By Patrick O’Neil, Group Facilitator, CAST Centers
Marijuana is the second most abused drug in America—alcohol being number one. 55 million Americans say they regularly use some form of cannabis on a daily basis, and that astounding number is on the rise. One reason for this surge in popularity is the recent legalization for recreational use of marijuana. This is not just in California as there are ten other states where cannabis, edibles, vape pens, and concentrates are now readily accessible with just a driver’s license. There’s practically a dispensary on every block in Los Angeles, making marijuana just as easy to obtain as beer. With all this new gained access and increased consumption busting these “marijuana is good for you” myths may not be a popular position to take. However, the cold hard reality is that marijuana is a drug, just like its previously mentioned legal counterpart, alcohol, and there are major problems with prolonged use and dependency with any drug.
Here are: 4 Myths Why Marijuana Is Good For You
1. Marijuana Is Legal And As Harmless As Alcohol
While marijuana might be legal in eleven states and Washington DC, in the other 41 states and to the Federal Government it’s still a Schedule 1 drug. A classification that puts marijuana in the same category as heroin and a more restrictive category than Schedule 2 drugs like cocaine and meth. The Feds mandatory minimum sentence for first time possession is a year in prison. You get caught selling it’s a felony and a five year sentence. These penalties get worse with subsequent convictions. So basically you’re still committing a crime by possessing, buying, or selling marijuana. As for the “harmless as alcohol” myth—alcohol consumption is the mitigating factor in a significant amount of assaults, fatal driving accidents, domestic violence, emergency room visits, and of course drunk driving arrests. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently stated, “there are currently no methods to test for marijuana-impaired driving,” it is only a matter of time before law enforcement figures it out and the possibility of having a marijuana DUI conviction becomes very real.
2. Marijuana Helps With My Depression And Anxiety
A study published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders indicated that smoking marijuana initially eases symptoms of depression and anxiety, but with prolonged continued use the depression and anxiety get worse. To understand how this works you need to understand how marijuana works. Marijuana’s active ingredient is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. Your brain already produces anandamides, which are actually a cannabinoid, just like THC. When you smoke marijuana the THC binds with your cannabinoid receptors and activates neurons, which causes the high. These cannabinoid receptors influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, time perception, and coordinated movement. When you introduce copious amounts of THC greater than the normal levels of cannabinoid your body produces over an extended period of time, there are possible side effects such as memory loss, increased anxiety, temporary paranoia, depression, and a greater risk of developing psychosis. Self-medicating with marijuana is not a solution for your depression and anxiety.
3. Marijuana Is Less Harmful Than Smoking Tobacco
All smoke is bad for your lungs. According to the American Lung Association, an organization that is working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, “Toxins and carcinogens are released from the combustion of materials. Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.” Marijuana smokers inhale the smoke deep into their lungs and hold it, which leads to a greater exposure to carcinogens. Dr. Joseph Friedberg, Head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, states, “Both types of smoke contain some of the same carcinogens, so the widely held belief that tobacco smoke causes cancer and marijuana smoke does not is inherently flawed.” But even if we’re not talking about cancer, the American Lung Association further warns, “Research shows that smoking marijuana causes chronic bronchitis and injures the cell linings of the large airways, which leads to symptoms such as chronic cough, and acute bronchitis.”
4. Marijuana Is Not Addictive
“There should be no controversy about the existence of marijuana addiction,” says Dr. David Smith, founder of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic. “We see it every day. The controversy should be why it appears to be affecting more people.” In the medical and substance abuse fields it’s been generally recognized that marijuana is addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Over 2.7 million people in the United States meet the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana dependency.” When chronic marijuana users abruptly stop using, “The signs of withdrawal – restlessness, irritability, agitation, hyperactivity, insomnia, nausea, cramping, loss of appetite, sweating, and increased dreaming – are common.” Today’s strains of THC are stronger, and the physiological dependence and withdrawal all the more real.
If you search the Internet you’ll find numerous pro-marijuana sites loudly proclaim the “benefits” of using cannabis. You’ll also find just as many “scared straight” anti-drug sites that are just as loudly proclaiming the exact opposite. Like anything in life, when you have to make your own decisions, make sure you educate yourself first, instead of believing the myths.