It’s easy to forget that cannabis research has unusually slow progress over the last few decades because it is still regarded by the federal government as a Schedule I drug; this makes high-quality research very difficult to conduct. That said, now that legalization is becoming more and more commonplace in the U.S., we are starting to see research studies that often contradict commonly held myths about cannabis. Let’s look at some of these studies and the cannabis myths that they blaze!
Myth: Cannabis doesn’t benefit the human brain.
The Blaze: First of all, the research suggests that the opposite is true, particularly among older people. One study found that consistently activating CB1 receptors (one of the human body’s major cannabinoid receptors) with a low dose of THC reversed “age-related cognitive impairment” in older mice. The researchers therefore concluded that THC could be used similarly to treat cognitive decline in humans. Another study found that doses of THC were effective in treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
The evidence also suggests that cannabis can be helpful (or at least not harmful) for adult brains. One study found that CBD may protect against brain damage due to injury or stroke. In addition, MRI research has found that, compared to nonusers, older adult cannabis users (who had an average of over 23 years of cannabis use experience) did not differ in important indicators of brain health, including total cerebrospinal fluid, gray matter, white matter, and cognitive performance.
This is not to say that chronic, frequent use of highly potent cannabis cannot possibly have a negative impact on your brain! Rather, the evidence shows that it may protect older people from age-related cognitive decline and that long-term cannabis “likely does not have widespread effects on brain structure.”
Myth: Marijuana and cannabis mean the same thing.
The Blaze: For sure, they both refer to the same plant, but the terms are very different! "Cannabis" was used as the scientific term for the plant way back in 1753! In continues to be the term used in scientific research papers.
Marijuana, on the other hand, has a far more shady past. According to the Guardian, this word was used by prohibitionists almost 100 years ago because it "emphasized the drug’s foreignness to white Americans and appealed to the xenophobia of the time." For this reason, we are steering away from using this term and sticking with the more accurate and scientific term "cannabis."
Myth: Cannabis is as dangerous as opioids.
The Blaze: In fact, the research suggests that cannabis may help fight against the opioid epidemic. This study found that cannabis enhances the effect of opioids, which allows opioid users to have a smaller opioid dosage to get their desired effect. Furthermore, research has found that cannabis can be used as a replacement for more dangerous drugs. A survey of 271 Canadian medical cannabis users found “use of cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs (63%), particularly pharmaceutical opioids (30%), benzodiazepines (16%), and antidepressants (12%). Patients also reported substituting cannabis for alcohol (25%), cigarettes/tobacco (12%), and illicit drugs (3%).” Lastly, this study found that medical cannabis users were less likely to use illicit drugs and were less likely to misuse prescription drugs.
In sum, the research strongly supports the intuitions of many cannabis users: cannabis is a safer alternative to many other more dangerous drugs. For a great read on how cannabis is safer than other federally illegal drugs and how prohibition negatively affects our country, check out this article.
Myth: People that use cannabis are less likely to find a job.
The Blaze: We’re all familiar with the tired old stereotype of the stoner who is too lazy to get off the couch and find a job. Thankfully, new research is quickly putting this stereotype to rest. An analysis of over 4,000 Canadian medical cannabis patients found that people who underwent "prescription medical cannabis therapy" had an increase in employment.
While we’re on the topic of the impact of cannabis use on the workplace, here’s a study of about 60,000 U.S. households that found that after cannabis legalization, there were less workplace absences due to sickness, especially in states that made it especially easy to access cannabis. Lastly, this study showed that cannabis is not necessarily to blame for workplace accidents. The researchers did not find a statistically significant difference between the numbers of laboratory positive cannabis urine drug tests for a random group of employees compared with a group of people involved in a workplace accident.
Once again, we have mercifully blazed some pesty cannabis myths. Thanks for reading and keep your eyes peeled for more myths and the research that blazes them!