Marijuana Use – Top 10 Myths
Marijuana is undoubtedly the most widely used illegal drug in the United States and the world. In 2008, according to the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health, 25.8 million Americans aged 12 and older abused marijuana at least once in the year. That equates to roughly 1 in 10 Americans!
It is known fact that marijuana has adverse effects on a user’s health, behavior, and safety. Marijuana became popular in the 1960s and 70s during the "Woodstock" era. Since this time, the average age of marijuana users has dropped from 19 to 17 years old. In other words, users are becoming younger and younger, and access to drugs like marijuana has become easier than ever.
Today, adolescents live in a world vastly different from when their parents were kids. Illicit drugs are easier to get than ever before and adolescents are bombarded constantly with pro-drug messages in the media and on the Internet. Due to this fact many people consider marijuana a "harmless" drug. Many people believe that marijuana has nearly no negative consequences. But this could not be farther from the truth.
There are many myths about marijuana out there – so many, that we decided to write an article specifically addressing these myths.
Next, we’ll take a brief look at some basic facts associated with marijuana.
Let’s briefly go over some fundamental facts about marijuana. Then, we’ll get into the Top 10 Myths associated with this drug.
- Marijuana is the most frequently used illicit drug in the world.
- The term "marijuana" refers to the leaves and flowering buds of cannabis sativa, the hemp plant. The plant contains cannabinoids, and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabinoid believed to be responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
- Marijuana varies significantly in its potency depending on the plant type and location of the crop.
- In the early 1980s, the average amount of THC in seized samples was around 4%. According to more recent seized samples, THC levels hover around 10%. In other words, marijuana has become more potent over time. In certain regions, THC content has been found to be as high at 40%.
- Marijuana is usually smoked (e.g. joints, pipes, bongs, blunts), but is sometimes mixed in foods or brewed in tea to induce its effects.
- The effects of marijuana can be felt within a few minutes and generally last 3 to 4 hours.
- Cannabis seized in the United States either grown domestically or smuggled into the country – generally through Mexico or Canada.
Next, we’ll look at marijuana myths 1 – 3.
Myths 1 - 3
Myth 1 – Marijuana is Harmless
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Too many people believe that marijuana is a benign drug and has no real bad affects. However, this is simply not true.
Marijuana is anything but harmless. In fact, marijuana use leads to all kinds of problems – from legal, emotional, behavioral, psychological, and cognitive, as well as many health-related issues.
Many studies have shown the ill effects associates with marijuana use. For example, studies have shown that marijuana users are more likely to perform poorly in school than non-marijuana users. Other studies have shown substantial deficiencies in math, verbal, and coordination skills for people who frequently abuse marijuana.
Marijuana users can subject themselves to the negative affects associated with many hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. In particular, marijuana abuse disrupts the flow of chemical neurotransmitters in the brain. Frequent use of marijuana leads to burn-out. Other studies have shown that marijuana users are more likely to have depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and other health problems.
Further, and perhaps even most importantly, the use of illicit drugs like marijuana (when not used for medical reasons) puts the user in greater risk of being involved with other criminal activities. Why? Because people using drugs are more likely to make bad decisions, and drug use is invariably tied to violence and crime. In other words, illegal drugs and violence generall go hand-in-hand. So, even a "harmless" user of marijuana may become the aggressor or victim of a violent act or crime.
This is just a snapshot of some of the problems associated with marijuana abuse. We’ll explore this myth in greater detail as we look at the use of marijuana later in this article.
Myth 2 – Marijuana Use Will Not Affect My Driving Abilities
Wrong! As previously mentioned, marijuana use does affect a user’s coordination abilities. According to studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, even a little "weed" can impair driving performance. In other words, marijuana use impedes a driver’s normal ability to pay attention to the road, look in the rear-view mirror, see other drivers and pedestrians on the road, and comprehend the relative speed of vehicles.
