by Sarah Mann, MD
Cannabis has been the center of political debate, social media scandal and scientific controversy. In this day and age of information overload, it can be hard to sort out the facts. Let’s take a look at some of the more prominent marijuana myths.
- Marijuana kills brain cells, lowers IQ and makes you dumb: Despite the prevailing stereotype of the perpetually confused stoner boy, numerous studies have proven cannabis does just the opposite – it promotes the growth and development of new brain cells. It has shown promising neuroprotection in brain injuries, hypoxic births, strokes, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.
- Marijuana makes you “stoned” or “high”: While marijuana can cause a psychoactive effect, the impact can be controlled. Typically, marijuana consumption is associated with euphoria, dysphoria, sedation, paranoia, etc. Many people enjoy these sensations, and may even be of benefit in PTSD, depression and anxiety much like the psychotropic Xanax. However, a growing population would like to increase their medication dose without impairing their daily activities, and this is easily achieved with usage.
- Smoking marijuana causes cancer: A large study in 2006 showed that heavy cannabis users have an equal or lower rate of lung and respiratory tract cancers than non-users. It can irritate the respiratory tract, but that is the extent of the damage.
- Marijuana is addictive and is a gateway to other drugs: Studies show up to 9% of people exposed to marijuana may become addicted, which pales in comparison to the addiction rates of alcohol, nicotine, heroin or caffeine. Research has again demonstrated the opposite, marijuana is an effective exit drug rather than a gateway drug. It was particularly effective in weaning for alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drugs by replacing the substance with a far safer substance.
- Marijuana makes people hungry and fat: A surprising 2011 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed people who smoked cannabis at least 3 times per week were less likely to be obese than nonsmokers. The “munchie” effect is attributed largely to the terpene content. In fact, strains high in THCV can serve as an appetite suppressant!
- Marijuana makes people mentally unstable: There has been concerns that marijuana may trigger episodes of psychosis, schizophrenia or mania. This has not been supported by epidemiological studies, and is more likely that the psychiatric symptoms and interest in marijuana occur around the same time. Cannabis can be very helpful in mental illness including depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and substance abuse.
- CBD is for health and medicine, THC is for parties: THC and CBD both confer medical benefits. They act on different receptors and neurotransmitters. At times, they even act synergistically – increasing the benefits over either individual component. THC can protect neurons and promote cell growth. It has been shown to be clinically useful in pain relief, inflammation, spasticity, nausea, anxiety, itching, seizures and more.
There have been numerous studies conveying the medical benefits of THC. Future studies are looking very hard at the ratio of THC to CBD and the importance of this ratio in treating various conditions. If a patient has a condition that requires a higher THC dose, with the proper dosing regimens and supplemental therapies (i.e. meditation, yoga, chocolate, CBD) they can increase their THC consumption to therapeutic levels without compromising their mental faculties.