At the risk of, once again, having my critics come out of the weeds (so to speak), I decided to report today on more damning evidence about the dangers of smoking marijuana.
Marijuana use has skyrocketed in recent years coinciding with the relaxation of state laws. In fact, new data from the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health of more than half a million adults indicates the magnitude of the problem.
From 2002 to 2014, the percentage of adults using marijuana jumped from 10.4 to 13.3 percent. And the number who use it every day nearly doubled from 1.9 to 3.5 percent. That figure translates to 32 million people regularly using marijuana, with nearly 9 million of them using it excessively.
Today the drug is increasingly available, increasingly used and abused, and increasingly potent compared to 10 years ago. Yet fewer people than ever understand how harmful it is. In fact, a new report in the British medical journal Lancet Psychiatry covered this very worrisome, new trend: low public concern about the dangers of marijuana.
Experts at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse say we sorely need improved public health education on the many risks of smoking marijuana. They say we need to hear more from healthcare practitioners who prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes. Lastly, they argue for the role of science in understanding marijuana use, abuse, and dependency.
Of course, when it comes to the science on marijuana, it’s been a bit of a catch 22.
Because the drug wasn’t legal for so long, researchers couldn’t conduct proper scientific studies about its impact on human health. Now that the drug is legal in many places, researchers can conduct the studies. But it may be too late to change public opinion.
Marijuana causes cognition problems
As I’ve reported before, science shows even occasional marijuana use impairs cognitive function and lowers IQ scores. You don’t have to look beyond this year’s presidential race for evidence of this effect.
Just consider the performance of presidential candidate Gary Johnson. He’s the third-party libertarian candidate who served as former governor of New Mexico. And it’s rumored he indulges liberally in smoking marijuana, which could explain a lot about his cognitive abilities (or lack thereof).
On the campaign trail, Johnson infamously asked “What is Aleppo?” when queried about the war-torn Syrian city (which is covered in all the news on a near-daily basis). He also couldn’t name a single world leader of another country. Of course, these blunders could be simple ignorance. But smoking marijuana could also easily explain the poor cognitive function on display in Johnson’s case. (Or maybe Gov. Johnson just spent too much time in Roswell, New Mexico, when he was governor.)
But marijuana also carries other, even more dangerous side effects, as well.
Marijuana causes more traffic deaths
The continuous delusional claims that marijuana “does not kill” could not be further from the truth. Marijuana is a known intoxicant. And driving while under the influence of marijuana is the legal definition of “driving while intoxicated,” or literally “driving under the influence.” In some states where marijuana has been legalized, traffic fatalities have doubled due to intoxicated drivers.
Ironically, some states crack down heavily on innocent, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, instead of the truly dangerous drunk drivers who cause the fatalities, as shown by forensic studies. But when it comes to marijuana intoxication, many states just look the other way, lost in the smoke.
Marijuana also has many worrisome long-term effects
Researchers are just beginning to study how different parts of the marijuana plant, and different extracts and preparations, impact long-term health. And much of the favorable publicity has been based entirely on one specific extract that may benefit some patients who have one rare condition called Dravet Syndrome. But that one, isolated finding is hardly a ringing endorsement for everyone to smoke the stuff.
By contract, research consistently shows that marijuana irritates respiratory passages, leading to bronchitis and potentially pneumonia. It is also very biologically plausible that the combustion products in marijuana smoke eventually lead to lung cancer with excessive use.
Evidence also shows that marijuana irritates the heart and increases the heart rate. In fact, studies in France — which I reported a few years ago — show a significantly higher rate of heart attacks, cardiovascular events, and sudden deaths in marijuana smokers. And evidence shows a woman who smokes while pregnant risks harm to the baby. (Just as with every other drug.)
These effects on physical health don’t even touch on the devastating effects on mental health, which I have reported before.
What about pain?
Many people swear by marijuana as a tool for dealing with chronic pain. And they’re increasingly turning to it as they learn about the devastating effects of opioid pain drugs.
But make no mistake.
Marijuana has safety problems, just as opioids do.
In fact, in my view, marijuana and opioids remain two of the most dangerous drugs that have become widely available. But at least people have learned to fear the dangers of opioids now. Marijuana may pose the greater danger because of its mistakenly benign reputation.
But when it comes to pain relief, why continue down the road of using any dangerous drug — legal or illegal? You have many safe and effective non-drug approaches to pain. You can learn all about them in my new online learning protocol for treating and reversing all kinds of chronic pain. Click here to find out more or to enroll today.
“Marijuana use and use disorders in adults in the USA, 2002–14: analysis of annual cross-sectional surveys,” The Lancet Psychiatry; 3 (10): 954 – 964