Has someone ever told you that marijuana can kill brain cells or that everyone who smokes marijuana is a pothead? In this article, we will discuss the top six myths surrounding cannabis and provide you with the facts to help you distinguish between myth and reality.
Myth #1: Marijuana kills brain cells
Reality: The opposite! Cannabis is a neuroprotectant, meaning that it may result in salvage, recovery or regeneration of the nervous system, its cells, structure, and function. In recent animal studies*, cannabis has been shown to help regenerate and integrate new brain cells to already existing neural pathways, or circuitries. There is no evidence linking cannabis use to the loss of brain cells.
Myth #2: Marijuana is a gateway drug
Reality: Cannabis has been accused of being a gateway drug, in other words, the cause for people to fall onto harmful narcotics. The path to other drugs is not necessarily cannabis, but rather other life events or decisions. Those who are more vulnerable to taking drugs often start with readily available substances like tobacco or alcohol and/or are a part of social circles that can influence them toward drug use. However, cannabis has been described as an exit drug for those beating addictions. According to recent survey data*,
- 40% used cannabis as a substitute for alcohol
- 26% used cannabis as a substitute for illicit drugs
- 66% used cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs
- The most common reasons given for substituting were:
- Less adverse side effects (65%)
- Better symptom management (57%)
- Less withdrawal potential with cannabis (34%)
Myth #3: Marijuana lowers IQ
Reality: There is limited evidence to support a link between cannabis use and impaired academic achievement and education outcomes. An analysis* conducted on 13 studies that evaluated consumers after at least 25 days of abstention found no residual effects on cognitive performance. These results fail to support the idea that heavy cannabis consumption may result in long-term, persistent effects on neuropsychological functioning.
Myth #4: Marijuana causes mental disturbances
Reality: Although some experience anxiety or paranoia after consuming cannabis, no prospective study has shown that cannabis causes psychosis or psychotic disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has said that although depression, anxiety, and personality disturbances have been linked with chronic use, it is not clear whether cannabis causes these problems or is used to “self-medicate” against them.
Myth #5: Everyone who smokes marijuana is a “pothead”
Reality: Although cannabis consumption has become more mainstream due to legalization, researchers found* that only 6 million Americans out of the 350 million citizens claim to consume cannabis on a daily or almost-daily basis. Also, it was found that 40-50% of people who have tried marijuana report a lifetime total of fewer than 12 days of use.
Myth #6: Smoking marijuana is harmless
Reality: Due to its chemical similarity, heavy cannabis smokers are at risk for some of the same health effects as cigarette smokers, such as bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses. However, these risks are from the act of smoking alone, which is not the only way to consume cannabis. Another hazard of cannabis consumption is the potential for car accidents caused by driving while impaired, however, the risk is lower than drunk driving.
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