Is any of the following really true? loooong question.?
Doesn't Marijuana cause brain damage?
The short answer: No.
The long answer: The reason why you ask this is because you probably heard or read somewhere that marijuana damages brain cells, or makes you stupid. These claims are untrue.
The first one -- marijuana kills brain cells -- is based on research done during the second Reefer Madness Movement. A study attempted to show that marijuana smoking damaged brain structures in monkeys. However, the study was poorly performed and it was severely criticized by a medical review board. Studies done afterwards failed to show any brain damage, in fact a very recent study on Rhesus monkeys used technology so sensitive that scientists could actually see the effect of learning on brain cells, and it found no damage.
But this was Reefer Madness II, and the prohibitionists were looking around for anything they could find to keep the marijuana legalization movement in check, so this study was widely used in anti-marijuana propaganda. It was recanted later.
(To this day, the radical anti-drug groups, like P.R.I.D.E. and Dr. Gabriel Nahas, still use it -- In fact, America's most popular drug education program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, claims that marijuana ``can impair memory perception & judgement by destroying brain cells.'' When police and teachers read this and believe it, our job gets really tough, since it takes a long time to explain to children how Ms. Jones and Officer Bob were wrong.)
The truth is, no study has ever demonstrated cellular damage, stupidity, mental impairment, or insanity brought on specifically by marijuana use -- even heavy marijuana use. This is not to say that it cannot be abused, however.
) I forgot, does marijuana cause short-term memory impairment?
The effect of marijuana on memory is its most dramatic and the easiest to notice. Many inexperienced marijuana users find that they have very strange, sudden and unexpected memory lapses. These usually take the form of completely forgetting what you were talking about when you were right in the middle of saying something important. However, these symptoms only occur while a person is `high'. They do not carry over or become permanent, and examinations of extremely heavy users has not shown any memory or thinking problems. More experienced marijuana users seem to be able to remember about as well as they do when they are not `high.'
Studies which have claimed to show short-term memory impairment have not stood up to scrutiny and have not been duplicated. Newer studies show that marijuana does not impair simple, real-world memory processes. Marijuana does slow reaction time slightly, and this effect has sometimes been misconstrued as a memory problem. To put things in perspective, one group of researchers made a control group hold their breath, like marijuana smokers do. Marijuana itself only produced about twice as many effects on test scores as breath holding. Many people use marijuana to study. Other people cannot, for some reason, use marijuana and do anything that involves deep thought. Nobody knows what makes the difference.
7) Is marijuana going to make my boyfriend go psycho?
Marijuana does not `cause' psychosis. Psychotic people can smoke marijuana and have an episode, but there is nothing in marijuana that actually initiates or increases these episodes. Of course, if any mentally ill person is given marijuana for the first time or without their knowledge, they might get scared and `freak.' Persons who suffer from severe psychological disorders often use marijuana as a way of coping. Because of this, some researchers have assumed that marijuana is the cause of these problems, when it is actually a symptom. If you have heard that marijuana makes people go crazy, this is probably why.
8) Don't users of marijuana withdraw from society?
To some extent, yes. That's probably just because they are afraid of being arrested, though. The same situation exists with socially maladjusted persons as does with the mentally ill. Emotionally troubled individuals find marijuana to be soothing, and so they tend to use it more than your average person. Treatment specialists see this, and assume that the marijuana is causing the problem. This is a mistake which hurts the patient, because their doctors will pay less attention to their actual needs, and concentrate on ending their drug habit. Sometimes the cannabis is even helping them to recover. Cannabis can be abused, and it can make these situations worse, but psychologists should approach marijuana use with an open mind or they risk hurting their patient.
Marijuana itself does not make normal people anti-social. In fact, a large psychological study of teenagers found that casual marijuana users are more well adjusted than `drug free' people. This would be very amusing, but it is a serious problem. There are children who have emotional problems which keep them from participating in healthy, explorative behavior. They need psychological help but instead they are skipped over. Marijuana users who do not need help are having treatment forced on them, and in the mean-time marijuana takes the blame for the personality characteristics and problems of the people who like to use it improperly.
9) Is it true that marijuana makes you lazy and unmotivated?
Not if you are a responsible adult, it doesn't. Ask the U.S. Army. They did a study and showed no effect. If this were true, why would many Eastern cultures, and Jamaicans, use marijuana to help them work harder? `Amotivational syndrome' started as a media myth based on the racial stereotype of a lazy Mexican borracho. The prohibitionists claimed that marijuana made people worthless and sluggish. Since then, however, it has been scientifically researched, and a symptom resembling amotivational syndrome has actually been found. However, it only occurs in adolescent teenagers -- adults are not affected.
When a person reaches adolescence, their willingness to work usually increases, but this does not happen for teenagers using marijuana regularly -- even just on the weekends. The actual studies involved monkeys, not humans, and the results are not verified, but older studies which tried to show `amotivational syndrome' usually only suceeded when they studied adolescents. Adults are not effected.
The symptoms are not permanent, and motivation returns to normal levels several months after marijuana smoking stops. However, a small number of people may be unusually sensitive to this effect. One of the monkeys in the experiment was severely amotivated and did not recover. Doctors will need to study this more before they know why.
10) Isn't marijuana a gateway drug? Doesn't it lead to use of harder drugs?
This is totally untrue. In fact, researchers are looking into using marijuana to help crack addicts to quit. There are 40 million people in this country (U.S.) who have smoked marijuana for a period of their lives -- why aren't there tens of millions of heroin users, then? In Amsterdam, both marijuana use and heroin use went *down* after marijuana was decriminalized -- even though there was a short rise in cannabis use right after decriminalization. Unlike addictive drugs, marijuana causes almost no tolerance. Some people even report a reverse tolerance. That is, the longer they have used the less marijuana they need to get `high.' So users of marijuana do not usually get bored and `look for something more powerful'. If anything, marijuana keeps people from doing harder drugs.
The idea that using marijuana will lead you to use heroin or speed is called the `gateway theory' or the `stepping stone hypothesis.' It has been a favorite trick of the anti-drug propaganda artists, because it casts marijuana as something insidious with hidden dangers and pitfalls. There have never been any real statistics to back this idea up, but somehow it was the single biggest thing which the newspapers yelled about during Reefer Madness II. (Perhaps this was because the CIA was looking for someone to blame for the increase in heroin use after Viet Nam.)
The gateway theory of drug use is no longer generally accepted by the medical community. Prohibitionists used to point at numbers which showed that a large percentage of the hard drug users `started with marijuana.' They had it backwards -- many hard drug users also use marijuana. There are two reasons for this. One is that marijuana can be used to `take the edge off' the effects of some hard drugs. The other is a recently discovered fact of adolescent psychology -- there is a personality type which uses drugs, basically because drugs are exciting and dangerous, a thrill.
On sociological grounds, another sort of gateway theory has been argued which claims that marijuana is the source of the drug subculture and leads to other drugs through that culture. By the same token this is untrue -- marijuana does not create the drug subculture, the drug subculture uses marijuana. There are many marijuana users who are not a part of the subculture.
This brings up another example of how marijuana legalization could actually reduce the use of illicit drugs. Even though there is no magical `stepping stone' effect, people who choose to buy marijuana often buy from dealers who deal in many different illegal drugs. This means that they have access to illegal drugs, and might decide to try them out. In this case it is the laws which lead to hard drug use. If marijuana were legal, the drug markets would be separated, and less people would start using the illegal drugs. Maybe this is why emergency room admissions for hard drugs have gone down in the states that decriminalized marijuana during the 70's.
Asked By: Bones - 9/14/2006