Myths and misconceptions about cannabis

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

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T here have been many misconceptions, misunderstandings and disinformation surrounding cannabis. Furthermore, some people determine their attitudes towards cannabis based on generalisations that arise from the use of the plant and its products.

Gateway to harmful drugs

Many people are of the view that cannabis use is likely to lead to the use and abuse of harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin. The euphoria that cannabis provides is said to be the driving force that causes users to seek out drugs that are capable of providing the same or even greater psychoactive effects.

Although the use of alcohol and nicotine usually precedes cannabis use, these drugs are not considered “gateway drugs”. But due to the illegal status of cannabis, the same does not apply. While users of hard drug may have used cannabis at some point, the correlation between the two behaviours is not valid. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences compiled a report commissioned by the United States Congress examining the potential dangers of cannabis. The report stated that “there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”

Addicted to Cannabis?

There is the notion that cannabis users will become dependent or even addicted. This view that cannabis is highly addictive is misleading. However, it is true that the heavy use or abuse of large amounts of cannabis over a period of time can lead to dependence and even mild withdrawal syndrome.

A study published in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology in 1994 revealed that nine per cent of cannabis users become dependent and some experts consider this figure to be inflated. In fact, legal substances such as alcohol or nicotine found in tobacco are more addictive than cannabis.

Cannabis is Harmful/Harmless

Some people think cannabis has no benefit and is an overall harmful substance while others see no harm at all. There are many benefits to cannabis, whether as a medicinal agent or as a spiritual and meditational medium that births inspiration, hence the legal status of small amounts of cannabis in Jamaica and many other countries. However, the adverse effects of cannabis use must be considered, as smoking cannabis can still negatively affect one's health. Cannabis does contain compounds that can irritate the lungs but it will not cause cancer as some believe.

The literature also does not confirm that cannabis has been directly responsible for any death and it has not been noted that anyone can consume a lethal amount of cannabis. However, it may cause severe psychological problems.

Cannabis Causes Crazy Behaviour

One common perception of cannabis is that it can cause severe mental disorders or bizarre behaviour. Cannabis, like any other mood-altering drug, affects individuals differently and one has to account for the underlying factors that can determine how a person reacts. While some users will experience a delightful calm, others might feel anxious or paranoid.

Studies also suggest that those predisposed to mental disorders or with pre-existing psychological illnesses are at a higher risk of experiencing symptoms of the disorder after cannabis use, which, of course, can be quite destructive to many individuals.

Another important factor to consider is the age of the user as there is sufficient evidence that the heavy use of cannabis as a teen could cause changes in the brain, as it has not yet fully developed. There is also the increased risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life. In addition, there are different strains of cannabis and those with a greater concentration of THC can result in heightened mind-altering effects and unusual behaviour.

Smoking is Best

Smoking might be one of the most common methods of consuming cannabis, although recent data indicate a movement away from this type of use. Thankfully there are several new ways of consuming cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. These alternative uses include vaping, oral sprays, tinctures, topicals, capsules, and more.

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