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Debunking the 3 biggest myths of cannabis use in today’s society
It’s well-known that many adult addicts began to travel that dark road as teens. For many, that journey began with cannabis. Whether it’s called marijuana, weed, pot, skank or one of the other countless slang terms that it’s known by, it’s essentially the same substance.
Over time, a number of myths have appeared, masquerading as common knowledge. These myths are harmful, especially to teenagers. A cannabis addiction has serious lifelong consequences.
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Myth #1: Cannabis is natural and people have always used it
This is both true and false. The first mention of cannabis was about 4,700 years ago. It’s entirely reasonable that people had been making use of cannabis for much longer than that.
The false part of this myth is a matter of degree. Cannabis has been modified over the years. What is cannabis now is not the same as the cannabis that once grew wild in fields throughout much of the world.
Users often prefer a stronger smoke with a higher THC or psychoactive content. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol and is one of the most notable cannabinoids that give users the high from smoking cannabis. Growers met the demand since cannabis that was more psychoactive sold for a higher price. Plants were carefully selected for specific characteristics, resulting in the many types of potent cannabis found today.
Today’s cannabis is more potent than the cannabis sold even 30 years ago. In March 2015, the American Chemical Society did a study of marijuana sold in Colorado, where it is legal. The researchers found that the levels of THC could be as high as 30%.
By comparison, canabis used 30 years ago customarily had THC levels below 10%, meaning that the marijuana used today was 3 times stronger. Another study found that THC levels ranged from 2 to 7 times higher today than marijuana used in the past.
Bottom line: Today’s cannabis isn’t the same as the cannabis used for thousands of years. Today’s cannabis is the original plant all bulked up on steroids.
Myth #2: There’s no proof that cannabis affects the brain
Ask just about anyone could describe a “pothead” or frequent user of cannabis. Habitual use of cannabis changes an individual’s behaviour and priorities.
Many studies have been done on the effect of cannabis on the brain. The better studies tend to agree on a few specifics.
- If someone is genetically vulnerable to schizophrenia, cannabis has the potential to be especially harmful.
- Some people have a genetic vulnerability to cannabis, which partially explains why some people are affected much more severely than others.
- The main focus of most studies has been on THC, but other cannabinoids are also likely to have an influence on neural changes in adolescents and adults.
- Further studies are ongoing.
Bottom Line: Both personal experience and scientific studies have documented damage from cannabis addiction.
Myth #3: Cannabis has no serious effect on teenagers
Teens are more at risk than adults from the effects of cannabis for a number of reasons specified in many studies, including a study published in the journal “Clinical EEG and Neuroscience.” They found that the specific negative impacts on developing brains were on the structure and quality of the brain and the individual’s ability to perform cognitive functions.
The brain continues to develop until the mid-20s. Drug use and drinking (many teens do both) are enormously detrimental, affecting a teen’s development in crucial ways, hampering:
- The ability to retain new information, causing academic problems
- Emotional development
- Appropriate social skills and interactions
Why does this happen? The process is very complex and continues to be studied intensively. In brief, THC suppresses neurons in the hippocampus, a crucial part of the limbic system within the brain that controls memory, learning, emotion and motivation. This interference with the neurons causes learned behaviours to deteriorate.
In a teen, the part of the brain that is dedicated to judgment has not matured. Cannabis interferes with that part of the brain, making it more difficult for a cannabis user to make sound decisions.
Some of the signs that a teen could be using cannabis include:
- Lethargy or sleepiness
- Faster heart rate than normal
- Bloodshot eyes
- Lack of coordination
- Lack of focus
- Problems in school
- Different friends
- Lack of participation in normal activities
- Difficulty in judging how much time has elapsed
- Twice as likely to become anxious or depressed
- Three times greater risk of suicide as teens who don’t use cannabis
The teen might possess:
- Rolling papers for cigarettes
- Shredded and leafy plant debris
- Tiny bottles of hashish oil, which is extremely potent
- Metal clips
Some of the edibles that could contain THC include:
- Brownies and cookies
Bottom Line: Cannabis has serious negative effects on the proper development of a teen’s brain.
Can a cannabis detox help with cannabis addiction and reverse the damage caused to the brain?
Greatly simplified, cannabis rewires the brain. How long it will take to undo the damage depends in great part on how long and how often cannabis was consumed but healing will occur.
Cannabis detox and recovery involves abstinence and an internal process, aided immensely by adequate sleep, good nutrition, exercise, talking with others and learning to maintain positive thoughts. If one is simply prohibited from using cannabis but no positive steps are taken, the reasons that caused the drug use are unchanged. This is partly why some addicts relapse. They had a forced holiday from the drug, but didn’t learn how to change their behaviour and attitude.
Cannabis detox is difficult, but it’s a temporary condition. It’s the hard work of digging a garden and then having to wait for the harvest. The past cannot be changed and the present is a work in progress but the future is still unwritten. There will be wonderful experiences and negative experiences but when cannabis is no longer part of the decision-making process, a much brighter and happier future is waiting.
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