Recreational Marijuana use is now legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and Washington DC and medical use is approved in 20 additional states. With more votes going on the ballots and people starting to open their minds to the possible benefits of marijuana use, there are still many misconceptions left to be debunked.
Marijuana is Not a Gateway Drug
A gateway drug is defined as a less dangerous substance that leads to the use of more serious drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse the majority of people who use marijuana don’t actually move on to taking other “hard” drugs like cocaine and heroin. It has been theorized that people who are already predisposed to the behaviors that lead to hard drug use are more likely to start with substances that are readily available. If this is the case, then alcohol and nicotine are much more likely to be gateway drugs than marijuana..
Marijuana is Not Addictive
Although there have been some isolated reports of people with clinical addiction to marijuana, it is typically only found in a very small percentage of those who have used marijuana extremely heavily and for an extended period of time, typically ten years or longer. In the general population, marijuana is no more addictive than coffee. Heavy users who stop abruptly may find that they experience headaches and irritability, but effects are mild and temporary. Of all drugs, including alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, marijuana is possibly the least addictive.
Smoking Marijuana Does Not Cause Permanent Side Effects
Although smoking pot clearly impacts short-term memory, the effects are temporary and wear off completely once use has stopped. Studies have shown that brain damage is not caused by marijuana use, even in the heaviest of smokers.
Although marijuana does contain carcinogens, even heavy users do not inhale enough for it to be a cause of cancer. There is also no connection between marijuana use and lung disease. Smoking marijuana is much less harmful than smoking cigarettes, and those concerned with the side effects of inhalation can choose to consume edibles instead.
It is true that pot smoking does cause munchies, and can lead to weight gain. Those who are on a diet may be well advised to avoid marijuana. It is also true that marijuana has been shown to lower sperm count in men, but it returns to normal levels when smoking stops. Overall, the most dangerous thing about smoking pot it the potential repercussions of being caught with it.
Marijuana Has Many Positive Side Effects
Users of marijuana have reported that it helps them to relax, improves creativity, and helps with anger management issues. It can also remove inhibitions and act as a sexual stimulant. It has many medical uses including the treatment of glaucoma, inflammatory bowel disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It can help to control epileptic seizures and Parkinson’s disease, and has been shown to reduce the pain associated with multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
For cancer patients, it has been shown to decrease the pain and nausea from chemotherapy treatments and stimulate the appetite. Some studies have also shown that it can help to reduce the carcinogenic effects of tobacco and can increase lung capacity.