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Six Most Common Marijuana Myths Busted
According to some published reports, there are more than 200 common “street names” for marijuana. Depending on what state, city and neighborhood you’re in, you could hear ashes, skunk, stinkweed, gangster, kif, boom, blaze, blunt, broccoli, buds, burrito, burnie and boo -even something called ‘420’ — and the list just goes on and on.
There’s a few more familiar names that most older people surely have heard: pot, grass, dope, weed, maryjane, ganja, reefer and others — some of these go back many years.
What all these nicknames try to tell us — some of them amusing, others cute and even warm and fuzzy — is how friendly and harmless weed is supposed to be.
What they don’t convey is how addictive and harmful marijuana can be— the real problems that are surfacing more frequently across the country, as marijuana use spreads among America’s children, and the strength of the active ingredient, THC, increases. And it’s a lot stronger than it was even a decade ago, and is exponentially stronger than it was in the pot-hazed ’60s, when the myths about its harmlessness first took root.
Along with the efforts to minimize marijuana’s potential harm, especially among younger people and children, those who promote the non-medical use of weed spread a lot of misinformation about the drug. Some of the misinformation has taken on mythical proportions, that is, the data is widely accepted and believed and yet, scientifically, it’s a fairy tale.
Here are six of the most common myths about marijuana. Learning to recognize these, and how they really are false, can go a long way towards helping kids and family members get a better grasp on a potentially dangerous drug.
The Six Most Common Marijuana Myths
Myth #1 — Hey, I smoke pot…so what’s the big deal if my kid does too?
There’s real science about the risks, not just someone’s biased opinion. And it’s pretty clear. The still-developing teenage brain is affected by alcohol and drugs, including weed. It’s especially true for kids with existing mental or emotional problems. For some, marijuana could be like a bomb going off in a crowded market — some scientists think weed can precipitate schizophrenia in susceptible teens, and a McGill University study found daily marijuana use caused depression and anxiety and irreversible changes in teenagers’ brains. Long term weed smokers who began younger than 17 wound up with smaller brains and a lower percentage of gray matter — and that’s the stuff we need to think with.
Myth #2 — It’s a natural plant so it can’t be that bad.
Tobacco — another “natural plant” — contains 70-plus carcinogens plus hundreds of other chemicals. Tobacco’s link to cancer is absolutely proven. But get this: There are more than 400 potentially harmful chemicals in pot smoke too, including the same carcinogens as in tobacco. Although recent studies suggest weed might not be as cancerous as tobacco, it’s still a risk — especially for longer term smokers. Weed can also cause COPD — the short term for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (emphysema or chronic bronchitis or both) — which slowly destroys your lungs and suffocates you to death. The long-term effects of weed on an aging population isn’t known yet, but they may be similar to tobacco. Also, most pot-smokers also smoke tobacco, and the two drugs may interact in ways we don’t know about.
Myth #3 — What’s the big deal anyway…it’s legal.
Yes, recreational weed is legal in a couple of states and a couple more are close. But most states are still against it. If you’re in a recreational-approved state, trafficking is still illegal, so you don’t want to get caught with a large amount. And you still need to consider the mental and physical health risks on your kids. Now, if you’re in an unapproved state, you definitely need to do your legal homework. A little weed possession may only be a wrist-slap misdemeanor, but a larger amount could mean a trafficking conviction, a huge fine and a prison sentence. This can ruin a kid’s life — rejection by many colleges and jobs that require background or security checks. If you still think it’s cool, teach your kids to say, “You want fries with that?” They’re going to need it for their careers.
Myth #4 — It’s not like drinking…I’m not impaired.
If you’re a teenager or a young adult, then yes, you are impaired — it’s just different than with alcohol. The ability to control emotions develops sooner than rational thinking. Most young people are thrill seekers, but their rational thought — well-considered planning and impulse control — isn’t up to the task of smart thrill management. Add weed to the party and rational decision-making can take a nosedive. Take driving, for example. Studies show that weed affects mental tracking, reaction time, visual functions and ability to comprehend “divided attention”, all of which increase the risk of an accident. Put a teenager and some weed behind the wheel of a car (or snowmobile, ATV or boat) and you’ve got a recipe for disaster, all too often with deadly results. Today’s cops are experts at detecting drug impairment too — not just alcohol. So again, you’re looking at loss of a driver’s license, nasty fines and even possible jail time — a record that can sink chances for advancement.
Myth #5 — What can I do…kids will do whatever their friends do.
This is the common lament of parents who have given up trying to get their kids to stop acting like, well, kids. We’ve already covered the major inability of kids to always make rational decisions, especially when stoned. The solution is to learn as much as you can about the effects of weed on the young. And don’t get sucked in by stoners trying to shoot down the science. Your kids just need to hear the truth, and as the parent you are the source of that truth. But listen to them, let them express their thoughts and ideas. Praise their good ideas, and only gently ask them to consider alternatives to the bad ones. And you can ask them to take the “What About Weed Quiz” with you — it’s offered at this website, and it’s terrific.
Myth #6 — The stuff is all the same…weed is weed.
The mind-altering ingredient in weed is THC, which stands for “delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.” It’s the amount of THC that determines potency, and it varies a lot depending where and how it was grown. The Center for Addiction and Mental Health says that “modern illegal growing operations use sophisticated methods to produce high-potency marijuana.” Some studies claim that THC has increased by as many as 10 to 25 times since the 1960s. Ask anyone who smoked weed in the 60s and still does today and they’ll tell you without question it’s exponentially stronger. Bottom line with this is that until you try it you don’t know what you’re getting. And if you’re at all sensitive to THC you can become seriously, and very quickly, intoxicated and impaired. It isn’t all the same, and weed is not just weed.
We’ve pointed out some of the fallacies — the false safety and legal claims — about marijuana. Are these the kinds of risks you want for yourself or your kids? Drugs are having a terrible impact here and all over the world. And even with marijuana, it’s better to err on the side of caution, especially with teenagers.
Thanks to the great Canadian website What About Weed for the inspiration and data for this article.
And finally, if you or anyone you care for is having a problem with drugs or alcohol, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call Novus. We’re always here to help, and we are the detox experts.
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