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Facts & Myths

This collection of myths and facts is based on the book Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence . A decade after the book was published, the latest scientific evidence continues to support the original findings.

Top Five Marijuana Myths

  • Marijuana Can Cause Permanent Mental Illness
  • Marijuana Is Highly Addictive
  • Marijuana Is More Potent Today Than In The Past
  • Marijuana Offenses Are Not Severely Punished
  • Marijuana Is More Damaging to the Lungs Than Tobacco
Myth: Marijuana Can Cause Permanent Mental Illness. Among adolescents, even occasional marijuana use may cause psychological damage. During intoxication, marijuana users become irrational and often behave erratically.

Fact: There is no convincing scientific evidence that marijuana causes psychological damage or mental illness in either teenagers or adults. Some marijuana users experience psychological distress following marijuana ingestion, which may include feelings of panic, anxiety, and paranoia. Such experiences can be frightening, but the effects are temporary. With very large doses, marijuana can cause temporary toxic psychosis. This occurs rarely, and almost always when marijuana is eaten rather than smoked. Marijuana does not cause profound changes in people's behavior.
  • Iverson, Leslie. “Long-term effects of exposure to cannabis.” Current Opinion in Pharmacology 5(2005): 69-72.
  • Weiser and Noy. “Interpreting the association between cannabis use and increased risk of schizophrenia.” Dialogues in Clincal Neuroscience 1(2005): 81-85.
  • "Cannabis use will impair but not damage mental health." London Telegraph. 23 January 2006.
  • Andreasson, S. et al. “Cannabis and Schizophrenia: A Longitudinal study of Swedish Conscripts,” The Lancet 2 (1987): 1483-86.
  • Degenhardt, Louisa, Wayne Hall and Michael Lynskey. “Testing hypotheses about the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 71 (2003): 42-4.
  • Weil, A. “Adverse Reactions to Marijuana: Classification and Suggested Treatment.” New England Journal of Medicine 282 (1970): 997-1000.
Myth: Marijuana is Highly Addictive. Long term marijuana users experience physical dependence and withdrawal, and often need professional drug treatment to break their marijuana habits.

Fact: Most people who smoke marijuana smoke it only occasionally. A small minority of Americans - less than 1 percent - smoke marijuana on a daily basis. An even smaller minority develop a dependence on marijuana. Some people who smoke marijuana heavily and frequently stop without difficulty. Others seek help from drug treatment professionals. Marijuana does not cause physical dependence. If people experience withdrawal symptoms at all, they are remarkably mild.
  • United States. Dept. of Health and Human Services. DASIS Report Series, Differences in Marijuana Admissions Based on Source of Referral. 2002. June 24 2005.
  • Johnson, L.D., et al. “National Survey Results on Drug Use from the Monitoring the Future Study, 1975-1994, Volume II: College Students and Young Adults.” Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996.
  • Kandel, D.B., et al. “Prevalence and demographic correlates of symptoms of dependence on cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine in the U.S. population.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 44 (1997):11-29.
  • Stephens, R.S., et al. “Adult marijuana users seeking treatment.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 61 (1993): 1100-1104.
  • Myth: Marijuana Is More Potent Today Than In The Past. Adults who used marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s fail to realize that when today's youth use marijuana they are using a much more dangerous drug.
Myth: Marijuana Is More Potent Today Than In The Past. Adults who used marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s fail to realize that when today's youth use marijuana they are using a much more dangerous drug.

Fact: When today's youth use marijuana, they are using the same drug used by youth in the 1960s and 1970s. A small number of low-THC samples seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration are used to calculate a dramatic increase in potency. However, these samples were not representative of the marijuana generally available to users during this era. Potency data from the early 1980s to the present are more reliable, and they show no increase in the average THC content of marijuana. Even if marijuana potency were to increase, it would not necessarily make the drug more dangerous. Marijuana that varies quite substantially in potency produces similar psychoactive effects.
  • King LA, Carpentier C, Griffiths P. “Cannabis potency in Europe.” Addiction. 2005 Jul; 100(7):884-6
  • Henneberger, Melinda. "Pot Surges Back, But It’s, Like, a Whole New World." New York Times 6 February 1994: E18.
  • Brown, Lee. “Interview with Lee Brown,” Dallas Morning News 21 May 1995.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration. U.S. Drug Threat Assessment, 1993. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1993.
  • Kleiman, Mark A.R. Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1989. 29.
  • Bennett, William. Director of National Drug Control Policy, remarks at Conference of Mayors. 23 April 1990.
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