Recreational marijuana is now legal in nine states, including Colorado and Nevada, and medical marijuana is now legal in 31 states, including New Mexico. The stigma attached to marijuana is fading and it is becoming more socially acceptable. While preliminary studies have not found significantly more people are using marijuana after it becomes legal, that may change as legalization spreads. There have always been misconceptions about marijuana, and now there are even more as companies that sell it legally try to market their products. As marijuana becomes more available, it’s important to know the facts. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about marijuana.
Marijuana isn’t addictive.
It’s often said that marijuana isn’t addictive or that it’s psychologically addictive but not physically addictive. While it’s true that it isn’t very addictive, you can become addicted to it. Studies show that about nine percent of heavy marijuana users develop a serious addiction. Compared to that, about 15 percent of heavy drinkers will develop an alcohol addiction, 17 percent of cocaine users will develop an addiction, and about 23 percent of heroin users will become addicted. Clearly, marijuana is not extremely addictive, but it is extremely popular. Many more people use marijuana than use cocaine, heroin, or other illicit drugs. About eight million Americans say they use marijuana every day, compared to just under a million who say they used heroin in the past year. That means about 720,000 Americans will become addicted to marijuana compared to an upper limit of 230,000 who will become addicted to heroin. Although marijuana is less addictive, the numbers make up for it. People who are addicted to marijuana will likely experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit. These typically include irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, shaking, headaches, restlessness, insomnia, fever, chills, and stomach pains.
You can’t overdose on marijuana.
It would be extremely difficult to die from an overdose, but it is certainly possible to use too much. For a marijuana overdose to be fatal, you would have to consume about 1000 pounds per minute, which is clearly impossible. However, it is possible to use too much, especially now that legal vendors are selling more concentrated cannabis products. Symptoms of a marijuana overdose include anxiety, paranoia, dizziness, and loss of coordination. While these won’t kill you, they can make for several very unpleasant hours.
You can beat a drug test.
There are a number of folk remedies for beating a drug test, but none of them appear to actually work. Some people think you can drink a lot of water to flush the THC out of your system or drink some kind of herbal concoction. Sometimes people try to sweat it out. None of this really works. The half life of THC is about three or four days, which is pretty long. Caffeine, by comparison, has a half life of about four to six hours. That means when you use marijuana, only half the THC you consume is gone after three or four days. If you use regularly, especially if you use daily, THC builds up and it takes longer and longer to get it out of your system. For heavy users, it can take more than a month. However, since THC is stored in the fat cells, intense exercise combined with a sensible diet may speed the process slightly.
Marijuana is a gateway drug.
This myth is remarkably persistent. While it’s true that people who use marijuana sometimes also use more addictive drugs like cocaine or opioids, the relationship is more likely correlation than causation. The vast majority of people who have used marijuana have never used cocaine or opioids, but people who have used cocaine or opioids are very likely to have used marijuana. What’s more, alcohol is by far the first substance most people use. It’s the most common and people use it at a younger age, making it a much better candidate for a “gateway drug.” However, just as with marijuana, most people who drink alcohol will not go on to use more addictive drugs.
Marijuana improves creativity.
As with the gateway drug myth, correlation does not mean causation. While many artists, writers, and musicians have used marijuana, it doesn’t really make you more creative. One study gave participants varying doses of THC and asked them to solve a series of divergent and convergent problems to test their creativity. The participants who received the highest dose of THC did the worst, and none of the groups performed better than participants who got no THC. However, the study did find that people who got higher doses of THC believed they were more creative. Real creativity requires a lot of creative output plus high connectivity between different parts of the brain and marijuana promotes neither of those.
Marijuana doesn’t harm your lungs.
Marijuana is most frequently smoked, but generally, people don’t believe it’s bad for your lungs. However, inhaling smoke is bad for your lungs, whether it’s smoke from cigarettes or smoke from a campfire. According to the American Lung Association, marijuana smoke has many of the same carcinogens as cigarette smoke. Smoking marijuana regularly can lead to chronic bronchitis and increased risk of respiratory infection. Despite this potential for harm to the lungs, people typically use marijuana differently from cigarettes. Few people smoke the equivalent of a pack a day of marijuana. However, when people smoke marijuana, they typically hold it in their lungs longer, increasing the exposure.
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