Marijuana, also known as cannabis, has been a subject of myths, misconceptions, and controversy for decades. With the ongoing legalization efforts and increased interest in its medical and recreational uses, it is essential to separate fact from fiction.
Myth #1: Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug
The theory that marijuana is a gateway drug has been debunked several times. It was reported in 2017 by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine no substantial link was found between the use of marijuana and other illegal drugs. Nearly 50% of all people in America stated having used marijuana at some point in their lives, although a large majority of these people never progressed to using any other drugs. If cannabis were truly a gateway drug, there would be a much higher occurrence of other drug use. Another report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, states there is limited evidence showing a link between an increased risk of use for other drugs and marijuana. Most people who use marijuana do not go on to use harder drugs, and people who do choose to use other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, have a higher risk of addiction or dependence, especially those who started using marijuana frequently at an early age. Other factors are likely causes of substance abuse disorder, including:
- Peer pressure
- Having depression, anxiety, or other mental health illnesses
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Socioeconomic status
- Family history
- Lack of family involvement
Myth #2: Most People That Use Marijuana are Heavy Smokers
The truth is nearly 50% of people who have tried marijuana report using cannabis for a total of 12 days or less in their lifetime. Approximately one-third of people who use marijuana report using cannabis ten days or less in the last year, and about 6 million of the 30 million American cannabis users report using marijuana almost daily or daily, which is 20% of those who report using cannabis in the past year.
Myth #3: Marijuana Is Completely Harmless
While several studies clearly show the medicinal and recreational benefits of cannabis, some people think cannabis is harmless, although this is not the case. Cannabis use can be harmful, particularly if smoking. Heavy smokers face the same risks as heavy cigarette smokers, such as respiratory illnesses like bronchitis; although these risks are from smoking, there are many other ways to consume cannabis. Driving while high can be another hazard and should be avoided as it is illegal in every state, even where recreational cannabis has been legalized. Smoking too much marijuana can cause anxiety, paranoia, and cognitive impairment, although these are short-lived, and studies show they are not permanent repercussions. It is important to know how best to use marijuana for your benefit, starting with a low dose and only slowly increasing it to achieve your desired efficacy.
Myth #4: Marijuana Makes You Stupid and/or Lazy
There has been no conclusive evidence that shows using marijuana results in a lower IQ. A study conducted by researchers at the University College London on the relationship between the use of cannabis and IQ, even among heavy marijuana users, shows no connection to intelligence. The use of alcohol, however, has been associated with a strong decline in IQ. There is also no convincing evidence, as found by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, that shows a relationship between smoking cannabis and a decrease in motivation. Most marijuana users do not encounter these problems although cannabis or any other substance can affect different people differently and may potentially interfere with an individual’s ability to perform well in school or at work. This applies to marijuana, food, alcohol, video games, and other substances or issues that are problematic for some people.
Myth #5: Cannabis Legalization Makes It Easier for Teens to Access
Research continues to show that cannabis legalization and reform does not increase use among teens. As reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there has been a declining prevalence of marijuana use disorders from 2002 to 2013 among American adolescents. The study included over 200,000 adolescents across all 50 states. Prohibition of marijuana failed to keep it out of the hands of teenagers, and for the first time in the last 40 years, after several states began to legalize cannabis, the perception of availability of high school seniors has declined to less than 80% compared to 80 to 90% from 1975 to 2012.
Responsible use, education, and regulation are key factors in ensuring that cannabis is used safely and effectively. Whether you are a seasoned cannabis enthusiast or new to the world of marijuana, staying informed is crucial. When using marijuana responsibly, it is critical to choose quality-grade marijuana that has been tested by approved testing laboratories, and if growing your own, be sure to use high-quality cannabis seeds.
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