Common Questions and Myths about Cannabis explained.

Common Questions and Myths about Cannabis explained.

There are a lot of questions and myths surrounding cannabis as a medicine. We have answered some of the common questions to help people better understand cannabis.

Myth: People who use medical marijuana are often “stoned” and “high”

Patients do not necessarily get “stoned” or “high,” and reaching that level of experience is absolutely not a requirement of effective use. There are many different strains of cannabis, each with particular ratio of CBD and  THC compounds.

Many patients who use cannabis for medical conditions are able to find the strains that will control their symptoms but not cause them to feel “stoned.”

Myth: Cannabis is a “gateway” drug

Many studies have shown that this is not the case. Cannabis does have some side effects but overall they tend to be mild if cannabis is used appropriately.

Medical cannabis may even help reduce overdose deaths from drugs. Dr. Marcus Bachhuber published a study in 2014 wherein he found, “There was about a 25 percent lower rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on average after implementation of a medical marijuana law.”

Myth: Cannabis is too dangerous to recommend as a medicine

Cannabis actually has a better safety profile than many of the conventional medications we use!

This idea of cannabis posing a danger as medication came from a now disproven study, called “the monkey study,” conducted by Dr. Robert G. Heath, in the 1970’s. He was a researcher at Tulane University in New Orleans. His study stated that Cannabis killed brain cells, a conclusion which has since been disproven since then by more rigorous, modern research.

According to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, marijuana possesses an estimated dependence liability of less than ten percent.

This percentage is approximately the same as anxiolytic drugs (like Xanax and Valium) and far lower than that of alcohol (15 percent) and tobacco (32 percent).

Myth: Medical marijuana doesn’t have enough scientific evidence behind it

Cannabis has been used medicinally for thousands of years by many, many cultures. Ours is one of the few cultures to ever bother banning it, and those bans are quickly being rescinded at the state level.

Despite the US government’s nearly century-long prohibition of the herb, Cannabis has continued to be studied in many different forms. A search on PubMed (the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers), using the term “marijuana” yields more than 21,000 scientific studies referencing the plant and/or its constituents, nearly half of which have been published within the past decade.

There are many avenues of research left to pursue, of course. One of the first steps is to start to talk more about it, then to get the laws changed federally so that patients can begin to see immediate relief and so that research institutions may lawfully conduct more studies.

Myth: There aren’t sufficient clinical trials evaluating marijuana’s safety and efficacy as a medicine

There are quite a few studies that have shown its safety profile.  It is fairly nontoxic, and almost impossible to have a lethal overdose with most side effects being temporary and mild.

Different disease processes have different amounts of evidence. For example, there is some good evidence for cannabis relieving chronic pain, improving appetite, and relieving painful spasms.

Myth: Cannabis causes schizophrenia

There is no evidence that cannabis actually causes schizophrenia. There is a known association between schizophrenia and cannabis; high doses of THC in people who already have schizophrenia can experience psychosis. There is no causal relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia, however.

The question still remains: does cannabis cause psychosis? Or are the people who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia more likely to use cannabis? The latter seems much more likely at this time, and suggests that there is no fear of cannabis “causing’ schizophrenia or psychosis to develop.

Myth: Medical cannabis laws and/or dispensaries are associated with increased crime

This is not the case. They have actually done studies looking at this, and these studies have showed that there is no evidence of increased crime.

Myth: Cannabis smoke causes lung cancer

Cannabis smoke can irritate the lungs and long term use can cause chronic bronchitis, but studies indicate no evidence of cannabis smoke causing lung cancer or COPD like cigarettes do.

Myth: Cannabis kills brain cells

Again, this idea came for the now disproven “monkey study” in the 1970’s. Certain components of cannabis such as CBD have actually been shown to be neuroprotective.

It can however cause short term memory loss, especially with significant daily use, which is usually reversable with cessation of high doses.

The caveat to this is in adolescents where there is some concern that it may cause some long term cognitive damage. Once brains mature out of adolescence, the already minimal risk is further reduced.

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