Marijuana use has been steadily increasing in America. In fact Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Recreational use of Marijuana is now legal in 9 states and medical Marijuana has been legalized in 30 states. But does the legalization means it is safe to use? How do the medical communities in the field of addiction medicine and NIH have to say about its use? And what do the Bible and the Qur’an say about Marijuana and intoxication?
I am sorry but the pot lovers may not like what’s about to follow.
This is not meant to be a medical article and I will avoid any in-depth discussion on the medical aspects of its use. But despite the limelight on Cannabis in recent years and its legalization, there remain many myths on the use of Marijuana. Here are 5 of them.
- It is all-natural, and ‘green” so it is safe. So it is just like the lettuce and other greenies, right?
Tobacco and Digitalis, a cardiac drug with very narrow safety margin are also “natural”. Tobacco is the #1 killer in the world. And what about the poisonous mushrooms, requiring liver transplants? As you will see in the following sections, Marijuana use is far from being safe.
- It is passed by my state for recreational purposes, so it must be safe. Think again. Alcohol and tobacco are also legal! Alcohol is a major risk factor for numerous medical disorders including a leading cause of cirrhosis of liver(requiring liver transplant), pancreatitis, gastric ulcers with bleeding, neuropathy and dementia-to mention just a few. By legalizing Marijuana and the resultant easy access and increase use, we may be on the way to challenge alcohol (and tobacco) as one of the most significant health risks, though it must be noted that the effects of Marijuana don’t have the same killer potential. Remember the legalization was not based on some scientific studies or by the medical communities. The reason for legalization of marijuana is for the same reasons that tobacco and alcohol are legal. Yes, you guessed it right-the good ol dollar sign.
- My doctor can prescribe it now because my state legalized the medical use. The right answer is that your doctor cannot PRESCRIBE it. IF he/she determines it is appropriate, he/she may issue a letter stating you have a condition that may benefit from marijuana use. The FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication. It has approved Cannabidiol, one of the many chemicals in marijuana, for a rare type of seizure disorder. A synthetic drug, Marinol (THC), has been approved for two conditions: the treatment of nausea and vomiting secondary to chemotherapy and AIDS-related weight loss.
- It is legal, so it is not a drug of addiction. Think again. It gives a sense of well-being, the ‘high’ or euphoria and triggers the reward center like all other addictive substances. Marijuana is considered a drug of addiction by American Society of addiction, and NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2016, around 4 million people ages 12 and older had a marijuana use disorder. The most severe form also is known as an addiction. 1 in 9 adult users develop addiction. 1 in 6 teen users develop addiction. The risk can be as high as 50% for daily users.
- I cannot OD on it. While it is true that the death from an overdose is extremely unlikely, it does not mean we don’t see Marijuana over dose in various forms including serious impairment of central nervous system, nausea, vomiting, anxiety etc. The indirect effects include driving when stoned and the resulting accidents. In many states, including California, you can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) after using Marijuana.
- Risk of auto accidents: It is rather well known that recent Marijuana use impairs the concentration, judgment, reaction time and motor skills, putting the drivers at higher risk for crashes. The research is somewhat mixed but there are clearly alarms triggered by studies showing higher risk. A large study of over 14,000 people by Columbia University concluded that Marijuana use increases the crash culpability by 62%.  The risk was lower compared to alcohol (437%) but results in higher risk nonetheless. A combination of alcohol and Marijuana was found to be much more deadly.
- Gateway drug. There is some controversy whether Marijuana is truly a gateway drug or whether its use is merely associated with higher likelihood of other illicit substance use disorder. But according to NIH and many published studies, Marijuana use is associated with higher rates of alcohol use disorder and many other illicit drugs. .
- 1 in 14 teens has used it in the past month. Almost half have used it before high school. Nearly half of the 12th graders have used Marijuana in their lifetime, and 37% have used it in the past year.
- Marijuana causes mental and psychiatric problems. These including learning difficulties, impaired judgment and cognitive skills, memory issues, anxiety, panic attacks, delusion and psychosis. The risk increases if you start early. A 2012 study showed that Marijuana use before age 17 resulted in suicide risk 3.5 times more than the users after age 17 and subsequent studies have shown higher rate of school drop out rate, depression and suicide. especially if started at an earlier age.
It appears that the main culprit is the THC- the major ingredient with psychoactive effects. The more purified form, the CBD, appears to not have this effect. It is also true that many studies have shown some beneficial effect in a number of chronic pain conditions. But these studies require more in depth research. The pros and cons must be weighed in any situation and it is clear that the cons outweigh any benefits.
Next Page: What do the Qur’an and Bible say about Marijuana?