An exploration of research addressing common myths
| Ever felt inundated with the marijuana rhetoric wafting about? Heard it all before? Surely you and thousands of others have. What is true and what is farce? It would be nice if these things were investigated with legitimate research, yes?
As it turns out, marijuana has been and continues to be researched. It is time now to pay attention, and, hopefully change the rhetoric. After all, if things are going to be repeated so much it is remembered, hopefully it will be useful. This piece assumes the public’s need for updated information on marijuana use and poses an updated view.
Myth or Fact? Consider the surrounding research around those confident marijuana assertions circulating about:
Common myth 1: "It is a gateway drug! Smoking pot will lead to stuff like heroin and cocaine."
That marijuana use will lead to the use of other illegal substances and abuse of legal drugs has been a common belief. However, it does not appear to be The Institute of Medicine summarized research into marijuana that debunks the gateway assumption, "There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs."
Analysis of drug use shows a purely coincidental sequence of multiple drug users having had weed prior to other harder drugs and "gateway" rhetoric proponents conveniently omit that marijuana has often been preceded by underage alcohol and tobacco usage. In fact, a study done in Switzerland amongst a sample of adolescent subjects showed that marijuana use is not always preceded by cigarette use or vice versa. However, they did also find that teens who solely used marijuana function better than those who solely used tobacco. The marijuana-only users are more socially driven and show no more psychosocial problems than an individual who abstains from both tobacco and marijuana.
Common Myth 2: "It is perfectly healthy, unlike tobacco based cigarettes!"
Well, legal cigarettes with its tobacco and nicotine are definitely unhealthy--there are no two ways about that. But marijuana being "perfectly" healthy is a bit of a stretch. Legal tobacco/nicotine based cigarettes cause 1 in every 6 deaths in the U.S and causing 87 percent of all lung cancers. It is also related to diseases of the teeth and gums as well as tuberculosis. The full list can be found in the Tobacco Almanac.
Marijuana, Cannabis Sativa, is comparatively healthier than cigarettes. Quite frankly it is comparatively healthier than alcohol and all of the illegal drugs including heroin, cocaine, meth, and acid (LCD). Notwithstanding, it is not like it’s a health food, either. It does cause damage when smoked to lung cells. Also, excessive use shows memory problems similar to that of head-injury-patients' memory difficulty.
Common Myths 3 &4: "Weed is addictive." vs "Marijuana is not addictive."
No, it is not addictive technically speaking. However, indirectly the nervous system can "miss" getting high especially when coupled with psychologically positive responses. So, put into the perspective that one can become psychologically addicted to, well, anything such that the body can respond somewhat after excessive use of anything is ceased a form of withdrawal is suggested. However, this rare withdrawal-like circumstance does not give as much pause as the concretely demonstrated withdrawal of other controlled substances. Unlike dopaminergic receptors, anadamide receptors neither diminish nor multiply...got that?
Once the marijuana "buzz" chemicals are depleted the receptors go back to dealing with normal functioning. One would experience virtually NO physical withdrawal symptoms as is seen in drugs which do the opposite--like Heroin, Ice, Crank, Oxycontin, Codeine, Morphine, other drugs including alcohol.
Common Myths 5: "Cannabis should be used for medical purposes across the board."
Well, not really across the board. AIDS patients can be placed at higher susceptibility to illness from the disease caused immune system deficiency and marijuana has been shown to increase this possibility. Also, it has been shown to quicken the development of HIV into AIDS. So, again, medical marijuana cannot be accurately applied across the board.
However, it does have many useful medical functions:
1. Multiple Sclerosis, Crohns, Glaucoma, Cancer, and Arthritic patients have shown benefit from use regarding pain, spasticity, depression, and in relief of some condition-specific symptomatology
2. Increase in appetite for those who are dangerously dropping weight. (i.e., "munchies")
3. Decrease in stress resulting from the "mellow" mood produced
4. Sleep for those that have trouble with falling asleep
5. Pain reduction for those with chronic pain
Not done surprising the medical community, marijuana has also been shown to target cancer cells-- killing them and leaving normal somatic (body) cells unharmed.
Summary of Results
Marijuana has been subjected to myriad of studies to answer a vast number of questions. More often than not, the general public is not significantly exposed to the results of these studies. Rarer still are results joined together to make a comprehensive statement on marijuana and health. By combining the results mentioned earlier, a statement is possible:
Marijuana is an intoxicating substance capable of being smoked or cooked into food and eaten. The active ingredient is THC (delta-9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol) which is similar to the body's own endogenous cannabinoid and its effects. Usage has been shown to cause some cellular damage to the lung and recollection capability of the brain when used extensively. Moderate use has not been shown to cause irreparable damage to the body. Cannabis is all but impossible to overdose from. Unlike other intoxicating substances, cannabis does not affect sex cells leaving future generations genetically unscathed. It does not cause death, but should give HIV positive and AIDS patients pause before use because of an association with increased risks that could lead to death for those with the disease who use marijuana. It has many beneficial medical functions. It is safer than all other legal and illegal drugs.
It seems the U.S. government would agree as it has invested in the demonstrated benefit of pot, since, as of 2003, it claimed Patent #6630507 on the substance because of its usefulness in the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of diseases. “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NDMA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in treatment and prophylaxis of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants…” the Patent reads. As Patents are for inventions and alterations and not generally for that which occurs in nature, there are terms for when natural items may be patented. In the case of cannabis, individual strains and its researched effects on medical conditions/states were offered as evidence for the patent. Perhaps because the strains do not occur in isolation it qualified for patent, although there is likely more to it than a simple loophole. Finally, Jocelyn Elders, a former Surgeon General of the USA, told CNN that she supports the legalization of marijuana, a Surgeon General’s opinion is hard to disregard.
> Walker, M. T. Posted on Mar 15, 2011 Suite 101.COM
>Institute of Medicine
>Reviewed Work: Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany by Robert C. Clarke, Mark D. Merlin Review by: Manuel A. Aregullin
The Quarterly Review of Biology Vol. 89, No. 4 (December 2014), p. 401Published by: The University of Chicago Press
DOI: 10.1086/678650 Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/678650 Page Count: 1
>Baggio, S., Studer, J., Mohler-Kuo, M., Daeppen, J. B., & Gmel, G. (2013). Profiles of drug users in Switzerland and effects of early-onset intensive use of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis on other illicit drug use. Swiss Med Wkly, 143, w13805.
> Cannabis use and other illicit drug use: do subjective experiences during first cannabis use increase the probability of using illicit drug? 2015, Vol. 20, No. 4 , Pages 234-238 (doi:10.3109/14659891.2014.896955) Stéphanie Baggio, Yves Henchoz, Joseph Studer, Stéphane Deline, Alexandra N’Goran, Meichun Mohler-Kuo, Jean-Bernard Daeppen, and Gerhard Gmel http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/14659891.2014.896955