Q. I know there is a ton of information on smoking marijuana, but that is the thing, too much info, all kinds of conclusions. Marijuana seems to bring a lot of positives to my life. I just worry about what negative health effects it could cause. I feel like the only harm it is doing is the legal ramifications of getting caught with it and the fact that I tend to eat way too much when I smoke it. I have read extensively about it and I don’t see anything conclusive on it beign good, bad, or both. Am I fooling myself or do I have a grasp on this?
A. From everything that I have read and know about marijuana, and from the individuals I have worked with who have used it, it seems as though it has the potential to do real psychological harm, not just physical harm (smoking can lead to lung cancer). In the remainder of my answer, I wish to focus on the psychological harms of marijuana use.
Surrounding marijuana, a common myth exists. It is frequently thought that marijuana is “not that bad” and it is not as “hardcore” as other drugs therefore it is safer. The fact is that marijuana is classified as a hallucinogenic drug. Hallucinogenic drugs (acid is also a hallucinogenic drug, among others), or drugs of any kind for that matter, have not been ruled out as a cause of psychiatric and severe mental disorders. A recent Associated Press story out of England reports that cannabis has been linked with schizophrenia and cannabis-related psychiatric problems and hospitalizations have increased 85 percent from 1996 to 2006. I have worked with people who have used marijuana, and other related hallucinogenic drugs, too believing that it was an innocent drug, and they have permanently damaged themselves psychologically—meaning they never “came back” to themselves. The drugs actually seemed to cause a psychotic episode from which they have never recovered.
Another problem with using illegal drugs, aside from being illegal, (something you noted in your e-mail) is that when you buy marijuana, you can never be certain where the drugs came from. Who grew it? What did they add to the drugs? What chemicals were sprayed on the drugs and where those chemicals safe for human consumption or were they toxic and have the potential to cause physical harm? Was the marijuana laced or sprinkled with some other drug? You could buy a bad bag of weed and smoke drugs that you never intended to smoke.
There is a long list of other negative consequences of marijuana use that are not mentioned here. The bottom line is that using drugs is always a sign of a psychologically unhealthy individual. You may tell yourself that the drug is harmless but as I have pointed out, the truth is that it is a dangerous drug to use. It is like playing with fire. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough not to get “burned” but is that a chance you really want to take? I hope that you will re-evaluate your use of marijuana and find an activity that is a better use of your time and brain cells. Lastly, I also wanted to thank you for writing so that I had a chance to inform you and others about the under reported dangers of marijuana use.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jun 2007
Randle, K. (2007). Is Marijuana good or bad?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/06/25/is-marijuana-good-or-bad/