day.  Only living an active, fit and healthy lifestyle will lead to a happier and more successful future.  Drug use of any kind can interfere with achieving one’s personal and professional goals.