So, smoking weed should be viewed the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. In other words, if you commit a vehicle infraction while under the influence of marijuana you will face additional criminal penalties similar to driving under the influence of alcohol.
Myth 3 – Marijuana is Not Addictive
For a long time many people (including research scientists) believed that marijuana was not addictive. Clinical studies have not been able to show that marijuana is an addictive drug.
However, newer studies have shown that frequent marijuana users are more likely to develop a psychological dependency on the drug. And psychological dependencies can be just as difficult to overcome as other types of dependencies.
Further, marijuana has generally been thought of as the gateway-drug. In other words, marijuana has been associated with the type of drug that leads to the abuse of other more serious drugs like cocaine and heroine – which are highly addictive. In fact, the earlier in time that youth start using marijuana, the more likely they will become dependent on marijuana or other drugs. So, the facts do support that the abuse of marijuana can, and often do, lead to addition.
Next, we’ll go over myths 4 – 6.
Myths 4 - 6
Myth 4 – Marijuana is less Harmful than Tobacco
Incorrect! While many people believe that marijuana is a benign herb, marijuana actually contains many of the same cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco products.
Puff for puff, the tar and carbon monoxide inhaled in marijuana is actually 3 to 5 times greater than tobacco products! Therefore, people who smoke marijuana have the same or worse health problems as tobacco users. For example, marijuana smokers subject themselves to breathing, coughing, wheezing, obstructed airways, damage to their respiratory system, and eventually black lungs, cancer, and death. Just to put this in perspective, let’s take a look at some of the numbers associated with tobacco.
Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. About 1/10 adults die (approximately 6 million people) worldwide each year from tobacco. If current tobacco smoking patterns continue, it will cause around 10 million deaths each year by 2020. In other words, half of the people who smoke tobacco today (about 650 million) will eventually be killed by tobacco if they don’t stop. So, marijuana users face at least the same outcome as tobacco users, if not a worse one.
Myth 5 – Marijuana Makes You Less Aggressive
Wrong! Many people believe that marijuana makes you mellow. However, studies have shown that marijuana users are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior than non-marijuana smokers. In other words, the more a person smokes marijuana, the more likely that person will engage in other criminal activities such as stealing, destroying property, fighting others, committing weapons offenses, and engaging in other aggressive behavior.
So, while marijuana smokers do get the munchies, they also are more unstable and more likely to engage in other criminal activities than non-drug users.
Myth 6 – Parents Cannot Influence Their Kids from Refraining to Use Marijuana
Study, after study, after study, shows that parents – and parents alone – have the most powerful influence on their kids’ use of drugs. Studies have shown that parents who lead by example and refrain from using illegal drugs will have a better chance in raising kids who also are drug free.
A study conducted by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that marijuana abuse was lower among teens whose parents strongly disapproved of drug abuse. So, parent’s attitudes and actions generally have a direct impact on how their kids will act.
Above all, parents need to stay involved with their kids. Parents need to set rules with clear consequences for their children. Parents must know where their kids are, who they’re hanging out with, and appropriately discipline their kids when they abuse drugs.
In contrast, parents that abuse drugs tend to raise kids who also abuse drugs. The old adage – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – holds true. Bottom line: Parents need to take responsibility for their children, set positive examples, and instill discipline.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Evidence shows – over and over again – that the hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. are the riskiest time for youth and drug abuse. Why? Because most kids are unsupervised at this time. Kids are released from school and parents tend to still be working during these hours. That’s when many kids often get into trouble or try a drug for the first time. So, parents must know where their kids are between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., especially on school days.
Next, we take a look at myths 7 – 9.
Myths 7 – 9
Myth 7 – Our Jails Are Filled With Marijuana-Only Abusers
This is simply wrong!
This point is generally cited as one the greatest reasons for legalizing marijuana. However, studies show that it is very rare to charge and sentence someone to jail for simply possessing or trafficking marijuana. If fact, according to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics, less than 2% of the country’s state inmate population has been convicted of marijuana-only crimes! And less than 1% have been put in jail for marijuana-only possession charges!
