If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Is there a downside to marijuana? Absolutely. Several recent studies reveal an increasing belief in the medical community that exposes real risks about this supposedly “harmless” drug.
Marijuana exacerbates existing psychosis and can cause psychosis in regular users – especially youth. In 2019, scientists found that people who smoked marijuana daily were three times more likely to be diagnosed with psychosis compared with people who never used the drug. For high-potency, daily users, the risk jumped to nearly five times. Today more youth use cannabis than smoke tobacco putting them more at risk of developing cannabis-induced psychosis – a malady that affects the brain’s dopamine system, which is at its most active during a person’s adolescence.
Marijuana good for pain? Not so much. A 2022 study found that a sugar pill was more powerful than cannabis in treating pain — if the patient believed that the placebo is the drug. It appears that this medical rationalization for cannabis – overhyped by the media — does not have a clinical benefit.
Think smoking marijuana is safer than smoking cigarettes? Think again. The Journal of the Radiological Society of North America reported that emphysema and airway inflammation is more common in marijuana smokers than cigarette smokers.
Finally, marijuana use is especially hazardous to youth. Studies show that those who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults. This means that use among teenagers — which is a lot more common than people would like to admit — has deleterious and permanent health effects. More adolescents are in treatment for marijuana dependency than for alcohol or all other illegal drugs combined.
Youth pot use has increased where it has been legalized. And today’s pot is a whole lot stronger than it was in the 60’s.
These studies undercut the claim that marijuana is a harmless substance that causes a cheap, temporary high and nothing more. Remember those ads in the 1960’s where doctors endorsed cigarettes? So just like the first ignored reports of cigarettes causing lung cancer, the cannabis promoters deny or minimize the negative consequences of their product.
So, what to do? How about using the best lab-purified qualities of CBD and THC in normal medications when needed? Prescription medications like FDA-approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) which use purified cannabis chemicals, have shown to be more effective therapeutically than the whole marijuana plant or its crude extracts.
There are clear and scientifically proven dangers to marijuana use – just as there were with tobacco and other drugs. Additionally, the same damages we suffer from alcohol abuse are present with marijuana abuse – staggering monetary costs reflected in crime, incarceration, property damage, and adverse health outcomes. Far worse is the terrible cost in lost human lives – because people do become addicted to it.
Before we even think about legalizing marijuana, let’s look at some scientific studies before and reject the unrealistic hype about the benefits of cannabis — which just might be too good to be true.
Bruce Grant served as the director of the Florida Office of Drug Control from 2009-2011.
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