Since even before cannabis was made illegal, all the way back in the early 1900s, the plant has had some pretty terrible PR problems. Back in the height of the War On Drugs, marijuana myths were in every newspaper, on every television screen, and taught at every school. From frying your brain cells, to being a gateway drug, and everything in between, there are a lot of crazy rumors out there about cannabis.
Unfortunately, many of these myths about marijuana are pervasive enough to still be commonly cited today, despite the growing acceptance of cannabis as a safer alternative to many pharmaceuticals and recreational drugs like opioids and alcohol. Let’s take a look at some of the most common marijuana myths that we haven’t been able to shake as a culture.
Marijuana Myths and Facts: What’s True?
Most of these myths can be dated back to the beginning days of the War On Drugs starting in the 1960s, but some go back to the earliest prohibition days at the start of the 1900s. With so many decades of repetition, weed myths and facts are often confused. Luckily, we live in a time where there is more research than ever on cannabis. Access to this research makes it much easier to sort between marijuana myths and marijuana facts.
Is Marijuana Is A Gateway Drug? Myth!
Of all the marijuana myths, the one that says cannabis is a gateway drug is, easily, the most prolific. The idea goes that even if marijuana isn’t as dangerous as all those other drugs, it will surely lead you to trying the more harmful ones. The marijuana as a gateway drug myth is a complete fiction, without any evidence to back it up. People who parrot this claim often fail to realize, or purposefully forget, that correlation and causation are not the same thing.
Cannabis is the most widely used drug in the world, which means, if it is a gateway drug, we should be seeing many more people using other illicit substances. But that is simply not the case. Based on years of research, the Drug Policy Alliance has said, “Research shows that marijuana could more accurately be described as a ‘terminus’ drug because the vast majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other illicit drugs.”
Does Marijuana Kill Brain Cells? Myth!
We can all remember, or have seen reruns of, the “brain on drugs video” used as anti-drug propaganda back in the 1980s, right? The image of a cracked egg being fried in a pan is still a powerful image. But the marijuana myth that the plant kills brain cells isn’t rooted in truth.
While there is research that shows heavy and prolonged cannabis use can “fog the brain,” there is actually more evidence that cannabis helps the brain more than it hurts. A 2013 study showed a correlation between cannabis use and neurogenesis, a fancy word for brain cell growth. It’s thought that the cannabinoid CBC (cannabichromene) can help keep brain cells healthy by stimulating the growth of new cells and by also protecting the brain from cognitive disorders.
The Marijuana Heart Attack Myth
There’s a strange marijuana myth floating around that use of the plant will cause heart attacks or significantly increase risk of heart attack. Just like the other myths about marijuana we’ve listed here, this claim is not exactly true and dramatized. It is true that cannabis can increase the resting heart rate and dilate blood vessels, ultimately making the heart pump harder. But research shows the risk of having a heart attack caused by these side effects of weed is only really a factor for those with a history of major cardiovascular problems.
Many of the studies that are cited as proof of the marijuana heart attack myth are hardly rigorous and take mostly from single, anecdotal stories. These studies have looked into the connection between cannabis and heart attacks, but have only considered smoking as the consumption method. Smoking any sort of plant debris can cause health issues, including cannabis. If you are worried about these side effects, but are still interested in the health benefits of cannabinoids, there are plenty of non-inhaled cannabis products out there like edibles, tinctures, and vaporized cannabis.
When it comes to cannabis, there is still a lot we don’t now and many marijuana myths floating around. Luckily, we have more access to information than ever and we can put that to good use when trying to sort between weed myths and facts.