So, it is a misnomer to say that our jails are filled with marijuana-only users. This is simply not true.
The truth is that most individuals charged with marijuana offenses are also charged with other offenses, such as acts of violence, theft, etc. That’s because drug abuse invariably leads to violence (as previously mentioned)! And drug abusers are generally charged with other offenses – in addition to marijuana violations. Why? Because those who abuse drugs make other poor decisions – such as committing thefts, driving while under the influence, committing domestic violence, etc.
Further, the simple possession of a small amount of marijuana is generally just a minor misdemeanor – or even just a citation in some jurisdictions. But using the drug and being involved with others that use the drug generally leads to additional criminal activities.
Myth 8 – Marijuana is Hard to Get
Well, if you’re a kid, you likely know this is false. In fact, more than half of the U.S. population aged 12 – 17 has reported that it’s easy to get marijuana. This may not be a surprise to many, but may be a surprise to some parents.
Also, marijuana is generally just as easy to get in the inner-city as in the suburbs. In other words, the vast majority of youth are exposed to marijuana. And not surprisingly, marijuana users are becoming younger and younger. In one report, the number of 9th graders that reported trying marijuana increased from approximately 9% in 1990 to 19% in 2001.
Myth 9 – Marijuana Has Proven Medicinal Value
This is an often cited reason for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes – which some states have done. This is not completely a myth, but it isn’t the strongest argument either.
Some studies have shown that marijuana can help AIDS and cancer patients as a pain reliever. In other words, marijuana acts kind of like an extra-strength Tylenol or Advil in terms of pain relief – with psychological and hallucinogenic effects. Even studies that show some medicinal value for marijuana almost invariably show the negative side effects of the drug.
Smoked marijuana leads to health problems – as mentioned previously in this article – not health improvements. And smoked marijuana holds no proven long-term medical benefits. That’s why marijuana was listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.
Further, marijuana contains the chemical THC which gives it its psychoactive effects. While THC can be useful in treating some medical problems, studies seem to indicate that this is generally best done through the use of synthetic THC.
There is no shortage of nationwide resources
as far as information about marijuana and other substances are concerned.
Next, we’ll go over myth 10.
Myth 10 – Marijuana is the Fastest Growing Drug
While nearly every study concludes that marijuana is the most used drug, it is not the fastest growing drug.
The fastest growing abused drugs in the United States and the world are prescription drugs. Prescription drugs include narcotics, depressants, and stimulants and are made up of such drugs as Valium, Xanax, Ritalin, Sanorex, Adderall, OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Hydrocodone, Demerol, Codeine, etc.
Prescription drugs have risen in abuse exponentially over the last decade in relation to all other drugs. It is estimated that almost 30 million people in the United States – 13% of the U.S. population – have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. And of these individuals over 1.5 million individuals are dependent on prescription drugs. It is likely safe to say that prescription drug abuse is (or is becoming) an epidemic in the United States!
Many people start off by getting prescription drugs for valid reasons, such as to combat pain from an injury. Others get prescription meds from friends, family, and others to help them sleep, stay awake, or just get high. Depending on a person’s genetic makeup, a person can become dependent on a particular prescription med after just one use! And over time, it is easy to become dependent on prescription meds.
Further, prescription drugs can be very unsafe when not used for proper medical reasons. Users can be allergic to a particular prescription med which could quickly cause death.
Finally, we’ll conclude this article with some key points to remember.
In this article, we took a look at some basic facts and the Top 10 Myths associated with marijuana use. You should now have a much better idea about what is true – and what is fiction.
You may have even found some of these myths controversial – and that’s fine. Please feel free to list your comments on our site for debate. If there is anything that we can all agree on, it’s that prolonged marijuana use is not good for anyone.
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